Historic Antrim Woodland receives lottery funding

One of the largest tree surgery projects in Northern Ireland has recently been carried out by Clarke Cunningham Tree Maintenance Ltd., on behalf of Antrim Borough Council, at the historic Castle Gardens.

This work heralds the start of an ambitious multi-million project to revitalise the Antrim Castle Gardens. This is a large site that includes a number of Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments and lies within Antrim Conservation Area. The main works which are about to commence on site include the refurbishment of three buildings, the restoration of a number of historic landscape features including the Castle site, Motte, Terrace / French Gardens, Pleasure Gardens and Canals, with tree-lined vistas restored and woodland paths upgraded. New parking facilities will be provided along with new amenity lighting, street furniture and interpretation. The work will also see the planting of a large number of trees, shrubs and hedging within the site. The project is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Antrim Borough Council.

Antrim Castle Gardens is today an important public park containing over 3,000 trees some of which are over 400 years old. The Landscape Architects on the project, MWA Partnership, appointed Dr. Philip Blackstock, a well know Arborculturalist, to carry out a tree condition survey within the site in order to determine the extent of works required. His report recommended work to approximately 1,000 trees on a Health and Safety and increased lifespan basis.

The arboricultural work included a variety of tree surgery operations around the grounds in order to address various concerns arising from the report. For example a large number of mature trees had their crowns reduced in overall size to mitigate the stress on potentially weak trunks or roots, particularly where specimens were sited beside roadways paths or buildings. Other trees, particularly large Limes along the long historic vistas, had lower branches removed or pruned back in order to restore the original vista originally envisaged by the designers of the gardens. A number of trees that were found to be dead, dying, diseased or structurally defective were felled, but in order to replace these, a replanting programme of approximately 1,500 trees was undertaken. The majority of these young trees were Oak (Quercus Petraea), but some Hazel and Holly were planted as well. Within the woodland areas, great efforts were made to adopt as sensitive an approach to the tree works as possible. Thus some deadwood/ branches was allowed to remain where it was felt not to be a potential health and safety threat to the public, while trimming of branches was restricted as far as possible to a maximum branch diameter of 100mm.

Whilst working at the trees around the Castle Gardens grounds, the Arborists from Clarke Cunningham Tree Maintenance Ltd. had to be mindful of the varied bio diversity within the woodland with respect to nesting birds and roosting bats in particular. Where these two species were found in residence, whether nesting or roosting, the tree in question was left undisturbed and will be worked on at a later date. Where the Arborists encountered a potential bat roost in a tree, advice was readily available from a local bat expert who guided the team in the best way to cause as little disturbance as possible to these tiny, secretive creatures. Other smaller forest floor creatures were also given the benefit of browsing or sheltering amongst the many ‘habitat’ piles of branches and timber left by the team around the woodland areas.

Commenting on the award of this prestigious contract, Clarke Cunningham Tree Maintenance General Manager, Gareth Casement said “this was a very important high profile job for our company, as we were tasked with the care and maintenance of a very large number of mature trees within a historic and bio-diverse environment. All our Arborists enjoyed working on the trees around the woodland areas and have carried out the recommended work to a high professional standard.”


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