A petition launched in response to growing concerns over the future of one of Northern Ireland’s most visited tourist hot spots – the Dark Hedges – has attracted more than two and a half thousand signatures.
The aim is to put pressure on the authorities to halt what many claim is the systematic destruction of the 300-year-old beech trees which have become a famous landmark thanks to the Game of Thrones series part of which are filmed there.
A local lady, Glenda Trolland began the campaign and has been delighted with the response with support coming from as far as Australia, Canada and America as well as all over the United Kingdom.
“This shows the popularity of these trees and how everyone wants something done to save them,” Ms Trolland said.
She went on: “I have set up this petition to help save the Dark Hedges, I don’t know if it will make any difference but I feel better knowing that I am doing something that may help.
“it’s not just the locals who are fed up with how the Dark Hedges are being treated, please let this be a wake-up call to those who are supposed to be working to ensure the preservation if of this landmark.
“The council are not managing the Hedges. Tourists are wrecking the beauty of the area. Tree roots are being exposed with vandalism to the trees. The area needs to be managed.”
The recent heavy rain has caused flooding at the trees and the road surface is beginning to crack under the constant pressure of coaches and other large vehicles.
Concern is mounting that if something is not done the roots of the trees will give way and the road will have be closed in the interest of public safety.
Ms Trolland’s petition states: “For a few years now our local landmark the Dark Hedges has been attracting a large number of tourists who arrive in coaches and cars and they park on the grass verges and the roots of the trees therefore destroying our beautiful trees and also they have been carving their names into the trees causing more damage.
“I’d like a law to enforce the prohibition of parking on this road and instead to use the local hotel or layby to park in. It is important in the interest of preserving the future of our trees.”
This petition will be delivered to: Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust Trustees
Comments from supporters on the Facebook campaign stated: “I’m signing because over the years I have seen the devastation caused by cars and coaches parked in the verges with total disregard for this fantastic place. Also as a local you can’t drive down the road for all the congestion and people in the road. It should be closed off to traffic fullstop. Or someone is going to get hurt or lose their life.
“My grandparents and mother lived close by, and cycled this road under these trees. I feel sad that my grandchildren may not enjoy them too, due to the lack of respect by bus companies, tourists and irresponsible car drivers!
“We are so lucky to have a place like this. This area has to be protected because once it’s gone it’s gone.
“I remember this beautiful spot from over 40 years ago when I lived in northern Ireland would be a shame to see it disappear.”
“Coaches can go a different way to the Hedges by travelling on the A26 into Ballymoney and using the Kirk Road (Stranocum) which would help solve part of the problem.”
Responding to the comments, North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, who is on the Hedges Preservation Trust, said: “I welcome any additional help and support in seeking to secure a resolution to the issues in relation to the Dark Hedges.”