Work has started as part of the regeneration of the site of the former British Army Barracks at Forkhill.

The first planting on the site started last week with a low density spread of native trees and drifts of wildflower seeds in sunny glades. The inherited poor quality of the soil at the site will help to develop the natural beauty of this habitat.

Forkhill Army Base in 2006. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Forkhill Army Base in 2006. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The site of a former British Army watchtower and barracks in Forkhill will ultimately be planted with 1000 native trees as part of a project to create a ‘Peace Forest’ on sites along the border.  A total of 4,000 trees will be planted this year to form a remembrance for all those who lost their lives during the Troubles. 

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick said, “The idea of the Peace Forest is to bring communities closer together in the planting of trees and in celebrating their heritage and enterprise and seeing and seizing opportunities for joint initiatives that have the new woodland as a backdrop”.

Dismantled as part of the normalisation process under the Good Friday Agreement, Forkhill’s old barracks has remained a sea of concrete and gravel ever since. The hostile environment had started to be reclaimed by nature as wildflowers pushed their way through tarmac. The creation of the Peace Forest will give this slow colonisation a helping hand.

The Peace Forest project is being developed as a partnership between the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, Newry Mourne and Down District Council, the Woodland Trust, the Peace Forest Ireland Project and forest Friends Ireland.  It is envisaged that it will strengthen the peace process and the principles based on the Good Friday Agreement by symbolically turning a contentious site into a wonderfully rich shared space for people from all communities and for wildlife. 

Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Chairperson, Des Murphy said, “South Armagh is one of the least wooded areas in Europe and this lovely Peace Forest of 1,000 trees will be added to the enormous total of nearly 150,000 trees already planted over the last two and a half years of the landscape partnership.”