Diversion put in place bypassing forest horse trail council confirms

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has confirmed it is “aware” of issues in relation to a horse trail at Drumkeeragh Forest.

Indeed, a diversion is due to be in place by today (7 December) which will bypass the section of the forest in question.

Last week, the Farming Life reported an incident in the forest in which horses sustained leg injuries during a hack (you can read the full story here).

Subsequently, more riders contacted this newspaper to confirm they, too, had experienced similar issues there, with horses requiring veterinary treatment.

Claire Smyth described a recent visit to Drumkeeragh Forest, on the lower slopes of Slieve Croob, as “very traumatic” after two horses went through boggy ground on the ‘horse trail’.

Indeed, Claire feared her daughter may have been crushed under the weight of her ride as the mare went “right down”.

Claire said a sign erected on the trail, near to the car park, stating ‘soft underfoot’ was a “slight understatement”.

Initially, the council believed Forest Service was responsible for Drumkeeragh Forest, however, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs confirmed it is managed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “Recreation provision in Drumkeeragh Forest is managed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

“Forest Service have a partnership agreement with the council, which facilitates the development and management of a network of waymarked, multi-use trails within the forest, which include provision of an equestrian trail.

“The council should be contacted to discuss any aspect of trail management or design with the email address being [email protected]

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has since confirmed it has been working with Outdoor Recreation NI to “install a diversion which will bypass the section in question and this will be in place by, or on, 7 December 2021”.

A council spokesperson added: “The section of trail will be upgraded alongside the installation of a new car park for horse boxes and other works to improve horse riding at the site.

“These works are expected to start in February 2022.

“Meanwhile the diversion referred to above will be in place,” the spokesperson ended.