The National Trust secures major funding to restore natural habitat and improve access for communities at Divis and the Black Mountain.

National Trust unveiled plans to restore nature and improve local access to Divis and the Black Mountain through an investment of £6million.

Divis and the Black Mountain is the largest urban green space in the city. The National Trust property boasts a stunning natural habitat, linked to the heritage and culture of the surrounding city.

This exciting new project aims to ensure that local communities can easily access the health and wellbeing benefits of the nature, beauty, and history on their doorstep. It has been made possible thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (£3million), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) (£1.5million) and the Garfield Weston Foundation (£300,000).

Over a three-year period, the project aims to increase opportunities for communities to engage with heritage, nature and place. Through volunteering, development of new spaces for community use, increasing accessibility through new paths, and skills and job creation. 

The project will:

  • Increase accessibility and develop new trails and connections that support enhance, access to the largest urban green space in the city. There will also be new waymarking and interpretation.
  • Improve the health of the landscape through tree planting and restoring hedgerows.
  • Restore habitat, including up to 133 acres of peatland. Improving the blanket bog will therefore reduce carbon loss, water run-off and improve water quality.
  • Develop new spaces and places for the local community, staff and volunteers. This will include a café, exhibition space and visitor hub.
  • Introduce renewable and sustainable technologies for buildings, therefore helping the National Trust meet its goal of being Carbon Net Zero by 2030. 
  • Develop an oral history project recording the experience of thirty people who lived around the mountain. Workshops on people and placenames, wood carving, archaeology, storytelling, health and wellbeing activities and community walks. It is anticipated that over 3,500 people will participate in activities with regular opportunities for volunteering.

Divis Expansion

Thanks to funding support from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the National Trust have successfully acquired 622acres of adjoining land. This will provide further opportunities for protecting precious habitat and improving access to the Belfast Hills. The National Trust are working to take over full management of this new land. They envision it will open for access to the public in 2025. In the interim, this land is not currently open to the public as it is still farmed by the original owner.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have secured funding for this project which aims to make Divis and the Black Mountain inclusive in every sense of the word. We want it to feel like a place where everyone feels they belong and we’ll do this by working in partnership with the local community, who are at the heart of our work.

The project will create one of the most accessible urban green spaces in these isles and has only been made possible by funding and money raised by National Lottery players – so we thank each and every one of you! It will allow our teams to be more present on the mountain, increasing opportunities for communities to engage with heritage, nature and place”. 

Heather McLachlan, Director for the National Trust NI

Additionally Dr Paul Mullan, the Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, called this “one of the most significant investments by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland.” In 2004, the National Trust acquired the site from the Ministry of Defence thanks to a £1.33m National Lottery award. The aims ever since were to protect this wonderful landscape and provide access for ever, for everyone. This includes nature, as outlined by Andrew Corkill, Lead Project Manager at the National Trust.

“Divis and the Black Mountain is an exceptionally special place which as well as having a deep connection with surrounding communities, it also includes a unique mosaic of grassland and heathland bog and is home to a host of wildlife and archaeological remains. We recognise the need to make land management choices that benefit the environment and sustainability is key to the project. We will continue to focus on balancing the needs of nature, climate and people throughout this project and into the future.”

Andrew Corkill, Lead Project Manager at the National Trust

For more information on Divis – A View to the Future visit the National Trust website.