People have been urged to stick to paths at one of Northern Ireland’s most popular beauty spots, which has seen visitor number surge during the COVID-19 lockdown. The charity received £60,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to repair more than half a kilometre of Ridge Trail.
The National Trust said more than 200,000 people had walked the trails on Divis and Black Mountain in 2020, an increase of almost 20%!
“Path creep” has been a a major issue as people step off an eroded path or pre established trail and start to cut up the heath on either side of the route. This had led to extensive areas of damage across the whole site but is a particular problem on the Ridge Trail that offers walkers the reward of spectacular panoramic views of Belfast.
Lead ranger Craig Sommerville said they welcomed people who were enjoying the benefits of nature. But he said path erosion had a significant impact on an important heathland habitat.
“Once vegetation is lost through erosion, soil and stone can quickly wash off the mountain,” Mr Sommerville explained. “This general loss of habitat and degradation can affect heathland flora species such as heathers, mosses and flowering plants like potentilla and bog asphodel. It can also affect other rare mountain plants already at risk and living at the very edge of their range.”
The path improvements were carried out mostly by hand with the aim of having them done in time for an expected surge in numbers at Easter.
Image courtesy of the National Trust