Footbridge at Glen Fofanny River, Bloody Bridge
A new footbridge has been installed over the Glen Fofanny River above Bloody Bridge. It is on the route used by walkers from Bloody Bridge Car Park to the Bog of Donard and Brandy Pad. The bridge is located where a smaller bridge had been washed away a number of years ago, and since then, walkers have crossed using stepping stones. The route is one of the most popular access points to the high Mournes and the immediate area is used by many public and private groups for canyoning along the Bloody Bridge River.
The site lies within boundary fences, above which lies open mountain owned by private mountain trustees, and is an important grazing resource for upland sheep. The site and wider upland is within the Eastern Mournes Special Area of Conservation (a European level of habitat protection) and Area of Special Scientific Interest, important for its heathland landscape. The rivers are important habitats and are sensitive to sediment loading that may result from path and habitat erosion.
The number of people using the site and the open mountain for recreation has increased dramatically over recent years. Informal paths have developed across the heathland which causes erosion, damages the protected heather and peat soils, and disturbs livestock and wildlife.
MHT has worked closely with the National Trust, Mountain Trustees and NI Environment Agency (who funded the project) to mitigate current and future impact. The approach has been to encourage users to follow the old quarry track as the main route to the high Mournes. To this end the quarry track had been upgraded to facilitate users who were being ‘pushed’ onto adjacent ground because the track had become unwalkable in places due to severe erosion and thus causing wider habitat erosion. In addition, an information panel was installed to raise awareness of the issue, and granite waymarkers were installed at the lower end of the route to inform users.
However, a major factor raised was that walkers were unable to use the preferred route at many times due to the fact that the Glen Fofanny River crossing point was impassable at high water flows. Moreover, it wasn’t clear where the main route was through the site. Due to this, private fences were being damaged, livestock were escaping onto the public road, and paths were causing wider habitat erosion.
Therefore, in the wider context explained above it was decided that a bridge should be erected. The bridge was designed to be more robust than the last bridge that had been washed away, and given that it was located within the lower fenced land, and was close to the pipeline, the design was deemed to be appropriate. The bridge has been adopted by the National Trust, which now manages it as part of their site.
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