Belfast Telegraph

Burntollet’s future banks on 10-mile strip of trees

By Adrian Rutherford

More than 2,500 native trees now dot the banks of the Burntollet river in Co Londonderry's beautiful Faughan Valley.

The new additions - a flourishing mix of oak, alder and willow - already cover some three hectares (seven acres) of land.

Planting by the banks of the Burntollet will ultimately stretch over a 10-mile strip.

It is hoped that the project will be replicated elsewhere in the valley.

The riverside planting comes from a partnership between the Loughs Agency and the Woodland Trust, with support from Northern Ireland Water and the backing of local farmers.

Farmers are planting for a variety of reasons. The stabilisation of riverbanks, improved drainage and shelter for livestock are important, with wildlife and water quality also set to benefit.

Dave Scott from the Woodland Trust said: "This is a perfect example of how the economy and conservation can benefit in equal measure.

"As well as helping river quality, trees can help stop money from, literally, going down the drain.

"As the trees mature, their roots will help to bind and strengthen the sides of the river preventing erosion.

"In the Faughan Valley, landowners have seen parts of their fields essentially wash away, and while trees can't solve everything, they certainly could have reduced the damage."

With extreme weather now commonplace - last August bad flooding hit the north west - the charity has highlighted how trees can help prevent flooding.

Art Niven, a fisheries biologist with the Loughs Agency, said: "The Loughs Agency appreciates the need for diverse riverside areas that act as a buffer between the land and our watercourses.

"Native fish species and other aquatic plants and animals benefit from native trees in a number of ways, including the provision of shade which keep our rivers cool during the summer."

The Burntollet project begins at the townland of Glenconway, winding approximately 10 miles downstream as far as Brackfield.

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