Thursday 21 June 2018

'People should not be taking power into their own hands like that' - Paint attack on Game of Thrones Dark Hedges road signs

Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Joan Baird, at the graffiti on the new road signs vandalised at the Dark Hedges
Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Joan Baird, at the graffiti on the new road signs vandalised at the Dark Hedges
Dark Hedges at dusk. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
The Dark Hedges

Cate McCurry

Road signs which were erected to direct traffic away from the Dark Hedges tourist attraction have been vandalised.

The signage, which warns motorists the road is closed to traffic, was sprayed with paint less than a week after it was put up by the Roads Service.

The authorities have been struggling to prevent cars and other road users from accessing the iconic site on Bregagh Road, near Armoy.

It has become a major tourist attraction after featuring in the Game of Thrones series. However, its popularity has led to the deterioration of the verges, which has a long-term negative impact on the health of the trees.

The Dark Hedges in Antrim
The Dark Hedges in Antrim

However, drivers have defied the signs - and concerns were raised again after chaotic scenes on Easter Monday.

Joan Baird, mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, hit out at the vandalism, describing it as "very disappointing".

"Those signs have cost the Roads Service quite a lot of money, but that will be a matter for them.

"When I went to see it on Monday, there were cars on the road despite being banned from doing so.

Dark Hedges at dusk. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Dark Hedges at dusk. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

"The more explicit signs that were put up last week have been destroyed.

"People need to mindful that they can be fined if they are caught driving on that road as they will be in contravention of the Road Traffic Act. There's a statutory power.

"People should not be taking power into their own hands like that."

Mrs Baird said that visitors to the site can park at a hotel close to the Dark Hedges.

She said: "The council has been working with the hotel as we do really need to put some sort of underpass or walk-through.

"There's obviously some fear of people walking out of the hotel car park on to the narrow road to get to the hedges and that's the only stumbling block left.

"We have been working with the hotel owner and land owner to get this under way."

Mrs Baird said the council recognised that the Dark Hedges were a very important tourist attraction and they wanted to make it attractive for people to go.

But she added: "If we go on this way, the trees will not survive because the traffic, as we know, has been destroying the roots.

"I have spoken to some local farmers and they are content about this matter.

"Land owners on either side of the Dark Hedges have dispensation to go up the road."

The latest incident to hit the popular tourist attraction comes amid parking problems which a former DUP minister described as "increasingly frustrating".

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said: "It's disappointing that people haven't respected the fact that the law says you are not allowed to drive onto the Dark Hedges road."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police on patrol in the Bregagh Road area of Armoy on Monday, April 2 noted that paint had been sprayed on a number of road signs.

"If anyone saw the damage being caused or knows anything about this incident, they are asked to contact police on 101."

Belfast Telegraph

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