Castlewellan Forest Park Receives £2.69M NLHF Investment

The National Lottery Heritage Fund announces £2.69 million investment in Castlewellan Forest Park.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund announces £2.69 million investment in Castlewellan Forest Park.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council is delighted to announce it has received £2.69 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a new four-year heritage project for Castlewellan Forest Park.

The Council’s vision is to create a heritage-led destination which protects the heritage of Castlewellan Forest Park for future generations, whilst also providing opportunities for local people and visitors to learn more about the landscape.

A section of the walled garden at Castlewellan Forest Park.

The total cost of the project is expected to be £5,513,452 with the Council providing the match funding. Thanks to National Lottery players, the Council’s “Re-Rooting our past in the Future: Castlewellan Historic Demesne” Project, will connect people with the built and natural heritage within Castlewellan Forest Park, as well as restore and celebrate its unique biodiversity.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council will enter a lease for the core areas within the Park from DAERA Forest Service to 2045. The project will commence in July 2021 and will close on 31 December 2025.  

This includes the restoration of a living arboretum, containing some of the most significant collection of trees and shrubs on the island of Ireland.

Councillor Laura Devlin, Chairperson Newry, Mourne and Down District Council welcomes the NLHF package to help transform the Castlewellan arboreutum. .

As part of the project, the Grange will be developed into a visitor core with the creation of a Welcome Centre, Community Space and Café facilities.

The Courtyards will be transformed into a vibrant visitor hub and Centre for community use with interpretation, activities, events, environmental education and skills development. The landscape will be conserved and managed sensitively, protecting its plant collection and important biodiversity. 

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin said: “This is a flagship project that will deliver Council’s vision of transforming the Park into a dynamic heritage led destination, restoring, celebrating and interpreting the natural and built heritage of the historic demesne”. 

Cllr Devlin added, “I would like to express my sincere thanks to the members of the Task and Finish Board that have supported the development of this project since 2015.

“I live in Castlewellan and have been on the Board from day one, so I am delighted that Council has received this financial support, and I look forward to the delivery of the project as it will generate local economic, social and environmental benefits”.

As the former demesne of the Annesley family, Castlewellan Forest Park is steeped in natural and built heritage dating back to 1740s. The Park is an integral part of the community of Castlewellan and provides locals and visitors with recreational space for outdoor activities such as, cycling, horse riding, fishing on the lake, canoeing and orienteering. 

At the heart of the Park is Castlewellan Arboretum and Annesley Garden. The walled Annesley Garden provides a central focal point for the National Arboretum. This investment will re-establish the historical nature of the planting in the Arboretum. The number of Champion Trees identified in a recent study makes Castlewellan the second most important arboretum in Ireland.

The funding for ‘Re-Rooting our past in the Future: Castlewellan Historic Demesne’ has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. 

A view in the Castlewellan Forest Park walled garden.

Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund added:“Landscapes and nature form the bedrock of our culture and heritage, improving wellbeing, sparking curiosity, and protecting and providing for the communities surrounding and inhabiting them. National Lottery players have highlighted natural heritage as especially important, which is why we are proud to award Newry, Mourne and Down District Council a grant to create a heritage-led destination at Castlewellan Historic Demesne.

“At The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we’re incredibly proud to be playing a role in ensuring our natural heritage is safeguarded for generations to come, but also that the projects we fund give people the chance to connect with the nature that is on their doorsteps. ”

It is widely acknowledged that the parks and open spaces play a hugely important role in supporting our local communities, both in terms of providing recreational space but also for supporting health and wellbeing.  As we move towards recovery from COVID, the implementation of this project is timely and will benefit the citizens of the District through reconnecting people with their heritage, community and nature creating a safe, vibrant welcoming park for all. 

Restoration and construction is continuing at the Bothy Yard, funding has been secured from Priority 6, Rural Tourism Scheme of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by DAERA and the European Union. 

McGrath Welcomes Funding Package.

South Dom MLA Colin McGrath said: “I welcome this announcement of funding as a real commitment to the Castlewellan area.

“The funding of over £5m from National Lottery Heritage Fund and the local Council to be directed to the park will see many new and existing projects being delivered which will enhance the visitor experience in the area.

“Work will include the restoration of parts of the arboretum, development of a welcome centre, includes community space and will see inclusion of café facilities.

“This will help generate increased footfall to the Park and this will be of benefit to local businesses as well as there will be an increase in demand for local services.

“For local people this is a win too with much needed local jobs and services and facilities which can be enjoyed by local people too.

“This is a big announcement for the Park and local people and I commend the work of the steering group which has worked diligently for many years to bring this vision to reality.”