The Saul Family Accessible Trail Is Now Open

An exciting new facility has been opened in Saul at the Saul GAC pitch which will provide significant health benefits to the area.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey officially opened the new Saul Family Trail on Thursday 4 July.

Representatives from Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI), Sport NI, Department for Communities Sport and Physical Activity Unit, Saul GAC Club, and members of the local community all came together to celebrate the new walking route.

Saul GAC club president Gerry Hynds (fourth left) cuts the ribbon to officially open the new community trails at Saul GAC alongside Newry, Mourne and Down Council Chairman Charlie Casey and club chairman, Columban Fitzsimons. Included are Breige Jennings, County Down Rural Community Network; Colleen Morrison, Council sports development officer; Philip Weston, Outdoor Recreation NI; Cllr Gareth Sharvin; Robert Heyburn, Department for Communities; Katrina Hynds, Downpatrick DEA co-ordinator; and Jay Colville, vice-chairman of Sport NI.

Saul GAC is located at the foot of Slieve Patrick, a popular walking area for locals and tourists alike due to its beauty and historic interest. The current walking routes around the mountain are quite challenging and are not suitable for all levels of ability. The new trail is fully accessible to allow and encourage everyone to participate in outdoor activities.

Councillor Casey said: “The Council is delighted to be part of this exciting new project which is 0.7km and includes picnic areas overlooking Strangford Lough as well as a playpark for children. The development of a fully accessible trail like this is fundamental in encouraging more people to walk in the area and inspire citizens of the district to ‘Be Active’.

“The Council has made great strides, over the past few years, in encouraging our citizens to participate in physical activity of different types and intensity. We all know how beneficial this is, not just in terms of physical health—it also impacts positively on mental health and general wellbeing.

Enjoying a walk along the new community trails at Saul GAC grounds are (from left) Robert Heyburn, Department for Communities; Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey; Jay Colville, vice-chairman of Sport NI; and Philip Weston, Outdoor Recreation NI.

“To have a new trail that is family friendly and can be used by all, regardless of level of fitness, will help everyone to use and enjoy the outstanding natural beauty of this area.”

The new trail offers Saul and Raholp a hub from which local people and visitors can enjoy the beauty of the local environment. It also encourages the development of links within the local community and will help to increase the awareness of the community trails in the district.

Jay Colville from Sport Northern Ireland said: “Sport Northern Ireland is pleased to have funded this project through money awarded by the Department for Communities. This community trail will provide access to the countryside and will improve opportunities for outdoor recreation and physical activity. 

“The creation of this formal walking trail at St Patrick’s GAC Saul gives local people an opportunity to begin to enjoy exercise on their doorstep and complements the Highway to Health infrastructure already in place. The trail is located in a stunning location – at the foot of Slieve Patrick and overlooks both Strangford Lough and Slieve Croob.

Members of the Saul U-14 girls’ team who will be using the new community trails opened at their club grounds.

“The Saul Family Trail will also encourage walking and cycling in this rural area, and the spectacular location will have a very positive impact on both the mental and physical health of people of all ages and abilities.”

Caro-Lynne Ferris from Outdoor Recreation NI said: “We are delighted to have been involved in the development of this high quality off-road community trail at St Patrick’s GAC, Saul. This accessible trail provides the local community with a safe place to walk and will undoubtedly lead to improvements in the physical and mental wellbeing of those using it.  It provides a fantastic asset to the rural community.”

Eddie Harney, Vice-Chairperson of St Patrick’s GAC Saul also emphasised the health benefits of this new trail. He said: “We are absolutely delighted with the new Saul Family Trail within our grounds. ORNI provided the direction and guidance for this project, both in planning and development and linking with our contractors, Euro Services. The project was also driven, supported and given 100% funding through SportNI, with ORNI and Sport NI working in partnership to develop an attractive local facility, encouraging participation by the local community in outdoor sport and recreation.

“The project was envisaged and then developed through cooperation and support of various individuals and bodies including Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Down Rural Community Network, and local organisations including Ballynagross FC. It has been a pleasure working with these groups and agencies, all having a can-do attitude that ensured we could complete the project successfully and within a short time scale.

“This initiative re-affirms our organisation’s commitment to linking in with statutory, voluntary and private bodies to provide the very best facilities for the whole local community. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved with this project, from inception to delivery. It has been an enjoyable experience and we are proud that we have been able to deliver this impressive, sustainable facility that will benefit everyone”.