Chairman’s Introduction

ChairmanWelcome to the Annual Report of Mourne Heritage Trust for 2017/18, the 21st year of its existence as a charitable company providing environmental and visitor management services in the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

A major milestone this year was the completion of our Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership (MMLP) programme. I must thank the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided the £1.5m funding that formed the bedrock for the work to preserve, enhance and celebrate aspects of the natural, built and cultural heritage of the high Mournes and hinterland.

As well as the many achievements set out in the online report, this programme leaves a profound legacy of knowledge, skills, specialist equipment, interpretive materials, enthusiasm, enhanced relationships and more that will enhance the capacity for ‘Caring for Mourne’ well into the future. Among other things this will provide a sound foundation for implementation of our AONB Management Plan for the period 2017 – 2022

We continued to meet the challenges emanating from the ongoing growth in people accessing the countryside. As well as facilitating a particular focus on the Slieve Donard area, the ASCENT project (funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery Area programme) has allowed us to develop our knowledge of erosion control techniques, to engage stakeholders and to share learning with local and international partners. I thank the National Trust in particular for its involvement with this work.

In addition to improved walking infrastructure, the year also saw the continued enhancement of the network of mountain bike trails. Another feature has been the continued creation of new focal points for heritage experiences, with the restoration of a Watertown worker’s house to Silent Valley being a particular highlight.

We have been very pleased to see the progress with the restoration of the Mourne Wall, to which we have contributed under the leadership of Northern Ireland Water, who must also be thanked for their support to our erosion control and heathland enhancement works.

For other conservation work benefitting biodiversity I must thank a range of partners, in particular Ulster Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust for their significant contributions in red squirrel, red kite and native woodland initiatives in the AONB.

All of our work has again been underpinned by the financial support of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Tourism NI and has been contributed to significantly by our wonderful conservation volunteers. To them and my Board colleagues – also volunteers - goes my final note of thanks. I look forward to continuing to work with all our partners in ‘Caring for Mourne’.

Desmond Patterson

Desmond Patterson

Introduction to Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Heritage Trust was established in 1997 to meet an identified need for locally based, strategic management of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Spanning 570 square kilometres in the south east of Northern Ireland, this diverse landscape includes the Mourne mountains, a beautiful coastline, the ancient uplands of Slieve Croob and the foothills and drumlin country in between.

Mission Statement

‘To sustain and enhance the environment, rural regeneration, cultural heritage and visitor opportunities of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and contribute to the well-being of Mournes communities’

The role and structure of the Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Heritage Trust was established in 1997 to meet an identified need for locally based, strategic management of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Spanning 570 square kilometres in the south east of Northern Ireland, this diverse landscape includes the Mourne mountains, a beautiful coastline, the ancient uplands of Slieve Croob and the foothills and drumlin country in between.

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees represents a partnership of a broad range of stakeholders including local elected representatives, landowners, farming and community and gives a strategic lead to the management of the AONB. Board composition in 2017/2018 was as follows:

Board composition during 2017/2018

Trustee Main Sectoral Interest
Mr Desmond Patterson (Chairman) Farming
Dr Arthur Mitchell (Vice Chair) Environment
Mr David Thompson (Treasurer)
Ms Isabel Hood (Company Secretary) Environment
Mr Alastair Chestnutt
Mr William Clarke Local Elected Representative
Mrs Laura Devlin
Local Elected Representative
Mr Sean Fitzpatrick Farming
Ms Maureen Killen Community
Mr Glyn Hanna
Local Elected Representative
Mr Ryan Harty
Local Business
Mr David Maginn Tourism
Mr John Martin
Mr William John Martin Community
Mr Oisin Murnion Farming
Mr Brendan McDowell
Joined October 2017
Mr Geoff Simmons
Joined October 2017
Mr John Toner
Mr Ian Watts Angling
Mrs Jo Whatmough Environment

Annual General Meeting 2017

The Trust held its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 11th October 2017 at Newcastle Community Cinema and the event doubled as a celebration of 20 years of our existence, showcasing the achievements through those two decades. The meeting was opened by Vice Chair of Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Councillor Willie Clarke, who highlighted his organisation’s strong relationship with MHT, most recently evidenced in the progress made with provision and management of outdoor recreation opportunities in Mourne forests.

