From the pages of the Down Recorder, April 11, 2001

From the pages of the Down Recorder, April 11, 2001

7 April 2021

NEWCASTLE – Two of Down District’s biggest visitor attractions will be open this weekend, as moves continue to prevent the collapse of the Easter tourist season.

The Department of Agriculture has bowed to significant tourist industry pressure and agreed to reopen both Tollymore and Castlewellan Forest Parks which draw thousands of day trippers to the area.

Both parks attract thousands of visitors over Easter and also boast the area’s largest touring caravan sites which are heavily used over the Easter period.

Confirmation the gates at both Tollymore and Castlewellan are to open for business again came on Monday afternoon, just hours after the Department  of Agriculture had warned they would remain closed. However, pressure was stepped up when it was revealed that staffing problems, and not the foot and mouth crisis, was the main reason for the closures.

Virtually all the forest park staff are away on disinfecting duties, mainly at ports and border crossings and Department officials felt they could not be spared to open the forests.

ARDGLASS – A yard of ale, talent contest and car pulling competitions are the stuff of which traditional summer festivals are made.

And according to the newly elected committee set up to bring Ardglass Festival back to life, these are examples of the old fashioned games most people prefer.

The committee which was elected following the group’s annual general meeting recently, has already announced the revival of the annual event which has not been staged since 1997.

The festival, which was one of the most popular events in the district for several years, was cancelled because of lack of interest but 13 local people have now volunteered to organise an events programme once again this year.

BALLYNAHINCH – A Ballynahinch councillor is this week standing by his claims that thousands more vehicles are passing through Ballynahinch each day than officially acknowledged.

Mr Francis Casement said while he is not prepared to reveal the source of his information, he says the figure he produced three weeks ago were compiled by the Roads Service and are accurate.

The SDLP councillor produced daily traffic figures for several parts of the town which showed that over 43,000 vehicles pass through High Street.

His comments come one week after Down District’s Divisional Roads Manager, Mr Sean Price, wrote to the Down Recorder, claiming the figures quoted by the local councillor in March were “completely erroneous and not based on departmental surveys.”

Mr Price said he has already informed Mr Casement about this and asked him to be more precise in “identifying the source” to enable him to shed some light on the confusion the figures have created.

KILLYLEAGH – The Planning Service has ruled there will not be a public inquiry into one of the biggest private housing developments ever proposed for Down District.

Public scrutiny of an ambitious £35m plan to build over 350 new homes and a marina at the Gocean area in Killyleagh had been widely expected, but planning officials have decided against an inquiry.

They confirmed on Monday afternoon that the application by Ravenblack Developments, which was being dealt with by senior planners in Belfast, has been passed back to planners in Downpatrick. They will now re-examine the proposal before making their views known to local councillors.

It has been widely expected the inquiry would have taken place next year, but the fact that it has not been ordered could result in construction work on the project beginning sooner than expected, provided planning permission is granted. 

DOWNPATRICK – A group of residents in Downpatrick are seeking urgent talks over a proposal to build 250 new homes in the town.

The Ardglass Road residents are hoping to meet senior planning officials and Roads Service engineers to discuss what will be Downpatrick’s largest building project for several years.

They say while they have no objections to the proposal to build several hundred new homes, they do have concerns about the increase in the amount of traffic the development will generate.

Councillor Mrs Anne Trainor said the existing roads infrastructure is already struggling to cope with the demands being placed on it and will not be able to cope with more traffic.

She admits while the construction of the homes will be good news for the local economy, shops, schools and churches, it is important the existing roads network is upgraded.

Details of the scheme to build the new homes on land formerly owned by the Down Lisburn Trust was made public last week and local residents has been given two weeks to register any opinions. 

The new homes are to be built by the Ballygowan firm of Micwall Developments and the scheme is due to receive its public launch in August or September.

BALLYCULTER – Organic chickens bred at a Ballyculter farm could soon be featuring on supermarket shelves across the Province.

The new initiative, which is being spearheaded by organic farmer Dr John Orr, is being backed by the Crossgar firm of Bells Poultry, which hopes to take its first delivery of free-range chickens later this week.

By Friday the birds will be on sale in butcher’s shops in Belfast and Dublin and if successful, the move to breed organic chickens locally could knock the stuffing out of European competition.

The plan was hatched several months ago and Mr Adrian Gunn the agricultural manager with the Crossgar firm, believes the market is ready for an increase in the number of organic chickens.

He said with an increasing number of consumers turning to organic products, the time is right to move in this direction and supply them with organic poultry products.

STRANGFORD – Local school children braved the April showers on Monday to take part in a historic event.

Armed with wellington boots and spades, pupils and teachers from St Joseph’s Primary School in Strangford joined members of the Woodland Trust at Compass Hill outside Strangford, to plant the first trees of the new millennium woodland.

Monday was the first stage of the project which saw the children helping to plant a new woodland which has been envisaged for them when they grow up.

A new footpath is being built which leads to the Lough shore with breathtaking views from Compass Hill and the Tea House.

The woodland and hedges which are being planted have been specially chosen to encourage bird and insect populations and work is currently underway to clean and restore the old Japanese pond.

A number of relaxation areas have also been pinpointed for the positioning of seats, along with wooden sculptures which pupils at the local schools helped design. 

The sculptures of woodland animals have poems, which were written by the children, beautifully carved below them and will be there for further generations to admire.

CASTLWELLAN – Castlewellan’s famous May Day horse fair, which has been a feature of life in the market town for generations, has fallen victim to the foot and mouth crisis.

Down Council had this week ruled that the traditional horse fair, which attracts hundreds of people of Castlewellan, cannot go-ahead on May 1.

The decisions to cancel the event was taken at a special meeting in Downpatrick on Monday night, but politicians have agreed to allow the fair to proceed on May 7.

They argue it would be unwise to allow people from rural areas to meet in large numbers in Castlewellan for the annual May Day fair and to bring horses in to Castlewellan.

But the politicians have given a guarantee they will continue to monitor the current situation and have agreed that if circumstances change and new directives are issued by the Department of Agriculture, the horse fair could proceed.