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Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA, recently visited Castlewellan Forest Park to view the progress of work underway in the Bothy Yard and Arboretum with grant funding of £500,000, awarded to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC), from the Rural Tourism Scheme of DAERA’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Steeped in history and heritage, this funding provides an excellent opportunity to invest in the natural landscape of the arboretum, which boasts one of the greatest collection of trees in Europe, and built heritage in the Bothy Yard.

Dr Sally Montgomery, Chair of the Task and Finish Project Board, and Councillor Laura Devlin, Chair of NMDDC, met with Minister Poots and provided an update on the work so far and plans for the future.

Minister Poots said: “This project in the Bothy Yard and Arboretum of Castlewellan Forest Park, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, is an excellent example of what my Department is doing to support investment in rural tourism and the natural and built heritage of Northern Ireland.

“Tourism remains vitally important to our rural economy and through the Rural Tourism scheme, DAERA has invested just over £9million across 19 projects, all of which are unique in their own right.

“I am delighted that following our investment along with NMDDC that the National Lottery Heritage Fund has now made an offer of substantial funding to NMDDC to take forward other works within Castlewellan Forest Park which will see their masterplan for the area come to fruition. I believe that our vision and initial investment went a long way to levering in this additional funding and I wish Council every success with this project.”

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin said, “I was delighted to welcome Minister Poots to Castlewellan Forest Park. This investment by DAERA and the Council will ensure The Bothy is reinstated as a working hub of the Arboretum. Following investment visitors will be able to learn about the rich natural heritage that Castlewellan Forest Park has to offer through interpretation in the Stove Conservatory, therefore enriching the visitor experience in the park.”