Guests gathered at Diamond Jubilee Wood Whitehead for the official opening of the site as a Local Nature Reserve.
A Local Nature Reserve is a protected area of land designated by a local authority to conserve its environmental and recreational value, with the primary land use being for conservation.
Councillor Lindsay Millar, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, welcomed attendees and thanked them for supporting this important initiative.
Speaking at the event, she said: “In 2012 more than 1,000 children and adults helped transform what was an open field into a beautiful new woodland.
“The site now contains over 60,000 trees, including a community orchard, paths, ponds, wildflower meadows, picnic area, outdoor gym and a sculpture designed by a local artist and school children.
“Diamond Jubilee Wood was officially opened on Saturday 23 June 2012 by Mrs Joan Christie, CVO, OBE, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim.
“Sixty Diamond Jubilee Woods, each at least 60 acres, were planted throughout the UK to symbolise 60 years of the Queen’s reign. Whitehead Diamond Jubilee Wood is one of these flagship woods and is the only Diamond Jubilee Wood in Northern Ireland.
“The site is home to the Biodiversity Summer School each summer, Woollen Woods each spring and a range of environmental activities throughout the year, including hedge laying, tree planting and wildlife walks.
“The site is home to a wide range of wildlife, including birds and bats, and is well used by local people and visitors. It makes an important contribution not just to nature but to local health and wellbeing initiatives.
“This site demonstrates Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s commitment to conserving and enhancing biodiversity throughout the borough and our commitment to protecting urban green space for the community.”
Dr Hilary Kirkpatrick, Chair of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC), said: “Local Nature Reserves provide accessible nature on a community’s doorsteps, and this site is great example of this.
“What you have achieved here in Whitehead is absolutely wonderful, from the many people who helped to plant the woodland, continue to manage the woodland and enjoy the woodland all year long.
“Well done to you all. Diamond Jubilee Wood will be standing tall for your great grandchildren to enjoy.”
The Mayor thanked everyone who contributed to the designation of this Local Nature Reserve, namely, the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency Biodiversity Unit, Allen & Mellon Environmental, Whitehead community representatives, and council staff.
The Mayor added: “The great turnout today demonstrates just how important and valued this site is for environmental education and enjoyment. I hope everyone will continue to enjoy this green space for many years to come, and that wildlife will continue to thrive here.”
Guests were invited to take a guided nature walk to enjoy Mid and East Antrim’s newest Local Nature Reserve and get involved in foraging, apple picking and pressing.