Northern Ireland 'needs network of off-road trails'

22 May 2020 02:55 PM
  • Northern Ireland 'needs network of off-road trails'

Northern Ireland needs a network of off-road trails so people can continue with daily exercise after the lockdown.
That is according to a body responsible for promoting outdoor activity.
People taking regular exercise during the coronavirus lockdown have seen major benefits to their physical and mental health, according to its survey.
And many would like to have access to safe, off-road places near their homes in order to keep it up when life returns to normal.
Fifteen hundred people responded to the Outdoor Recreation NI survey during early May when restrictions were at their height.
Half said they had taken more exercise than usual and had benefitted from it.
Many people have taken to the roads during the lockdown for their daily exercise.
But with traffic starting to return, it is becoming less safe.
The chairman of Outdoor Recreation NI, Dawson Stelfox, said what was needed was a network of community trails in towns and villages.
These would allow people to get out to somewhere safe "on their doorstep" where they could take daily exercise.
He said they could be developed relatively cheaply and would provide huge savings for the health service as people's physical and mental health improved.
The group has already developed a number of them and has secured funding to provide up to 11 more, with others in the pipeline.
Mr Stelfox said community trails would give people access to an off-road route no more than 15 minutes from their homes.
"It's safe to walk on, away from traffic and noise and you have a really good experience with nature."
People in Northern Ireland do not have the same rights of public access to land as in England, Wales and Scotland.
In Northern Ireland people rely on publicly owned land like NI Water catchments and forestry service land being made available.