Top prize for Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Date published: 18 October 2021

Slieve Gullion Forest Park in County Armagh has won a prestigious award in recognition of how the forest benefits those who walk its trails and use the excellent facilities.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA and Chief Executive of the Forest Service, John Joe O’Boyle are pictured at Slieve Gullion Forest Park with the The Royal Forestry Society’s ‘Community Woodlands Award’.

The Royal Forestry Society’s ‘Community Woodlands Award’ highlights how Slieve Gullion Forest Park has developed into a hub for visitor experiences, recreation, well-being, volunteering, learning and skills development since the late 1990s. It serves both the local population and visitors from further afield.

Following a recent visit to the Forest Park, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “The Royal Forestry Society’s ‘Community Woodlands Award’ demonstrates the tremendous work undertaken on a daily basis within Slieve Gullion Forest Park at community level in partnership with staff from Forest Service and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

“Upon walking the trails it is clear to see the fantastic facilities available to all ages and this has resulted in an increase in visitor numbers to Slieve Gullion from 30-40,000 per year to 3-400,000 over the past number of years.

“Our forest parks benefit our health and wellbeing, particularly during the height of the Covid pandemic, and I wish to congratulate Forest Service on the Award and making our forest parks accessible to all.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Slieve Gullion was acquired by Forest Service in the 1950s and planted predominantly with conifer tree species. Hawthorn Hill, a 150 year old mixed woodland at the heart of the forest, is primarily managed for amenity and conservation. Subsequent use includes the development of walking trails and associated recreational facilities and the starting point for a seven mile forest drive offering panoramic views across stunning countryside. Hawthorn Hill is sustainably managed to UK Woodland Assurance Standards to maintain continuous cover, primarily through natural regeneration of native tree and plant species. 
  2. As well as the health and well-being benefits provided by the walking trails and play areas, extensive education and training programmes are also provided including geology hiking, willow obelisk workshops and a wide range of fun and educational activities for children of all ages. An historic courtyard in the forest provides a training venue for young adults with learning difficulties or social issues, helping them attain recognized qualifications and work placement. As one of only 22 ‘Healthy Living’ centres in Northern Ireland, doctors at Meigh village General Practice can refer patients for therapy courses including, chronic pain workshops, yoga for autism, children’s yoga, dance fit, art therapy and outside gym classes. 
  3. Hawthorn Hill is rich in flora and fauna including Red squirrel and Pine marten populations, and a partnership has been developed with the Ring of Gullion & Cooley Red Squirrel Group providing volunteering opportunities. Volunteer days in the woodland are focused on a range of conservation tasks to enhance biodiversity such as control of invasive plant species and site monitoring.
  4. Slieve Gullion has received three Green Flag Awards since 2014; a prestigious award scheme setting an international benchmark standard for the management of parks and green spaces.
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  6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office 
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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