Dark Hedges 'spoiled' by white lines painted accidentally on Bregagh Road
Red-faced roads officials have admitted white line markings were mistakenly painted under the famous 'Dark Hedges' trees in Northern Ireland - dramatically altering the view of the hugely popular natural wonder.
The trees are one of the most photographed natural landmarks in the province and has seen a boom in visitor numbers since a scene for the worldwide TV series 'Game of Thrones' was filmed there.
But in recent days broken white line markings appeared in the middle of the Bregagh Road, where the trees are located near Armoy in north Antrim.
Photographers who flock to the scene to capture stunning images of the trees were incensed, saying their photos would never look the same again.
Within hours of roads officials being contacted, highway chiefs held their hands up and admitted the white lines were painted on by mistake.
They have pledged to remove them by Wednesday.
However, fans of the Dark Hedges are insisting that when the white lines are burned off unsightly scorch marks should not be allowed to remain and that the road should be re-surfaced.
If that is the case it is believed the mistake could cost a substantial amount to rectify.
Photographer Angela Cunning said on Tuesday: "We were all shocked when these lines appeared as it totally changes the type of picture you can take there and hopefully the lines will go soon.
"I just could not believe what I was seeing. Someone joked once 'they'll be putting double yellow lines at the place because of all the parking on the road'. I knew that would never happen but I never thought they would put a line up the road.
"It not only spoils it for photographers but even for visitors just visiting to view the beautiful scene."
Local resident Joanne Louden from Stranocum said on Tuesday she was shocked that the view at the beauty spot was altered.
The Mayor of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council - Michelle Knight-McQuillan - said officials told her the lines were put down by mistake and would be removed on Wednesday, weather permitting.
"They were not part of the contract of recent works there and the contractor continued the white line beyond road end by mistake apparently. Hopefully removal can be done without trace," she said.
Added the Mayor: "I raised this with them on Monday and got a call first thing on Tuesday morning to say the white line was a mistake and that the contractor had continued the white line and they had only been contracted to do the end of the road markings when they were doing their remedial work on the road.
"I am glad it is being sorted and I would like to think they will get it done as early as possible so as not to detract from the area.
"I would hope that when they remove them there will be very little to notice on the road and maybe after a week or two of traffic on the road they maybe will disappear but I will be monitoring the situation.
"They reassured me they are very conscious of the area and protecting it and keeping it and they understand the importance of the trees to the Council area and to the whole of Northern Ireland. I was quite reassured that they are taking the whole thing very seriously."
The Dark Hedges Facebook page said: "Some of you have raised concern about the white lines that have been painted on the Bregagh Road following the recent resurfacing.
"We have spoken to the Causeway Coast & Glens (East) Section Office of DRD Roads Service and have been informed that due to a communication error with the contractor the lines were painted on by mistake and we have been assured that the lines will be removed by Wednesday 10th February.
"Thanks to all of you for your vigilance and support for the Dark Hedges."
On social media fans of the 'Dark Hedges' spoke out.
Geraldine Forester said she was glad the lines are being removed and Carl Wetton said: "All well and good being a mistake, but now the road is going to be damaged when burning the lines off the road, you'll still see them even when they've gone..to remove the lines once burnt off is now going to take a recover of the road."
A Department of Regional Development spokeswoman said: “Following completion of a small resurfacing scheme along a 200 metre stretch of the Bregagh Road at the Dark Hedges, the white lining at the junction with the Ballinlea Road was extended in error.
"The contractor has since been instructed to remove the line, and we expect this to be completed by tomorrow.
“The white lining will be burned off by the contractor. Whilst there is the potential for some residual marking to the carriageway as a result of the removal, we are confident that, given the time of year and the number of vehicles using the Bregagh Road that any such marks will disappear soon.
"DRD will continue to monitor the condition of the surface over the coming weeks, and will take further action to repair the road if necessary.
“The Department cannot provide costs for the removal of these lines due to the commercial sensitivity of our contractor’s rates. We can however advise that the removal of this white line over this short stretch of road is a relatively low cost activity.”