There followed a photographic presentation which charted the foundation and development of the Trust, highlighting the growth and evolution of its activities. It also demonstrated the very significant leverage of funds (£20 million) and volunteer input (£1.5 million) into Caring for Mourne, the Trust delivering an additional £2.50 for every £1 provided by its core funders. Also highlighted was the consistent search for best practice, innovating from scratch or adapting techniques from other areas. This is reflected in awards from, among others, the Europarc Federation, Europa Nostra, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the UK Civic Trust and RSPB. Martin Carey, CEO of the Trust, thanked the 53 Board members and fifty plus different staff members who had contributed over the years.

Guest speaker for the AGM was Helen Anderson, Director of Natural Environment Division of NI Environment Agency, who highlighted the importance of MHT’s work in caring for one of Northern Ireland’s most prized landscapes. Helen noted characteristics including the organisation’s ability to involve people in delivering high quality environmental outcomes, to build partnerships, to secure funding from a range of sources and to be resilient and adaptive to challenges.

Staff Changes

Mr Steve Brook left the post of Forests Ranger.

Mr Philip Savage and Ms Katie Taylor moved from the posts of Countryside Officer and Volunteer Co-ordinator respectively to ASCENT Project Officer posts.

Mrs Amanda McDonald and Mrs Alwynne Shannon moved on from the posts of Landscape Partnership Administration & Finance Officer and Outreach Officer respectively at the close of that programme.

Ms Camilla Fitzpatrick returned to the post of Sustainable Tourism Manager from secondment to the post of Landscape Partnership Manager.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Majestic Slieve Donard

Mourne Heritage Trust
Continuously learning - study visit to Glencoe, Scotland

Mourne Heritage Trust
Rocky shore at Bloody Bridge

Mourne Heritage Trust
AGM 2017 including guest speaker, Helen Anderson, Director of Natural Heritage NIEA

Mourne Heritage Trust
Launch of Mourne Wall Restoration Project, including MHT Chairman Desmond Patterson

Mourne Heritage Trust
Filming at Silent Valley for BBC 'Home Ground'

Staff Structure at October 2018

Mourne AONB Management Plan

The framework for ‘Caring for Mourne’ is provided by the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Management Plan which sets a long term vision for protecting and enhancing special features of the landscape, with an accompanying Action Plan specifying actions for the period 2017 to 2022. These were identified and prioritised drawing on a review of the achievements of the preceding period along with research, stakeholder survey and programme of consultations.

The management plan documents are structured around four interconnecting themes:

- Mountain, Countryside and Coast
- Historic Environment
- Sustainable Communities
- Enjoying, Appreciating and Understanding the Mourne AONB

The plan seeks not just to set an agenda for the actions of Mourne Heritage Trust but also to recognise and guide the significant efforts of partners. As it is a non-statutory document, the successful implementation of the Management Plan relies on the commitment of various agencies and local stakeholders to pursue these principles in line with their abilities, priorities and resources.

A number of other important plans and policy forums impact on the AONB, and MHT continues to contribute to these in line with the strategic direction set by the AONB plan. Notable among these is the local authority led statutory Community Planning process to which we sit on both the Community and Voluntary Stakeholder Group and the Environmental & Spatial Development Thematic Group, thus making a significant contribution to the development of a delivery plan by the latter group. This engagement also involved demonstration of the contribution of the AONB to achieving Health and Well Being and Prosperous Communities outcomes respectively. We also provided significant input to the development by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council of Tourist Experience Development Plans and acted as a steering group member for the proposed Mourne, Gullion, Strangford & Lecale Geopark.

Other work to contribute to policy development, gather best practice and act as a ‘champion for Mourne’ is outlined below.

