ONE of north Antrim’s most famous landmarks, The Dark Hedges, has been fenced off - quite literally.
Described by some locals as a huge ‘desecration’, the world-renowned trees in Stranocum now sit beside a four foot barb wired fence.
Hitting out at the ‘hideous’ construction, resident Robert Patton said: “The catch phrase from the comedy series One Foot in the Grave, ‘I don’t believe it’ was my first thought when I saw what can only be described as desecration of The Dark Hedges.
“A hideous fence has been erected on the roadside, of course a fence is necessary for the control of animals in the fields along the road, but surely it could have been put on the field side of the famous trees, not on the edge of an already narrow road.”
Seen as a massive tourist attraction for the local area, the avenue of beech trees was recently used as a location for the second series of highly acclaimed HBO drama series Game of Thrones and even features in this year’s BBC Countryfile calendar 2012 thanks to Bob McCallion’s winning entry in a nationwide photographic competition.
Disagreeing with the negative views MLA Mervyn Storey believes the fence ‘is in no way a distraction nor hindrance to the site’.
He explained: “This newly erected fence is in no way a distraction nor hindrance to the site. I cannot see it causing a problem to the area. The land is owned by two farmers, who are simply ensuring that their land is protected.
“Currently the Reservation Trust are in the process of securing a £50,000 grant to preserve the area. At the minute, they are just tidying up some legal issues, which will take place over the next number of weeks.”
However Cllr Storey said there was a problem last week with people ‘disrespectfully disposing of litter at the car park up from The Dark Hedges.
He continued: “This is disgraceful that black bags of rubbish were thrown out to destroy this attraction. How can we criticise a fence when people can’t look after it and think it’s OK to use the area as a dumping ground.
“I can not understand what is in the mind of someone who finds it acceptable to engage in this type of disgraceful behaviour. Ballymoney Council spends thousands of pounds to deal with the issue of waste and the cost is further added too by actions such as those at the Dark Hedges.
“What sort of message does it give to the hundreds of visitors to this most beautiful area when they see rubbish disposed of in this way.
“The Reservation Trust is hoping to replant new trees at the site over the next six months and I would support their work. I would therefore appeal to anyone who engages in this type of unacceptable behaviour to stop it immediately and use the many council facilities provided to dispose of their waste.”
In response, Mr. Patton called on Council for more information over the lack of ‘signage’ in the area.
He added: “What happened to the signs that were promised to the area, and what exactly is being done with the recent grant of, I believe £60,000, for the enhancement and promotion of the Hedges?”
“Many, many other locals are outraged at what has happened in the last few days at this site and I would like to know where are our councillors, do they not care what is going on?”