Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gobbins Restoration

The Gobbins ©

Ian Maxwell of BBC news reports that a £6 million project to restore an historic coastal path in County Antrim is due to begin this summer.

The Gobbins cliff path on Islandmagee is about half a mile long. It was built in 1902 and in its heyday was more popular than the Giant's Causeway.

It was a commercial venture from the outset, designed and constructed by Berkeley Deane Wise. But the attraction - with 15 bridges and a path carved into the cliff-side - fell into disrepair after the 2nd World War.

It was closed to the public sixty years ago.

Several attempts have been made over the last forty years to raise the funds needed to restore the path, but all efforts have been in vain, until now. Work on a new visitors centre will start this summer and work on the cliff face path will begin in September.

It is hoped both will be completed and open to visitors by May, 2014. Larne Borough Council is contributing £2 million to the project, which is also being funded by the European Union and Ulster Garden Villages Ltd.

The cliffs are home to the largest seabird colony along the coast of mainland Northern Ireland - only Rathlin Island has a larger colony.

Ian Enlander, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, said it is a unique place.
"It's designated as an area of special scientific interest because of the breeding kittiwake and razorbill," 
The new path will include reconstructed versions of the tubular bridge and a 25-metre suspension bridge which were once part of the route. Morgan Haylett, the project manager from RPS Consulting Engineers, said he believed it would be a challenge to construct the new path.
"Access is either from the top of the cliff or via the sea. Back in the days (when it was built), the bigger bridges were floated in and then lifted into place and it may very well be that that has to happen this time round too." 
Visitors will be transported from the visitors centre in groups of 12 by minibus to the entrance of the path. They will then be given a guided tour. Final ticket prices have not been set, but the estimate is £6 per person.

Geraldine McGahey, chief executive of Larne Borough Council, said the new path would bring thousands to the area.
"In the first year we expect around 50,000 visitors, now that is a very pessimistic projection, but we like to err on the side of caution. Underestimate and overachieve. This is the pinnacle of everything that the council have aspired to give to the ratepayer as a legacy of what the council stood for and delivered."

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