Belfast Hills, known locally as Cave Hill, lies within a strategic location for conservation, linking Belfast City Council’s Cavehill Country Park, Belfast Zoo, the National Trust’s Divis Mountain and Woodland Trust sites at Throne, Carmoney and Monkstown.
Much of the site was in private ownership and used for extensive grazing before the Woodland Trust Northern Ireland was given the opportunity to purchase 247 acres of land.
Funding of £550,000 from Biffa Award enabled The Woodland Trust to purchase the land in March 2021. A new 47 hectare woodland will be created in a ‘people’s forest’ on the site. It will contain 150,000 trees planted by volunteers from community groups, schools, local businesses and young people from the Belfast Hills project.
Northern Ireland currently has the lowest tree cover within Europe, with just 8% cover; of which 4% are native trees and 0.04% is ancient woodland. Species rich grassland is also being managed to improve and restore the upland wet heath habitat for wildlife and breeding birds.
Ian McCurley, Director of Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, said: “We want to thank Biffa Award. This is an incredible investment, and we are excited about the opportunity to create a new native woodland within a short drive of the population of greater Belfast, Newtownabbey and South Antrim.
“To be able to create woodlands on this scale means more for nature, more for climate change and more for people. We need to rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife. We want to conserve the land in the Belfast Hills and restore it to a beautiful habitat for people and nature.”
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