Concern over traffic at Dark Hedges

Fear over increased traffic along Dark Hedges road.
Fear over increased traffic along Dark Hedges road.

There are growing calls for a restriction on traffic through the Dark Hedges following the furore over the white lines blunder which was highlighted in the Times last week.

The paint was hardly dry along a 200-metre stretch when critics took to Facebook to voice their disgust which was followed by the Department for Regional Development’s removal of the lines the following day.

Conservationists, tourists and Game of Throne enthusiasts have long expressed concerns that the volume of traffic, particularly coaches, is damaging the roots of the already vulnerable 300-year-old trees two of which were blown down by storm Gertrude a week earlier.

Recent renovation work on the Bregagh Road near Armoy which, included the ‘white lines’ disaster, means that the width of the roadway has also been extended and verges restored.

Local photographer, Bob McCallion explained: “It affects the overall visual impact of the place doing things like this and you’ve got to be very careful that you look at the whole area more or less like a conservation area and try to look after it. There have probably been more visitors using the road of late than there used to be, since the Dark Hedges’ presence on Game of Thrones has funnelled a lot of tourists to the area. If you go there for the first time, you think they’re still brilliant and they are. But if you have been following them [over time], you will see the deterioration in those trees. It’s not Game of Thrones’ fault, it’s the lack of strategy or facilities to cope with those visitors. Hopefully, the DRD will remedy this situation and put safeguards in place to keep it from happening again.”

Mr McCallion’s comments echo that of many other observers who feel that the time has come for a clampdown on traffic perhaps by restricting it to cars only or even making it a vehicle free zone.

“After all, if people are prepared to travel thousands of miles to visit this site, they surely wouldn’t mind walking the last stretch from a nearby car park. No vehicle access would also make it much safer, as the way it is right now, it’s just an accident waiting to happen,” one Facebook contributor said.

Another person agreed about restricting traffic which they said spoiled the beauty and tranquillity of the place. There was also concern that the roots system could be so damaged that the trees might die if they are not cared for properly.