The white lines at the famous Dark Hedges have been removed.
Reported in this week’s Ballymoney and Moyle Times, the traffic markings altered the appearance of the beauty spot which has become hugely popular with visitors, and made famous by the HBO global television hit show Game Of Thrones.
In recent days the broken white lines appeared in the middle of the Bregagh Road near Armoy, causing outrage and shock amongst the community- and comes as the latest blow after some of the iconic beech trees were felled by stormy weather in Northern Ireland.
However it is believed within hours of officials being contacted, highway chiefs held their hands up and admitted the white lines were painted by mistake.
They pledged to remove them today (Wednesday) and, as one Ballymoney Times reader witnessed, they were true to their word as this video shows.
Roads chiefs, however, added that there may be some “residual marking to the carriageway as a result of the removal”, but that this is likely to disappear “soon”.
As a result people who love the Dark Hedges are insisting that when the traffic markings are burned off, unsightly scorch marks should not be allowed to remain, and the way to ensure that is to resurface the road. If that proves to be the case, it’s a mistake that could end up costing a substantial amount.
A spokesperson explained: “Following completion of a small resurfacing scheme along a 200m stretch of the Bregagh Road at the Dark Hedges, the white lining at the junction with the Ballinlea Road was extended in error.
“The contractor has since been instructed to remove the line, and we expect this to be completed by tomorrow.
“The white lining will be burned off by the contractor.
“Whilst there is the potential for some residual marking to the carriageway as a result of the removal, we are confident that, given the time of year and the number of vehicles using the Bregagh Road that any such marks will disappear soon.
“DRD will continue to monitor the condition of the surface over the coming weeks, and will take further action to repair the road if necessary.”
Photographer Angela Cunning said: “We were all shocked when these lines appeared as it totally changes the type of picture you can take there, and hopefully the lines will go soon.”
Mayor of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council Michelle Knight-McQuillan said the lines should be gone by today - weather permitting.
“They were not part of the contract of recent works there and the contractor continued the white line beyond road end by mistake, apparently. Hopefully removal can be done without trace,” she said.
A DRD spokeswoman said: “The department cannot provide costs for the removal of these lines due to the commercial sensitivity of our contractor’s rates.
“We can, however, advise that the removal of this white line over this short stretch of road is a relatively low cost activity.”
One of the most ardent supporters of the international tourist attraction, Bob McCallion, said that while most of the recent work, which also included restoring ‘badly eroded verges’, is welcome it should not be at the expense of the tree.
Taking to Facebook to vent his feelings last week, Mr. McCallion said: “So much for preserving or even restoring the ‘visual impact’ of the Dark Hedges.
“The road is now about two to three feet wider and includes part of the badly eroded verges on each side.
“Better to have restored the verges and kept the road the same width (or smaller) while implementing some form of traffic control (one way system)? Worse still, these white lines have been added in the last few days.
“I presume that this work will be extended to the rest of the road?”
Another respected photographer, Chris Ibbotson, also asked last week: “Why is this road not looked after from an historic perspective? These white lines are just awful and destroy it. Transport NI or Causeway Coast and Glens Council should consult design consultants, landscape architects or those akin to projects of an historic nature prior to just bringing out the old ‘rule book’ and implementing modern day traffic management systems.
“This would never have been allowed if this road was owned and managed like an official historic tourism location and not like a normal public road.”
Another Facebook contributor said she was worried over the future of the Hedges, adding: “All year, all the rows upon rows of coaches, Game of Thrones fans, parked along the roots until they were exposed. Now look, one night of strong winds and they’re gone. Coaches ruining it.”