Belfast Telegraph

Traffic 'will destroy Dark Hedges in 20 years'

By Linda Stewart

The famous Dark Hedges may not survive the next 20 years if cars and buses are allowed to continue jamming the rural Co Antrim road, the Woodland Trust has warned.

The charity's Northern Ireland director Patrick Cregg said the intertwining beech trees which form the landmark attraction are surface-rooting and cannot withstand the impact of constant traffic.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph highlighted the Easter chaos as dozens of cars, buses and coaches crammed Bregagh Road near Armoy so tourists could glimpse the 'King's Road' location from the HBO TV blockbuster series Game Of Thrones.

Last night Mr Cregg called for use of the road to be restricted to local farmers only.

"If this continues we are condemning these iconic trees to not more than 20 years of gracing our landscape," he said.

"For some time I have campaigned to have the road restricted for use by the four neighbouring farmers.

"The Hedges Hotel has offered parking for visitors, which would do away with the traffic mayhem that we witnessed over Easter. Of particular concern are the coaches.

"Beech are surface-rooting and cannot withstand the impact of heavy vehicles. From an aesthetic point, wouldn't it be a far better experience for visitors to wander in the shade of the canopy rather than dodge motorists?"

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, a champion of the Dark Hedges, also called for a vehicle prohibition to be put in place and said Roads Service had been consulting on a plan to do so.

"It seems that people just ignore any calls for restraint or to use their common sense - it goes out the window," he said.

"They just abandon their cars and ruin the Kodak experience for everybody, because they can't see the trees."

The chaos was highlighted by father-of-two Jonathan Hobbs, visiting from Belfast on Monday, who said the mess of vehicles gave a terrible impression of the province.

"Game Of Thrones has done a lot for Northern Ireland. But when you've got a melee like this, with big tour buses and coaches and loads of cars parked all over the place, you've lost the whole point. It looks awful," he said.

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