Three of the world famous 'Game of Thrones' Dark Hedges trees are felled by Storm Isha
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The world-famous beech tree avenue near Stranocum was planted around 250 years ago and this is the most recent loss from the group of over 80 trees. The avenue of trees on the Bregagh Road was planted as a grand entrance to Gracehill House around 1775 and has achieved worldwide fame through its use as a location in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Tree management experts Arbor Consulting undertook a survey of the site in June last year with their recommendations being implemented in late 2023. In November, work began to remove five trees with additional work to preserve the health of many of the remaining trees in the avenue. It is reported that two of the trees damaged by Storm Isha had been given a clean bill of health.
A third tree, which had been identified as a possible candidate for removal, also fell. Significant work had been undertaken on this tree to ensure that in the event of it falling it posed no risk to the public. As predicted, the tree fell away from the road and fell harmlessly into an adjacent field.
Mervyn Storey, chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, said: “It looks like there are three trees down. We have had people out since dawn trying to clear the road. There are a number of other trees down in the area as well.
“The Dark Hedges road is closed while the work continues. This is another blow to the Dark Hedges. It proves that the surveys that were carried out last year were worth doing. In fact one of the trees that was healthy has been blown down. It is very sad.”
Mr Storey, a DUP councillor, added: “This was a very intense storm for a period of time. Because there has been snow and rain before, the ground around the base of the trees is sodden; when the wind comes they just move. It focuses again the need to have something which protects these trees, something to preserve what is left of the Dark Hedges.”
Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust CEO, Graham Thompson, commented: “The work undertaken before Christmas was timely and reduced risks to the public. The site has now been cleared by our tree surgeons TimbertecNI and the public will again be safe to return once weather warnings have been removed. A further condition survey will be undertaken in the next few days.
“CCGHT is progressing with 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 tress, 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.”