NI Water has announced a further £2.5m investment to carry out repairs on the iconic Mourne Wall, which this year celebrates 100 years since its completion in 1922.
Phase two of the Mourne Wall Restoration Project will get underway and will build on the previous programme of restoration – completed at the end of 2018 – which saw over 600 repairs undertaken along the 22mile-long granite structure.
Hand built by the Belfast Water Commissioners between 1904 and 1922 to mark and protect the 9,000-acre water catchment which feeds the Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs, the wall has been a listed building since 1996 and today is in the ownership of NI Water.
Speaking about the restoration project Michael Donnelly, NI Water Senior Project Manager said: “As part of NI Water’s commitment to the ‘Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estates’, we undertook surveys along the entire stretch of wall during 2016 and set in place funding for a programme of repairs to get underway in 2017.
“That first phase of funding saw over 600 wall repairs completed in less than two years which was a fantastic achievement. However, we were always aware that the wall may suffer further deterioration in the future and as a result, NI Water set in place funding to undertake subsequent surveys and repairs during its PC21 Business Planning period (2021-2026).
“As this famous structure marks its 100th birthday, NI Water is delighted to announce that a further £2.5m will be invested to protect the integrity of this much-loved listed building and help safeguard its stature for many years to come.”
The phase two repairs, which will again be undertaken by GEDA Construction working with local stonemasons from Thomas Rooney & Sons, will initially involve repairs on Slieve Muck and Rocky Mountain. Stone for the repairs has already been bagged in the quarry on Slieve Binnian and will be taken to Slieve Muck and Rocky Mountain by helicopter when weather permits.
Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd praised the valuable work of the Mourne Wall Restoration Project and said: “I commend NI water and its partners in preserving this iconic landmark as it approaches its centenary and the work undertaken now will mean that not only will the Mourne Wall be enjoyed by many future generations but it will also serve to protect this crucial water catchment area which feeds Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs”.
Welcoming the support from local stakeholders, Mr Donnelly continued: “As we embark on this next phase of the Mourne Wall Restoration Project, I would like to thank Mourne Heritage Trust, NIEA, National Trust and the Trustees of Mourne for their ongoing guidance and assistance and acknowledge the strenuous efforts that will once again be exerted by the contractors and wider project team in carrying out this work.
“Over the next few years, we look forward to completing as many repairs as possible and carrying out a proactive ‘stitch-in-time’ approach which will see the careful dismantling and rebuilding of vulnerable bulges in the wall to aid its longevity. With the Mournes attracting thousands of visitors each month, we appeal to the public to be mindful of this ongoing work and the possibility of helicopters being in the area. The helicopter lifts will be carefully managed with stewards and signage will be in place for health and safety purposes.”
The iconic granite Mourne Wall is a recognised navigation route – often referred to as “the handrail”. This latest funding means that a total of over £4m has been invested to date to protect the wall and ensure that it continues to be a sturdy handrail for many years to come.
Belfast-based RPS and the local Mourne Heritage Trust are providing technical and project management support to NI Water for this next phase of repairs.