The Dark Hedges: Work under way to remove trees made famous in Game of Thrones

An operation has begun in Co Antrim to fell several trees made famous by the Game Of Thrones series.

The work will see six of the trees at the Dark Hedges removed and remedial work carried out on several others.

The tunnel of trees became famous when it was featured in the HBO fantasy tv series and now attracts significant numbers of tourists from around the world.

However, concerns have been raised about the state of several of the beech trees and a number have blown down during storms in recent years.

As work began at the site on Monday morning, there were several international tourists visiting the trees.

Graham Thompson from the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust told UTV the work will secure "visitor safety".

"A survey was undertaken and it identified five or six trees that required felling, and five others that are in need of remedial work.

"It's primarily for visitor safety but also for the health of the trees.

"We want to make sure people come to the site and are well looked after, but we also want to try and extend the lives of the Dark Hedges for as long as possible."

The Dark Hedges have become a popular attraction. Credit: Press Eye
Work began on Monday. Credit: Press Eye

For over four decades photographer and local campaigner Bob McCallion has been keeping watch of the site, by day and by night.

"On a Saturday there can be between two to three-thousand people here," he told UTV.

"I want tourism but I also want the tourists to be safe as well as the locals coming down here."

The trees on the Bregagh Road, near Stranocum, are on privately owned land.

The Department for Infrastructure said an independent specialist survey found that 11 trees, out of a total of 86, were in a poor condition and could pose a potential risk to the public.

Following discussions with relevant landowners and other stakeholders, arrangements were made to remove six of the trees, retaining the stumps, and for remedial work to be carried out on four trees, to reduce the risk to the public.

The condition of one further tree will be assessed on site.

A department statement said: "This decision has not been made lightly and, while the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount.

"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."

The trees were planted to line the Bregagh Road to Gracehill House, which was built around 1775.

Originally, there were about 150 trees.

In the coming months responsibility for preserving the trees will pass from the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust to the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust (CCGHT).

Chief executive Graham Thompson said: "CCGHT 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 trees, 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."

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