'Elf and safety plan backfires after 'eyesore' cement slabs on famous stepping stones wash away... and cause a flood!

When health and safety police covered the centuries-old stepping stones  with flat slabs, angry locals called them an eyesore that needed to be removed.

And it seems Mother Nature agreed with them.

Half a year after the uniform blocks were installed, heavy rains pushed three of them over.

Out of bounds: The stepping stones in Dovedale, Derbyshire, which were paved over by the council after centuries of use due to 'health and safety' fears

Out of bounds: The famous stepping stones across the River Dove in the picturesque Derbyshire Dales have been closed by the county council for 'health and safety reasons' after three were washed away and caused a flood

The Dovedale stepping stones before the emergency repairs were carried out after several were swept off by river debris. See copy Raymonds Press Partnership.

Loose: The river subsided on Friday but the council admitted yesterday hat one of the slabs is still 'unstable and could be a potential danger'

And, far from keeping walkers dry and safe, the increased height of the limestone blocks meant they trapped debris and restricted the flow more as water levels rose, causing the river to break its banks.

The beauty spot is now closed to the public – on safety grounds.

After waiting days for the river level to subside, the fallen stones were righted on Friday. But the council admitted yesterday that one of the slabs is still ‘unstable and could be a potential danger’.

So the route will remain closed this week, despite the high visitor numbers for half-term.

The stepping stones across the River Dove in the Derbyshire Dales, near Ashbourne, were made famous by Izaak Walton in his 1676 fishing book, The Compleat Angler.

Enlarge   'Spirit-level precision': The stepping stones have been covered with limestone slabs

Precision: Derbyshire County Council carefully laid limestone slabs on top of the weathered stone to prevent people slipping on them...but just months later some were washed away by the River Dove and caused a flood

They were gradually worn down as countless ramblers, anglers and tourists, and their weathered shapes became a much-loved part of the scenery in an area visited by more than a million visitors a year.

But the council decided last August that the rocks did not provide a firm enough footing and had slabs cemented on top of them.

Critics described the change as ‘a mortar and limestone slab sandwich’ and a Facebook group with 1,683 members called for the stones to be restored to their past glory.

Dominic Salt, 34, one of the online group’s founders, said: ‘I’m not the sort of person that wants to gloat but this sort of makes you feel that way.

‘It appears that from a health and safety point of view at least, we’ve all been proved right about the stones. It just shows you can’t ignore nature.’

BEFORE: Sir, to come to this fine stream at the head of this great pool, you must venture over these slippery, cobbling stones (Piscator, fictional fisherman in The Compleat Anglar)

The way it was: For decades tourists have marvelled at the famous stepping stones across the River Dove in the Derbyshire Dales, which were made famous by author Izaak Walton in his 17th century fishing book The Compleat Angler

He visited the site yesterday and said one of the slabs has ‘a definite wobble’. He said: ‘I suspect it wobbles because the limestone slab has made the stones top heavy.

‘It just seems ironic that the council alter them in the first place because of safety issues but all they have achieved so far is to make the area a bit of a hazard.’