Belfast Telegraph

Magical spell of Co Antrim's Dark Hedges: 'Haunted' lane familiar to Game Of Thrones fans up for award

By Linda Stewart

It's one of the most intriguing backdrops in Game Of Thrones - the serpentine row of ancient beech trees that stands in as the King's Road.

And now the Dark Hedges at Stranocum, Co Antrim, has been nominated for Landmark of the Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2014-15.

The intertwining avenue of beeches was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century to impress visitors to their home, Gracehill House.

Two centuries later the magnificent trees attract tens of thousands of visitors a year.

Now the public are being urged to vote for the Dark Hedges via post, email (awards@countryfile.com) and on the BBC Countryfile Magazine website, www.countryfile.com.

Carole O'Kane of the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust said: "This mystifying and enchanting avenue of ancient beech trees known locally as the Dark Hedges is, in our opinion, worthy of the nomination for Landmark of the Year. You only have to visit the Dark Hedges Facebook page to see how popular the site is with worldwide visitors.

"The Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust is working in partnership with the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and the Woodland Trust to deliver a Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve, enhance and promote this famous landmark site at the Bregagh Road for future generations to cherish and enjoy."

Last year any dangerous overhanging branches were removed as part of the project.

"We are currently working with a design company to manufacture and install interpretative panels at the site to raise awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the site," Carole added.

"We have engaged pupils and teachers from three local primary schools, who have harvested and planted beech seeds from the site. The trees grown will be replanted at the site over the next five years."

Background

The avenue was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century, a stunning lead-up to the then Gracehill House. The eerie trees are said to be haunted by the spectre of the Grey Lady - said to be a servant girl who vanished 150 years ago - although rumour has it she may have been the invention of anxious fathers trying to deter daughters from going to the local lovers' lane. The Dark Hedges came under threat a few years ago when Roads Service proposed to fell many trees for safety reasons. But the avenue was taken over by the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust - and is now the subject of a Heritage Lottery Fund project to protect the popular landmark.

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