Three Dark Hedges Beech Trees lost in Storm Isha
Three trees have fallen at the Dark Hedges as a result of the unyielding power of Storm Isha last night. The world-famous beech tree avenue in Co Antrim was planted around 250 years ago with the trees having a life expectancy of 150-200 years. This is the most recent loss from the group of over 80 trees.
Storm damage has happened regularly at the site and every storm presents a possibility of damage to these aged, mature heritage trees. Although their loss is difficult to accept for their huge audience of admirers, their longevity is not without risk or surprise.
The avenue of trees on the Bregagh Road near Stranocum, Co. Antrim was planted as a grand entrance to Gracehill House around 1775 and has achieved worldwide fame through its use as a location in HBO’s Game of Thrones®.
Tree management experts Arbor Consulting undertook a survey of the site in June 2023 with their recommendations being implemented in late 2023.
On 20th November work commenced to remove 5 trees with additional work to preserve the health of many of the remaining trees in the avenue.
The work in November was undertaken by Timbertec (NI) on behalf of the landowners and Dark Hedges Preservation Trust with the cooperation of Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust.
Two of the fallen trees had been given a clean bill of health. The strength of Isha, with gusts last experienced during the infamous hurricane of 1987, took no regard to the health of the trees. A third tree, which had been identified as a possible candidate for removal also fell. Significant work had been undertaken on this tree to ensure that in the event of it falling it posed no risk to the public. As predicted the tree fell away from the road and fell harmlessly into an adjacent field.
CCGHT CEO Graham Thompson commented:
“The work undertaken before Christmas was timely and reduced risks to the public. The site has now been cleared by our tree surgeons TimbertecNI and the public will again be safe to return once weather warnings have been removed. A further condition survey will be undertaken in the next few days.
“CCGHT is progressing with plans to establish a new Dark Hedges Management Forum which is expected to consist of relevant statutory organisations, landowners and other interested parties. It is envisaged that in future the issues at the site will be managed in a co-ordinated strategic manner. This includes a management plan ensuring the longevity of the tress, while giving full consideration to health and safety issues; visitor management at the site including dealing with parking and traffic issues; educating and informing visitors to the site across a range of media; and importantly identifying funding sources for future site management.”
The Dark Hedges is situated alongside the Bregagh Road near Stranocum in County Antrim. An avenue of beech trees was planted to form a grand entrance to Gracehill House in around 1775 by the landowner James Stuart.
Common beech trees have a usual life expectancy of 150-200 years. The Dark Hedges trees are almost 250 years old. Their advanced age has caused them to grow in an unusual, twisted manner creating the universally recognised atmospheric phenomenon we see today.
While the Dark Hedges has been a site of local myth and legend for many years it has become internationally recognised over the past two decades. This has been due to the use of the iconic site in tourism promotion, advertising and perhaps most famously as its use as “The King’s Road” in the HBO series Game of Thrones®.