Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Six trees at Northern Ireland beauty spot made famous by Games of Thrones will be cut down over fears they pose a safety risk to visitors after storm blew several of them away

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Work has begun to fell several tress in a Northern Ireland beauty spot made famous by the Game of Thrones series over fears that they pose a safety risk to visitors. 

Six of the trees at the Dark Hedges tunnel of trees, which shot to fame after it was featured in the HBO fantasy series, will be removed with remedial work carried out on several others. 

It comes after concerns were raised about the state of several of the beech trees, which lie on privately owned land on the Bregagh Road near Stranocum, after a number were blown down during storms in recent years. 

The Department for Infrastructure has said an independent specialist survey found 11 of the 86 trees were in poor condition and could pose a risk to visitors. 

Originally, there were around 150 trees, which were planted to line the Bregagh Road to Gracehill House, a structure built around 1775. 

Arrangements have now been made to remove six of the trees, with their stumps being retained, and for remedial work to be carried out on four trees. The condition of another tree will be assessed on site. 

The area has become a major attraction for fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones 

The site in Northern Ireland shot to fame after it was featured in the HBO fantasy series

The site in Northern Ireland shot to fame after it was featured in the HBO fantasy series

Six of the trees at the Dark Hedges tunnel of trees will be removed with remedial work carried out on several others

Six of the trees at the Dark Hedges tunnel of trees will be removed with remedial work carried out on several others

The road has been closed while the work to reduce the risk to visitors is carried out

The road has been closed while the work to reduce the risk to visitors is carried out 

In a statement, the department said the decision to fell the trees had ‘not been made lightly’, adding: ‘While the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount’. 

‘The department will continue to engage with landowners and other stakeholders regarding their implementation of a suitable management strategy to protect the future of the other 75 trees’, the statement concluded. 

Mervyn Storey, Chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, which has been responsible for preserving the site, said: ‘While we would want that these trees would last forever, the reality is if they are 300 years of age that is not going to be the case and this work has to be carried out. 

‘I think it is also another marker in the long journey that we are on in terms of putting in place a management structure to manage this area.

‘Eight seconds in Game Of Thrones changed the Bregagh Road and the Dark Hedges forever and we have even today, even though there is a closure in the road, we have people from California.

‘This has been a tourist attraction for the last number of years.

Originally, there were around 150 trees, which were planted to line the Bregagh Road to Gracehill House, a structure built around 1775

Originally, there were around 150 trees, which were planted to line the Bregagh Road to Gracehill House, a structure built around 1775

The Department for Infrastructure has said an independent specialist survey found 11 of the 86 trees were in poor condition and could pose a risk to visitors

The Department for Infrastructure has said an independent specialist survey found 11 of the 86 trees were in poor condition and could pose a risk to visitors

Six of the trees will be felled and remedial work will be carried out on four trees. The condition of another tree will be assessed on site

Six of the trees will be felled and remedial work will be carried out on four trees. The condition of another tree will be assessed on site

‘Yes, there is work needs to be done, but there has to be a long-term plan and that is going to take money and where is that coming from?’

Mr Storey added: ‘We don’t want to inhibit people, but we also want to ensure when people come here they are safe.

‘There has to be aggressive replanting, there had been a replanting late 2014, but because of lack of resource to maintain that planting it hasn’t taken.’

Responsibility for preserving the trees will pass from the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust to the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust (CCGHT) in the coming months.  

Chief executive Graham Thompson said: ‘CCGHT plans to establish a new Dark Hedges Management Forum which is expected to consist of relevant statutory organisations, landowners and other interested parties.

‘It is envisaged that in future the issues at the site will be managed in a co-ordinated strategic manner.

‘This includes a management plan ensuring the longevity of the trees, while giving full consideration to health and safety issues; visitor management at the site including dealing with parking and traffic issues; educating and informing visitors to the site across a range of media; and importantly identifying funding sources for future site management.’

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