More than 400 cyclists and walkers celebrated the opening of a new section of the East Lancashire Cycleway in Waterfoot on Saturday.

Work had recently been completed to reopen two railway tunnels which have been out of use since the 1960s, and extend an existing path, to create an off-road link between Stacksteads Riverside Park and Newchurch Road in Waterfoot.

The route forms part of the Valley of Stone, one of four routes which make up the East Lancashire Strategic Cycleway project, and has created 23km of new multi-user routes.

Funding for the project was £5.85m, as part of the £250m Growth Deal secured from government by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with contributions from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council.

Graham Cowley, chair of the LEP’s Growth Deal Management Board, said: "Improving sustainable transport options is vital to widen access to economic opportunities and this investment gives people another travel option to commute, or for leisure, while largely avoiding busy roads through the Rossendale valley."

The tunnels have been waterproofed, and LED-lighting added, offering enough light for people to see their way, but not so bright as to prevent them being home to bats.

A new bridge has also been constructed over the River Irwell, creating a new access from Newchurch Road.

Councillor Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council, said: "This is another really positive thing happening in Rossendale, one the council has supported since its inception.

"We have worked with our partners to successfully deliver this superb scheme and the latest section of the Valley of Stone route, incorporating the iconic Glen tunnels.

"It’s just another great and unique feature for our borough and another great reason for people to get out and about in Rossendale and to get active."

Jake Berry MP, Member of Parliament for Rossendale and Darwen and Cabinet Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said: "I'm so pleased to see these historic Rossendale landmarks being brought back into use.

"The tunnels have been boarded up for too long and it's very satisfying to see them opened up so that they can be used by the public."

There are four routes included within the East Lancashire Cycleway project - the Weavers Wheel around Blackburn, the Valley of Stone connecting Rawtenstall to Whitworth, National Cycle Network Route 6 (NCN6) linking Accrington to Stubbins, and the Huncoat Greenway near Accrington.