Northern Ireland

Castle Coole: Parkrun members launch petition to keep using estate

Run at Castle Coole
Image caption The Park Run in Castle Coole was the only Northern Ireland run to take place on National Trust grounds

Parkrun members in Fermanagh have launched a petition urging the National Trust to allow them to continue running on the grounds of Castle Coole.

The popular 5km (3.1-mile) running event has been held on the estate near Enniskillen for two years.

The Parkrun in Castle Coole was the only Northern Ireland run to take place on National Trust grounds.

In England and Wales 24 runs are hosted across various National Trust properties.

However, the National Trust in Northern Ireland has said the runs must stop, suggesting they were having an impact on conservation.

The petition to reconsider allowing the weekly run to continue has garnered over 300 signatures.

The relocation of the Saturday morning event was a joint decision made by the National Trust in Fermanagh and the Enniskillen Parkrun team.

Image caption Parkrun events worldwide are always held for free

On their Facebook page Enniskillen Parkrun said they are devastated to be leaving the Castle Coole estate, but that they did everything in their power to stay there. They also thanked the National Trust for providing a venue over the past two years.

"Grown too big"

Jim Chestnutt, manager of the National Trust in Fermanagh, said that the Parkrun at Castle Coole has grown a lot since it started and "the impact of it on conservation has the potential to become too great" for the welfare of the property.

Mr Chetsnutt added that: "Castle Coole runs at a deficit of £100,000 a year, that is a significant liability. Running the 5km meant extra staffing costs and facilities issues."

Image caption The National Trust in Northern Ireland has said the runs must stop, suggesting they were having an impact on conservation

The estate, which usually charges entry to the grounds and house, waived the fee for those taking part in the weekly Saturday morning 5km.

Parkrun events worldwide are always held for free. The National Trust has denied asking runners to pay to use the estate.

Image caption A new venue for Enniskillen Parkruns has been found

Heather Harper, who started the petition to restore the run to the National Trust property, said that about 100 weekly runners "make sure only to use paths and tarmac roads on the estate".

"We're not running on lawns or anything - the impact can't be that great," she said.

"People travel to run with us in Castle Coole because it is so beautiful and many have joined the National Trust because of the run," she added.

Image caption The Castle Coole estate, which usually charges entry to the grounds and house, waived the fee for those taking part in the weekly Saturday morning 5km event

"We are so hurt and upset that we have to leave. It seems that we can't get a straight answer on why."

A new venue for Enniskillen Parkruns has been found - they will be held at the Lakeland Forum from 3 September.

Ms Harper says she still hopes to use the petition to compel the National Trust in Fermanagh to reconsider.

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