Funding of £219,000 from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) will allow families, groups and individuals to avail of outdoor recreation opportunities in Castlewellan and has been welcomed by Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill.[caption id="attachment_53000" align="alignleft" width="390"] Down District Council Chairman Cllr Billy Walker, Forestry Service Chief Executive Malcolm Beattue, Jill Montgomery, Outdoor Recreation NI and Michael Lipsett, Down District Council Director of Recreation at the launch in Castlewellan Forest Park.[/caption]
The Chief Executive of Forest Service, Mr Malcolm Beatty yesterday opened a series of new walk, family cycle and play trails in Castlewellan Forest Park and nearby Bunkers Hill, which have been funded under Axis 3 of the RDP
Mr Beattie congratulated the project team of Outdoor Recreation NI, Down District Council and Forest Service on the completion of the project and said: “The total DARD investment in these projects of £219,000 under Axis 3 of the RDP and the contribution of £75,000 from Down District Council, together with agreements reached between Forest Service and Down District Council about management, has enabled the successful development of these excellent facilities for the benefit of both the local rural community and tourists who visit the Mourne area.
“Our forests are important to communities and the new trails and play facilities in Castlewellan Forest Park and Bunkers Hill demonstrate our ongoing support of the development of forest based recreation and tourism throughout the north of Ireland in consultation with communities. This project is an excellent example of how partnerships can realise the potential of our forests to deliver against wider objectives such as health, tourism education and sport and I congratulate all those involved in the completion of this project.”
Totalling 12 kilometres, the new walk trail network in Castlewellan Forest Park takes in many of the key points of interest in the park including the Annesley Garden and Arboretum as well as maximising the iconic views from the summit of Slievenaslat.[caption id="attachment_52999" align="alignright" width="350"] Down District Council Chairman Cllr Billy Walker speaking at the launch of new facilities in Castlewellan Forest Park.[/caption]
Less than one mile away, Bunkers Hill in Castlewellan was given a new lease of life with the launch of a Play Trail, the first of its kind in the north of Ireland. The unique trail consists of a variety of play structures made entirely from wood including a lookout tower, the ‘Donard Climbing Wall’, a tunnel, a story-telling chair and tepees as well as seating for group learning. It is anticipated that the trail, designed to stimulate discovery and learning through outdoor play, will be used year round by local residents, schools and community groups. Also launched today, were two kilometres of trails suitable for walking and family cycling at the same location in Bunkers Hill.
All of the trails have been developed by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland in partnership with Down District Council and Forest Service.
At the launch of the trails, Jill Montgomery, Director at Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, explained: “These new trails are designed to inspire people of all ages and abilities to get outdoors and enjoy the incredible natural landscape on our doorsteps.”
Down District Council Chairman, Cllr Billy Walker enthused about the new local facilities for the Castlewellan area. He said: “The people of Castlewellan now have the opportunity to enjoy this innovative play trail and multi-use trail in Bunkers Hill as well as explore the new walk trail network in Castlewellan Forest Park. We look forward to the local people taking great pride and enjoyment from the new trails.
“In addition we have carried out refurbishment of the Peace Maze in Castlewellan Forest Park including the installation of new interpretation panels, some tree planting and the reinstatement of the bell.”
The projects were funded by Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP) through the Rural Development Programme, Down District Council and Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s NGO Challenge Fund for 2013/14.
Details of the trails at Castlewellan Forest Park and Bunkers Hill can be found on:
The event on 13 November launched four outdoor recreation projects in the Castlewellan area:
* Castlewellan Walk Trails * Bunkers Hill Multi-Use Trail * Bunkers Hill Play Trail * Refurbishment of the Peace Maze.