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Calls for protection as Game of Thrones tree splits

By Angela Rainey

Published 28/07/2016

Heavy rain is being blamed for the loss of the 200-year-old beech tree which form a tunnel known as the Dark Hedges
Heavy rain is being blamed for the loss of the 200-year-old beech tree which form a tunnel known as the Dark Hedges
Curious onlookers at the site where one of the 200-year-old trees fell after being weakened by recent stormy weather

Another of the iconic trees made famous through the series Game of Thrones has been damaged by storms, prompting calls for more to be done to preserve them.

Heavy rain is being blamed for the loss of the 200-year-old beech tree which form a tunnel known as the Dark Hedges.

Planted by the Stuart family who once owned the Gracehill Manor House, just outside Ballymoney, originally there were 150 of the entangled trees but now around 90 remain.

It's the second time the trees have been damaged in six months with a number of them battered by vicious storms as Strom Gertrude took hold.

Experts believe water had gathered deep within the tree producing a weakening rot before causing a huge branch to snap off and fall on to the Bregagh Road on Tuesday night.

Steve McCartney, from Causeway Coast and Glens Council, said that a combination of bad weather conditions coupled with the age of the tree had caused it to fall.

"What's happened here has been very simple," he said.

"There's been a bit of wind overnight and this tree has had a fork and inside that fork a bit of water has gathered - something we couldn't have seen was that it gave rot inside the tree. It was a point of weakness and unfortunately that big branch came down.

He added: "Most of the nutrients that this tree and the other trees will get are from the trees on either side of the road, so the traffic on the road probably isn't as a major factor as we might expect.

"Really when they get to this age, they are starting to wind down."

But local Ulster Unionist party councillor Darryl Wilson said that the constant flow of traffic and footfall to the area is also to blame.

"It is obvious that more needs to be done to try and preserve the site as a popular tourist destination," he said.

"But the constant heavy flow of traffic there is also to blame for damaging the roads and also the trees.

"Since its inception, Causeway Coast and Glens Council alongside Tourism NI and local land owners have been working together to find a way forward to see if the area could have better traffic measures that preserve the area better.

"It is quite unfortunate that after so many years we still have not seen investment in what is a very popular tourist attraction, but it is vital that this takes place," he added.

Cllr Wilson said that he believed the weather was a contributory factor and that more should done where possible to sustain the trees.

"The weather of course does play a part," he added. "We understand that a number of the trees are actually dead but we must protect what is there.

"Unfortunately we cannot control the weather, but we must use what measures we can use and look at what we can protect then do so."

Belfast Telegraph

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