Horses now welcome as council develops trails in forest park after ban backlash

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

THE interim horse riding trails in Castlewellan Forest Park are to open next month.

It comes after council took a dramatic U-turn over its original plan to ban horses from the forest park.

Officials initially said the decision was necessary to ensure the health and safety of park users while essential tree maintenance was carried out.

This prompted huge public backlash with almost 3,000 liking a Facebook page opposing the move and thousands more writing about the importance of the forest park as a haven for the horseriding community.

Now Newry, Mourne and Down District Council says it has "worked closely with the Mourne Heritage Trust" to develop horse riding trails within Castlewellan Forest Park on an interim basis "pending the outcome of a study into horse riding in the longer term within the forests of Mourne".

It is anticipated that the newly waymarked trails will be open to the public from Monday, 8 May.

"Prior to the opening of the trails any member of the public wishing to ride within the forest environment may use the designated horse riding trails within Tollymore Forest Park which are managed by the Forest Service," a council statement read.

"There will be no cost to individual horse riders to access the trails. Groups wishing to organise events or coaching and guiding on the designated trails will have to apply for approval to do so, for which a fee will apply. Usual vehicle access charges will apply for the forest park.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick said: "The council has taken the initiative in developing these interim horse riding trails within Castlewellan Forest Park as well as leading on finding a longer term solution.

"It has become obvious that the forest is a much loved place for horse riders and the council hopes that these newly waymarked trails will cater for all."

For more information contact Heather Wilson at
or phone 0300 013 2233, or the Forest Trails Ranger on or


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