Tree damage spurs call to close Dark Hedges road

The tree collapsed on to the road on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning

The tree collapsed on to the road on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning

The collapse of an additional part of The Dark Hedges has spurred a renewed call for tight traffic restrictions to be put in place, amid fears about the natural landmark’s future.

A large branch from a tree broke off and fell into the road at the renowned beauty spot in Co Antrim, following on from the collapse of what was believed to have been three trees in January.

It is understood the latest incident happened some time on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

The stretch of the Bregagh Road near Ballymoney is popular with photographers, and has been used as a filming location in globally successful TV show Game of Thrones.

About 90 beech trees overhang the road in a tight line.

Following the January collapse, the head of the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland had warned that more trees would likely follow, because the loss of one or more trees affects the others’ “balance”.

He dubbed the latest incident “very, very concerning”, and said one solution now being considered is restricting access to the road; something which could offer “a little bit of extra protection” to the trees.

Many tourist coaches visit the area, for example, and Mr Cregg said that when two vehicles meet on the small road, “they’re having to go up on banks and that’s impacting the root structure”.

Road restrictions have been mooted beofre.

“We’re hoping the road would be closed completely, and there’d be a gate to allow local landowners’ access,” he told the News Letter on Wednesday.

Mervyn Storey, DUP MLA and chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, said this is one option being considered by a group made up of the trust, Transport NI, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Tourism NI.

He said this “will only be done as long as there is agreement with the local community”.

It is expected a decision will be made in the next several weeks.

He said that damage to the verges and the recent inclement weather could all be factors currently affecting the trees’ stability.

However, given that the landmark dates to the 1700s, he said “the age of the trees is really the defining factor”.