29th June 2023

Completion of Phase 3 of Slieve Gullion Path

Walkers to Cailleach Beara’s House (or southern Cairn as it is officially known) on the summit of Slieve Gullion will have noticed a steady improvement in the footpaths in the area over the last decade. This improvement has resulted from a three-phase, long-term erosion control project to improve the trail and repair erosion damage. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency have funded this work.

The last major engineering works of Phase 3 are now nearing completion. These projects are restoring the existing path corridor to reduce the impact on habitats and the landscape by providing an informal upland-style path. The path works have been designed with reference to the recent ASCENT project and other best practice models, such as SNH’s Upland Pathwork Manual. Industry leaders, Hamilton’s Environmental Ltd, who specialise in footpath builds and habitat restoration, are carrying out the work.

This kind of upland path restoration and erosion control aims to make the path more attractive to walk on than the surrounding area and to discourage people from leaving the track, which causes trail braiding.

This work uses various techniques, from the modern use of helicopters to bring in tonne bags of aggregate to the traditional use of local sheep’s wool as a base for the paths. Hand-built stone anchor bars are used on steep sections to reduce the potential for aggregate to move downhill. Drains across the path have inlet and outlet ditches, and pitches have an irregular appearance, with naturally weathered rock facing outwards to ensure a natural look.

Where the existing path has braided, landscaping techniques using large donor turves from carefully selected, stable areas are fundamental. These turves are firmly bedded in to encourage them to root through the organic jute geotextile, stabilising the surface.

Workers will still be on site making sure that the path design is working as it should be and fine-tuning small sections for the rest of the summer, so please bear this in mind and obey any safety signs when walking the trail and finally, please KEEP TO THE PATH!

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