A GROUP of Pendle walkers were lucky to escape serious injury when a recently installed wooden footbridge they were crossing cracked and nosedived into a river.
The bridge, over Wanless Water on the Nelson-Colne boundary, collapsed while members of “Trish’s Trekkers”, a local walking group, were on their weekly outing.
It is thought the bridge has been deliberately chainsawed.
The bridge, which belongs to Lancashire County Council, links an area of public open space owned by Pendle Council to a public right of way across privately owned land.
It provides a shortcut from the Leeds -Liverpool Canal across Wanless Water to cottages on Greeefield Road and an entrance to Greenfield Local Nature Reserve.
One of the walkersrs, Elaine Ingram, said: “There were about eight of us walking that night.
“Luckily the three of us who were on the bridge when it broke kept our footing and managed to scramble off at the other side.
“The others then followed one by one.
“The broken bridge embedded itself into the riverbed, but we had to either crawl under the side bit of the bridge to the riverbank or step right up on to the remaining part of the bridge.
“Although we laughed about it at the time, it could have had serious consequences, especially if there had been children present.”
Coun. David Whipp, who looks after Community Safety and Engineering for Pendle Council, said: “This is a clearly a premeditated act of vandalism and the police are carrying out investigations to find out who did this.
“It will cost the taxpayers of Pendle thousands of pounds to replace it and I am appealing for anyone with information to contact the police.”
Tom Partridge, Pendle Council’s Countryside Access Officer, added: “The footpath had been obstructed for many years and was only reopened about 18 months ago after the bridge was installed.
“The footpath is very attractive where it crosses over Wanlass Water. And we hope that many people and groups have enjoyed rediscovering the right of way since we completed the work to get it reopened.
“However, we’ve had to temporarily close the footpath on safety grounds until a replacement can be installed.
“This is very frustrating for everyone who worked hard to get the path back into use.”