The Woodland Trust have announced that the public is to get access to Mourne Park an ancient woodland that has been in private ownership for more than 500 years.
The expansive one hundred and fifty-six hectares of Mourne Park outside Kilkeel has been bought by the Woodland Trust. Who have plans to open the forest to the public in 2022 after work has been completed to prepare the site for use.
The park which has been owned by the Anley Family for five centuries was bought by the Woodland Trust with the help of money from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, a charitable grant-making foundation, and its own funds, spending more than £1.5 million to acquire the site.
Director of the Woodland Trust Ian McCurley said, “We are so excited to add Mourne Park, which is an incredibly special place to our estate. There are 73 hectares of precious ancient woodland in Mourne Park alone, which is phenomenal to find in Northern Ireland as it is so rare.”
Almost half of the forest meets the criteria for ancient woodland, one of Northern Ireland’s scarcest habitats. Ancient woodland is defined as an area which has been under constant tree cover since the 1600s. Such woodlands cover just 0.04% of Northern Ireland so the Woodland Trust have already been working with the Anley family to manage the ancient woodland on the site for the past three years.
“After much soul searching, we feel that the Woodland Trust are better placed than us in taking the woodland management forward,” said brother and sister Bonnie and Philip Anley.
The Environment Minister Edwin Poots said he was delighted to be able to support the venture.
He said it would help protect and enhance the existing rare habitat and add to overall tree cover with an extensive programme of planting.