Co. Down woodland park reopens to public after 500 years

By Fiona Frawley

August 4, 2022 at 12:13pm


The ancient forest near Kilteel in County Down opened on Monday for the first time since the 1500s.

Mourne Park is home to an "extremely rare and ancient woodland", which reopened this month following a campaign by Woodland Trust to acquire an additional 46 hectares within the estate, in order to improve access for people and carry out nature recovery work.

The Woodland Trust acquired part of Mourne Park in 2021 from private ownership - before this the estate was closed to the public and access was only granted via an annual subscription. The Trust have now installed three walking trails for visitors to the Park - the Bluebell Walk, the Woodland Loop and the Whitewater Trail. The trails vary in length and difficulty - the Bluebell Walk is a 1.6km stroll through ancient woodland over a long sloping section, the Woodland Loop takes visitors along a 2.8km gravel path through newly restored native woodland, and the Whitewater Trail follow the river and old carriageway through mature beech trees.

The rare woodland found inside Mourne Park covers just 0.04% of the landscape in Northern Ireland.

Ahead of the reopening, Woodland Trust estate and project manager Dave Scott told BBC News that some of the trees the Trust uncovered were in need of "a bit of TLC".

Mr Scott said:


We uncovered trees that you've physically been unable to see for about 30 years and new kind of carvings on them from Second World War soldiers and historical features that we're uncovering.... So it is an ever-changing place and one thing that you walk away with is just how beautiful it is... Without this restoration work, eventually this woodland would slowly die.

Image via

As the park is also home to invasive species such as rhododendron and laurel, which the Trust have been removing over the past three years. The areas that have been cleared now allow forest floor plants like wood anemone, foxgloves and bluebells to grow. Mr Scott remarked " we just got in in time", as the invasive species would otherwise have stopped light getting into the forest floor and "choked the woodland".

Header image via / Jill Jennings