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Pic of the week: White lines don't do it for Dark Hedges

By Kerry McKittrick

Northern Ireland's iconic Dark Hedges, near Armoy in Co Antrim, were blighted by blundering contractors when a white line was painted down the middle of the road.

This short stretch of beech tree-lined highway has long been a local beauty spot, as the trees gracefully lean in on one another, creating a stunningly eerie vista down the long road. The picturesque part of the country is often used as a backdrop for photographers and film-makers. The area has really come to prominence in recent years as the setting for the King's Road in a pivotal scene in the hit TV series Game of Thrones.

It has now become a fixture of many of the Game of Thrones tours that have appeared based around shooting locations for the lavish HBO production.

The Dark Hedges were created in the late-18th century when James Stuart built Gracehill House in 1775. The avenue of 150 beech trees was planted to create an impressive approach to the Georgian estate.

Gracehill House is still under private ownership, although some of the estate lands have been developed into a hotel and golf course. The beech-lined avenue has matured and is now a public road, which although tarmacked, has never before had white road markings.

When the lines were painted this week, there was uproar from local supporters of the site.

Such was the fervour of public response that the lines have now been removed.

The avenue also made the news at the end of January as Storm Gertrude unearthed some of the trees.

The damage came after warnings that increased traffic and footfall from tourists in the area could be detrimental to the trees.

The average lifespan of a beech tree is around 150-200 years and a 2014 survey found that the Dark Hedges trees range from 300 to 350 years old.

The Department of the Environment has placed a tree preservation order on the Dark Hedges and the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust was established to conserve and enhance the area, while using the trees as an educational resource.

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