In its first year of ownership, the Trust has completed its plans to improve access and plant over 45,000 trees in this major project that will help transform the Belfast horizon.
NIEA funding has been allocated to complete a programme of works that includes the upgrade of the existing 2km walking track to the top of the hill and the creation of a signature ford to cross the ‘Stream of the Salmon’- the Glas-na-Bradan River.
Other works include the installation of management gates with traditional stone pillars, kissing gates to enable public access on foot, and fencing around the boundary of the site. Their funding also secured two staff posts for two years, namely a Project Manager and a Community Development Officer, to implement the plans for Glas-na-Bradan Wood.
Over 45,000 trees and 5km of hedging were planted by 1300 volunteers in the first year of a five-year tree and hedge community planting scheme. Forest Service NI funded the establishment of the trees in 2021-2022 through a Small Woodland Grant Scheme for 14.7hectares and the fencing around the planted area with a grant of £80,000.
Newtownabbey Times reporter Russell Keers joined the Woodland Trust NI’s Senior Outreach Manager, Gregor Fulton, today (Wednesday) as the site, which offers panoramic views across Northern Ireland.including as far as Slemish to the north, Lough Neagh to the west and Strangford and the Mournes to the south, was officially opened to the public.
Gregor said: “Nearly 50,000 trees have been planted in 15 hectares of ground. We’re just above Mallusk and Newtownabbey and Carnmoney Hill is in the distance. The site has given us an opportunity to open up another gate way into the Belfast Hills. Previously Newtownabbey residents would have had to have used their car to get to the Belfast Zoo car park, Cave Hill Country Park car park or the Upper Hightown Road car park to get access, but now most people will be able to walk from their home.
“During the Covid pandemic and its aftermath, we have seen people have been looking for places to walk, maybe not wanting to be in an area with too many people. The Belfast Hills were swamped with people during Covid- there were over 600,000 visitors within the last year.
“This will give people another place to walk and hopefully take some of that pressure off. It has been much neeeded and we’re realy excited to be able to open up the trails today. It’s around 2.5km of pathways from the base of the site to the top.
“There are 360 degree panoramic views from the top and you can see Scotland on a clear day. There is something for everyone up here and we hope residents can come and enjoy it.”
Work will continue this year on Glas-na-Bradan Wood with the second stage of community consultation and community planting from November onwards.
For more information, visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/northern-ireland