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Monday 16 July 2018

Dark Hedges photographer calls for new measures to protect iconic Game of Thrones' road from visitors

"Visitors need to be discouraged from tree climbing and carving their names into the bark."

'For summer is here, with shiny new leaves on the trees that form a canopy over country roads. And even if the sun doesn't always shine, the days are getting ever longer, which surely makes up for it.' Photo: Getty
'For summer is here, with shiny new leaves on the trees that form a canopy over country roads. And even if the sun doesn't always shine, the days are getting ever longer, which surely makes up for it.' Photo: Getty

Claire McNeilly

An award-winning photographer best known for his image of Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges has called for measures to be put in place to protect the road made famous by hit series Game Of Thrones.

Bob McCallion, whose work featured in a popular calendar, said the Bregagh Road could "suffer untold damage from random parking and the sheer volume of visitors" over the bank holiday weekend.

And he warned that unless provisions were made for the influx of traffic and sightseers expected over the coming days - especially on Monday - then the site near Stranocum could be in trouble.

"The traffic, including coaches, needs to be directed to the car parks at the Dark Hedges Estate, and no parking enforced on Bregagh Road and surrounding roads, in conjunction with PSNI," Mr McCallion said.

"Visitors need to be discouraged from tree climbing and carving their names into the bark."

The Ballymena-based photographer, whose Farm Life photograph of the Dark Hedges won a place in the BBC Countryfile's 2011 calendar, said the only way to prevent further damage to the trees was to close the road.

"There is enough justification to close the road for days, mainly due to a dangerous tree which was reported a year ago and recently highlighted again."

Mr McCallion referred to "chaos" and "public outcry" at Easter last year as dozens of cars, buses and coaches crammed Bregagh Road so tourists could glimpse the 'King's Road' location from HBO's blockbuster TV show.

And he said: "Some of the verges on Bregagh Road have lost a foot in some places since then due to erosion, with resulting damage to the beech roots."

Earlier this year the Woodland Trust warned that the Dark Hedges may not survive the next 20 years if cars and buses are allowed to continue jamming the rural Co Antrim road.

Its Northern Ireland director Patrick Cregg said the intertwining beeches which form the landmark attraction are surface-rooting and cannot withstand the impact of constant traffic.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said that a vehicle ban needed to be put in place and consultations were under way. "People seem to just ignore calls for restraint or to use their common sense," the DUP man said.

But he added: "Closing the road is only one part of the solution."

Belfast Telegraph

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