Teresa Wall (59), of Rathingle Cottages, Swords, said in the Circuit Civil Court that as the result of a laceration to her right knee she can no longer climb or run marathons.

She told her barrister Peter McParland that she had to receive seven stitches in a gash to her knee after falling on a board-walk in the Wicklow Mountains National Park.

Ms Wall told Mr McParland, who appeared with Shannons Solicitors, that her foot had snagged in a hole in one of a number of old railway sleepers that made up an EU ground conservation boardwalk on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail.

The outcome of the case before Judge Jacqueline Linnane could have serious repercussions for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The court heard although there were hundreds of falls over the years by walkers in various national parks – many resulting in broken bones – this was the first where the Service was sued for negligence and breach of duty.

Kevin D’Arcy, counsel for the State Claims Agency, said Ms Walls had voluntarily participated in a rugged sporting activity of known reasonable risks and that the Parks and Wildlife Service was entitled to rely on the doctrine of “volenti non fit injuria” (no wrong is done to one who consents).

Ms Wall said the boardwalk was in a disgraceful state. Old railway sleepers had been put on the mountain and left to rot.

Forensic engineer Pat Culleton said a single sleeper had rotted away at the point where steel cleats had once attached the rail line to it. He said walkers were deliberately steered on to the boardwalks.

Paul Romeril, forensic engineer for the defence, said there was a 100 millimetre-wide hole on the sleeper but he did not accept it created a hazard. Judge Linnane reserved judgment.