SIX trees are being removed from the Dark Hedges beauty spot made famous in Game of Thrones this week.
The work, which began yesterday, is expected to be finished by Friday, November 24, the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland has confirmed.
The beech trees, which have become a tourist hotspot since their appearance as the Kings Road in the epic HBO series, are located on Bregagh Road, near Armoy in Co. Antrim.
First planted 250 years ago by the Stuart family, to line the entrance to Gracehill House, there were originally 150 trees at Dark Hedges.
Today only 86 remain, and a recent report on their condition found that 11 of them are in such bad condition, and pose such a risk to visitors, that they need to be removed.
The arboriculturist’s findings, which were presented at a meeting of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council on October 25, confirmed “the trees show many health and structural issues which are common in maturing Beech and occur naturally over time, with issues such as fungal colonies, decay, weak forks and storm damage to be expected”.
Following that report the Department confirmed that the decision had been made to remove six of the trees and undertake remedial work on four others, in order to reduce the risk to public safety.
“Following concerns about the condition of some of the trees the Department commissioned an independent specialist survey which found that 11 trees, out of a total of 86, along this route are in a poor condition and could pose a potential risk to the public,” the Department confirmed.
“The Department immediately liaised with the relevant landowners and other stakeholders, however, given the urgency of the work required, arrangements have now been made to remove six of the trees (stump retained) and carry out remedial work to four trees, to reduce the risk to the wider public,” they explained.
“This decision has not been made lightly and whilst the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount.”
They added that the condition of one further tree will be assessed onsite this week.
The Department will now enter into discussions on how best to maintain and protect the future of the 75 other trees at Dark Hedges.
“The Department will continue to engage with landowners and other stakeholders regarding their implementation of a suitable management strategy to protect the future of the other 75 trees,” they confirmed.
Bregagh Road, which is already closed to vehicles, is also closed to pedestrians this week, while work on the trees is underway.