Paving the way for nature
The special places we look after have been experiencing greater footfall. More and more visitors have been discovering our sites and engaging with nature on their own terms through exercise, practicing mindfulness and just simply getting outdoors for a breath of fresh air. It is great to welcome everyone to these places, but it does not come without challenges. The increased use of the path networks has created the perfect storm for path damage and wear.
As we prefer to keep our paths as natural as possible, they are constructed mostly of aggregate, with grass edging and wooden steps and shuttering, however this leaves them vulnerable to increased footfall and rain erosion.
Wet winter weather and people walking on the grass verges to maintain social distancing has caused erosion to the grass verges and path surfaces themselves. Occasional flooding on the Minnowburn and Lagan has also caused bank erosion and collapse beside our riverside paths.
Our Ranger team have been working hard throughout the cold, wet winter months repairing and resurfacing paths and shoring up collapsed river banks in Minnowburn and in Lisnabreeny, where steps have been put in on a steep, sloping path that had become very badly eroded and slippery in wet weather.
Divis and the Black Mountain has had its own unique challenges – the summit path is constructed in the classic upland path manner, with stone drains and stone pitched steps, but due to wear and water erosion, has just finished being re-configured and repaired by a specialist upland path contractor.
In Autumn 2020 National Trust NI submitted a £1.3million funding application to the DAERA Environment Fund in order to carry out Conservation and access improvements across Northern Ireland over a 3-year period. The bid was successful, and the £59,000 Divis Summit Path Improvement Project was approved in January 2021.
Some of the techniques used to drain water and prevent water erosion with natural stone, have since been used by the Ranger team on other sites including Lisnabreeny and Minnowburn.
This labour intensive, essential work improve access to the special places we look after allowing you to have a safer, more enjoyable visit. Your support makes this important work possible.
As we move into the Spring, we hope that the weather dries up, we should see the paths start to bed in and the grass verges re-establish themselves. In a few weeks we can once again welcome the paths being lined with familiar spring flowers such as Celandine, Stitchwort, Cow Parsley and Wood Anemone.