According to The Telegraph, a group of trees that were featured in Game of Thrones and Transformers: The Last Knight must be cut down. The large beech trees in Northern Ireland, known as the Dark Hedges, have, according to a recent report, become unstable to the point that there is a risk they could fall on someone and kill them. The trees are a popular tourist attraction, meaning there is a strong public safety factor related to their condition.
The Dark Hedges, found in Northern Ireland, stood in for the road to King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, but now they are a danger to the public and are set to be removed.
There were originally approximately 150 beech trees in the Dark Hedges, which was featured prominently in Game of Thrones and has remained a popular destination for tourists in Armoy, Co Antrim. In a recent report, the Department for Infrastructure said some of the trees, which are as old as 250 years, are damaged, including 11 that are unstable enough to pose a fall risk. The Dark Hedges have already suffered losses because of their popularity, with damage from cars and tourists among the factors—along with weather, rot, and age—leading to the reduction of their number to just 86 trees.
It appears the trees’ condition has degraded since the filming of Game of Thrones, with 30 of the 80 surveyed trees reported to be in fair condition, most of them in poor condition, and one found to be dead. There are 11 trees that are set to be felled, though six of those are under tree protection orders, meaning the local council must first give consent before the trees can be cut down. The original group of approximately 150 beach trees, known alternately as the Bregagh Road, were intended to line either side of the path to a Georgian mansion in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, known as Gracehill House.
…predating Game of Thrones and Transformers, the fame of the Dark Hedges goes well beyond their appearance in the series, meaning there is a lot of pressure on councillors to consider factors of both preservation and health and safety…
Planted in the 18th century, the trees provided a backdrop in the second season of Game of Thrones for the escape of Arya Stark, serving as the distinctive trees that lined the road from King’s Landing. There are those, like DUP councillor and member of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust Mervyn Storey, who do not want to see the recommended number of trees cut down, advocating that only four or five should be felled. Storey says no one wants to see the beginning of the end for the legendary Dark Hedges.
It appears the trees’ condition has degraded since the filming of Game of Thrones, with 30 of the 80 surveyed trees reported to be in fair condition, most of them in poor condition, and one found to be dead.
At the same time, Storey acknowledges that the Game of Thrones trees have not been the focus of preservation funding to this point and that it’s too late for aggressive tree planting. Saying that many of the trees have been lost already due to weather and other conditions, he knows that the trees will not last forever. Storey also refers to the Dark Hedges as having been “in the intensive care unit” for many years.
With their age predating Game of Thrones and Transformers, the fame of the Dark Hedges goes well beyond their appearance in the series, meaning there is a lot of pressure on councillors to consider factors of both preservation and health and safety when weighing the future of the structurally unstable trees. As they consider the fate of the trees that have been proposed to be cut down, they will also be advised that rescue efforts should be able to save most of the remaining trees for at least another 10 years. Given the frequency with which people stand underneath the trees, the risk of one of them falling on someone is increasing every day, as is the risk to tourism in the area if they are to be cut down.