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Signs announce tree felling and the closure of the "Dark Hedges" avenue

Photo: Liam Mcburney / dpa

A scene in the TV series "Game of Thrones" made a mystical avenue of beech trees in Northern Ireland internationally famous. Now six trees in the street known as "Dark Hedges" are being felled – due to old age and storm damage. Branches are being removed from other trees.

On Monday, work began in County Antrim under the eyes of several tourists, as the newspaper »Belfast Telegraph« reported. The road has been closed to cars for years anyway after visitors hunting for a photo regularly caused traffic chaos. Now, for the time being, pedestrians are not allowed to walk through the avenue between the towns of Armoy and Stranocum.

Two investigations have shown that some trees need to be removed for safety reasons, said Mervyn Storey of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust: "Even though we wish these trees would last forever, the reality is against it. They are 300 years old, and this work needs to be done." What is needed is a long-term plan and new plantings, Storey said. "Eight seconds in 'Game Of Thrones' changed Bregagh Road and the Dark Hedges forever."

Of the original 150 beech trees, 86 were still standing. However, an investigation by the Ministry of Infrastructure found that eleven trees are in poor condition and pose a potential danger. In talks, landowners and other stakeholders agreed to remove six trees and work on four more. "This decision was not taken lightly," the ministry said. "Although the value of the avenue for recreation is recognized, the safety of road users is a priority."

The trees had once been planted along Bregagh Road, which led to the Gracehill House estate, built in 1775.