The Post has learned that there is currently no prospect of Tun Brook Bridge being reopened - almost nine years after it was closed because of safety concerns.
The structure, near Grimsargh, is part of the Ribble Way, which starts out in Longton and runs for 70 miles through to Gayle Moor in North Yorkshire. However, since 2013, the route has had to be diverted after the bridge became unstable.
Initially, a surrounding section of the trail was simply cordoned off - but the bridge itself has now been removed in its entirety.
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Ramblers had hoped that the original path would eventually be restored, but Lancashire County Council has told the Post that the nature of the work required would be impossible to carry out in such a delicate area.
The news gives greater impetus to calls for better signage advising of the diversion that is in place, after one walker travelled over 50 miles from his home in Cheshire to take in the Central Lancashire section of the Ribble Way - and only discovered that the bridge was no longer passable when he reached the very point at which he would previously have been able to cross it.
Colin Park said that signs should have been put in place at least half a mile in advance so that walkers like him knew to turn off and find an alternative course.
“I walk several long distance trails and sometimes there are problems with the paths, but normally you would have a decent diversion route. There were some faded signs westbound, but none eastbound, the way I was going.
“Walking in winter, you haven't got much time to be gadding about trying to find a diversion for yourself.
“I’m pretty agile and so managed to get through, but I don't think many people would have tackled it. They’d have probably had to turn back, because it involved clambering over trees - and I also had to get across the stream.
“It was very poor - they get people to come into the area to walk these paths, which are advertised on websites, but when there is a problem, it's just not signed. It’s something you find in Lancashire - the signs are not very good in parts,” Colin said.
Brian Dearnaley, chair of the Mid Lancashire branch of the Ramblers Association, agreed that new signage is needed, but also condemned the fact that the bridge is still shut after so long - and now has no hope of being reinstated.
“There is not much like this bridge anywhere around Preston - kids, in particular, liked it and the walk across it was one you could enjoy at any time of the year.
“But there has just been complete inactivity [around its restoration] for the last nine years. And the irony is that Lancashire County Council were keen to support the creation of the Ribble Way - they sponsored it,” Brian added.
David Goode, public rights of way manager for Lancashire County Council, said that walkers would soon be better directed by new signage along the route.
"We're aware of the inconvenience which this missing bridge could cause to walkers and have been providing signs at the junctions on either side of the footpath to alert walkers to the issue - and diversion route - since the problem emerged. Unfortunately. they have kept going missing and, as such, we are currently producing some more substantial signs which we will put in place as soon as they are ready.
"We currently have no plans to replace this footbridge for a number of reasons. The failure of the footbridge was caused by the ongoing erosion of the sides of the clough, which means that a substantial scheme would be needed to stabilise the ground to allow the construction of a path on the west side of the clough and provide a suitable footbridge.
"However, this would not be possible due to the SSSI [site of special scientific interest] status of this area. It is possible that emerging technology may provide a low-impact solution which could be considered in the future," Mr. Goode said.