Belfast mountains get £6m National Trust investment

One of Northern Ireland’s most popular public beauty spots is set to be expanded by 600 acres under a new £6m investment plan.

The National Trust has bought the extra land at its Divis and the Black Mountain site in the Belfast hills.

It is aiming to increase public accessibility to the entire site and open the new land by 2025.

The plan includes new trails, tree planting and the development of a visitor hub, café and exhibition space.

The National Trust said the plan will turn Divis and the Black Mountain into one of the most accessible urban green spaces in the UK and Ireland.

Peatland and blanket bog areas will be restored while an oral history project is also planned, recording the experience of 30 people who lived around the mountain.

The three-year project is being supported with funds from National Lottery Heritage Fund (£3m), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (£548,000) and the Garfield Weston Foundation (£300,000).

National Trust director Heather McLachlan said the funding would help make the area fully inclusive.

“We want it to feel like a place where everyone feels they belong and we’ll do this by working in partnership with the local community, who are at the heart of our work.”

While the existing trails are open to the public, the newly-acquired land is not as it is still being farmed.

The plan is for the National Trust to take over full management of that land, with the aim of opening it in 2025.

In the two decades since the charity began looking after Divis and the Black Mountain, hundreds of acres of moor and heathland have been opened to the public.

Volunteers worked with National Trust staff to clear rubbish, create paths to protect the blanket bog and help restore nature through planting trees.

The funding for the original purchase by the National Trust came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is also supporting the new development.

The fund’s Northern Ireland director, Dr Paul Mullan, said its latest contribution was one of its most “significant investments”, adding that the project would make a “vital difference” to the area.

Divis and the Black Mountain is home to a wide range of wildlife including upland breeding birds and priority species like the Irish hare.

Many plants found there are also protected or environmentally important, like peat-forming sphagnum moss.

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