Cash windfall for Dark Hedges

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ONE of north Antrim’s most iconic landmarks - the Dark Hedges - has received a cash windfall of £43,000.

And St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Ballymoney is also on track for over £500,000 of funding from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) having already secured over £14k from the body.

The double award is being hailed as a huge boost for the area and is aimed at safeguarding both sites for future generations.

Confirmation of the grants came in a letter from HLF to North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley.

It read: ‘In your constituency of North Antrim, Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awards £43,000 to ‘Dark Hedges’ and supports ‘Old Church School Project, Ballymoney’ by awarding a Development Grant of £14,300 and earmarking £536,700 of funding.

‘As you may know, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) exists to enable all of us to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage.

‘From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks, oral history and photographic records.

‘HLF grants open up our heritage for everyone to enjoy.

‘I thought that (you) would like to know we have recently awarded a grant of £43,000 to the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust in your constituency.

The project ‘Dark Hedges’ aims to conserve an ‘avenue’ of 150 beech trees, and to increase awareness at a local and national level of the cultural and historical significance of veteran trees.

‘The beech trees, which date back 200 years, create a canopy of labyrinthine branches reaching out to each other across the road which makes for a spectacular contribution to the landscape.

‘The Trust aims to enhance their Tree Preservation Order designation through this project which seeks to actively manage and protect them and educate the public about the importance of this resource.

‘I am also delighted to inform you that HLF has decided to award a development grant of £14,300 together with a first round pass of £536,700 to encourage St Patrick’s Church of Ireland in Ballymoney to develop its Old Church School project to a second-round application.

‘The development grant will assist the group to prepare the drawings and activity plan required for a second round application.

‘Subject to a successful second round application, it is hoped that the Old Church School will be restored for use as a community meeting space.’

Responding to the news, Mr Paisley said: “I am delighted to receive official confirmation that Heritage Lottery will support to the tune of £43,000 the Dark Hedges and Old School Project in Ballymoney.

“These are important local treasures that add to the uniqueness of the area and importantly draw tourists to these landmarks.

“The funding will go a long way in supporting and protecting these landmarks.”

A Stranocum resident welcomed the cash boost for the Dark Hedges but called for signs to be erected in the local area directing visitors to the famous site.