Council Announce Ambitious Plans for Castlewellan Forest Park
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s plans to restore the key heritage features of Castlewellan Forest Park to help maximise its tourism potential have taken a huge leap forward with construction commenced at the Bothy Yard and the Council submitting a Planning Advice Notice for other areas in the Park.
The Council received funding from Priority 6, Rural Tourism Scheme of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union for construction and restoration at the Bothy Yard in Castlewellan Forest Park.
The funding received from DAERA along with Council funding will support the restoration of the 19th Century greenhouse, reconstruction of the propagation house and cold frames. One of the outbuildings will be converted to an office and volunteer space. Visitor facilities will be created in the Stove Conservatory including an interpretation centre. A platform lift will also be installed to provide access to the Terrance for people with reduced mobility. Council has entered into a licence agreement with DAERA Forest Service for the Bothy Yard.
DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA said “Tourism is vitally important to our rural economy and that is why we wanted to invest in infrastructure that would help attract more visitors to Northern Ireland and encourage them to stay longer. I am therefore delighted to announce that the Forest Service has signed a license agreement with Council and that construction and restoration at the Bothy Yard is now underway. I am confident that the works, when finished, will make a visit to Castlewellan Forest Park an even more enjoyable experience and another must see destination for tourists arriving to this beautiful part of Northern Ireland when Covid restrictions eventually recede.”
Since 2015, the Council has also been progressing with plans to restore the natural and built heritage of the Park with several key stakeholders including Forest Service. In 2018, the Council received funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to develop plans and gather evidence of the Park’s significant heritage and biodiversity. For example, all eight Northern Ireland species of bat have been recorded in the Park along with Otters, Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and very rare species of Trees and Rhododendrons. The number of Champion Trees identified in a recent study makes Castlewellan the second most important arboretum in Ireland, after Glasnevin.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin stated, “The Council has applied to NLHF to implement the plans the Council developed from 2018 to 2020. To enable the project to move to planning the Council has organised virtual public consultation sessions and I would encourage everyone to book a session to view the plans. Castlewellan Forest Park is used for a wide range of outdoor activities, and it is widely recognised that green open space has positive physical and mental health benefits. The proposed developments will not only benefit the residents of Castlewellan, it will generate local economic, social and environmental benefits”.
The virtual public consultations are scheduled week commencing 25 January 2021 to enable residents, visitors and businesses to view the Council’s ambitious plans. Artist impressions of The Grange and Courtyards (post construction) have been developed to share and visualize the Council’s plans for area.
If funding is secured from NLHF, the Park’s natural and built heritage will be restored and protected for future generations. The Council will enter a lease for the core areas within the Park from DAERA Forest Service. 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 pedestrianized transforming the area into vibrant visitor hub and Centre for community use with interpretation, activities, environmental education and skills development. The core of the Park will be conserved and managed sensitively, protecting its important biodiversity. Access will be improved for all users of the Park with the creation of a woodland walk and a road from Castle Avenue to the main car park.
Castlewellan Forest Park is vitally important to the local community for outdoor recreation and wellbeing, especially during Covid-19 restrictions. If funding is received from NLHF, Council aims to create a unique visitor experience.
To view the plans and to book your space at the virtual public consultation please visit: https://www.newrymournedown.org/consultations-residents