Ancient woodland an hour from Belfast opens to public after 500 years
An ancient woodland an hour away from Belfast has opened to the public for the first time in more than 500 years.
The Woodland Trust conservation charity hopes Mourne Park will now become a popular visitor attraction, having bought 156 hectares of the 212 hectare site last year. It is currently raising funds to buy a further 46 hectares.
As part of the £5.2 million campaign, the trust has reinstated walking paths in woodland that has not offered public access since the 1500s. Three trails have been completed over loose gravel paths covering a variety of gradients and lengths. They have been called the Bluebell Walk, the Woodland Loop and the Whitewater Trail.
Mourne Park is near Kilkeel in Co Down on the edge of the Mourne Mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The charity says the park is home to extremely rare woodland and is also inhabited by wildlife such as red squirrels, otters and pine martens.
The Woodland Trust, which is celebrating its 50th year, has bought 1,200 sites across the UK in the last five decades. The initial purchase of Mourne Park was part funded by Stormont’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Garfield Weston Foundation.