  • Membership of NI Environment Link (NIEL) and contribution through various sub groups and forums.
  • Membership of Department for Communities Historic Environment Division Stakeholder Group including input to a communications plan for NI historic environment and provision of a case study.
  • Provision of information to the Department for Communities on AONB body involvement in managing/interpreting archaeological sites and/or themes.
  • Ongoing maintenance and updating of Mournelive website and social media platforms, achieving 3000 plus followers on each of Facebook and Twitter.
  • Presentation to UK Forests Research Council.
  • Representation of AONB interests at Mourne Village Plans (Rural Development Programme) meetings • Input to the revised Newry, Mourne and Down DC Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • Input to a biodiversity audit of Castlewellan Forest Park. Presentation for NI Geographical Society on landscape designations and management.
  • Presentation to UK Geoconservation gathering at Ulster Museum.
  • Input to Tourism NI Cultural Heritage Tourism Strategy on landscape and related issues (‘A Prospectus for Change – A Strategic Framework to Unlock the Potential of Heritage-Led Tourism in NI’).
  • Input to the Green Flag plan and application for Cranfield beach on environmental awareness issues.
  • Response to Heritage Lottery Fund consultation on future funding priorities, making the case for landscape protection and enhancement in NI.
  • Presentation at Pennine Prospects Conference ‘Landscapes & Cultural Heritage in the 21st Century’.
  • Co-ordination of NI Protected Areas Network members input to Love Your Landscape volunteer days with Business in The Community.
  • Development with NIEL and Belfast Hills Partnership of ‘green prescriptions’ as an environmental volunteering/health & wellbeing initiative for business employees. Agreement in principle with Chest, Heart and Stroke for a pilot programme.
  • Input to NIEA workshop on use of fixed point photography for landscape change monitoring.
  • Contribution (as partner and Board member) to formation of South East Area Fisheries Local Action Group securing a €2.72m funding package for objectives include promoting cultural heritage and enhancing and capitalising on environmental assets.

Among other projects, the million pound plus Mourne Wall Restoration was a great example of collaboration in action involving Mourne Heritage Trust as adviser alongside landowner and funder, NI Water, project managers and contractors with assistance from statutory agencies including Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (Department for Agriculture, Environment & Rural Development)

In addition to coordinating and monitoring implementation of the AONB Management Plan and influencing strategy and policy development, the Trust’s role involves direct, day to day provision of significant landscape management and enhancement services and, where appropriate, the development and delivery of one off projects.

In the remainder of this annual report we focus on the subset of management plan activities led by and/or significantly involving Mourne Heritage Trust. Please note that, in line with the fact that the Trust’s work is multi-dimensional, some activities and projects are detailed more than once under different areas of operation. This reflects the contributions of our professional staff to different work streams and/or the fact that many of our activities deliver multiple, complementary outcomes.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Launch of Mourne Wall Restoration with landowner, contractors and statutory agencies

Mourne Heritage Trust
Learning from Bog Fest peatland conference

Mourne Heritage Trust
Community Voluntary Sector Forum inputting to Community Plan

Mourne Heritage Trust
Addressing Shimna College students

Mourne Heritage Trust
Supporting Community Planning as part of Environmental & Spatial Group

Natural Environment Enhancement and Protection

Protecting and enhancing priority habitats and species and key landscape features remains a cornerstone of the Trust’s work. Assisted by the funds provided by our Landscape Partnership, a key focus in recent years has been on the high Mournes, designated both nationally and under the European Union Habitats Directive for its upland heath. But, as we also outline below, red squirrels, native woodlands and other aspects of the lowland and coastal areas of the AONB have benefitted from the efforts of our staff and volunteers, along with partner organisations.

Healthy Restoration

Our work to restore degraded areas of the upland heath in the high Mournes demonstrated the synergies that could be achieved through close collaboration between our Ranger and Countryside staff and the officers of the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership, pooling knowledge, expertise and resources. Involving a range of actions to promote recovery of the worst eroded areas, it has enabled us to go beyond simply keeping at bay the impact of forces like wildfire and recreational use. This is achieved particularly through stabilising and ‘landscaping’ peatlands and slowing the flow of water across the most degraded areas to allow build-up of the material necessary to support the mosaic of upland heath species that had previously thrived in these locations.

A best practice site visit to the Garron Plateau in County Antrim at the start of the year helped put in context the learning to date from our heathland restoration trial sites, informing our review of what had worked and, in turn, planning of next steps.

First, we carried out remedial actions on aspects of the phase 1 works that had not been fully successful before work proceeded to expand the areas under the favourable management approaches, particularly at Binnian/Lamagan col and Binnian Lough. Work was completed by late autumn, completing the implementation of the bulk of the recommendations of the management plans developed for nine sites, with the exception of Slieve Commedagh where review and stakeholder consultation informed a rethink of proposed approaches. On nearby Slieve Donard, not among the original heathland sites, we were pleased to be able to incorporate some of the heathland restoration techniques alongside our erosion control work, re-wetting areas adjacent to paths with the dual benefit of helping direct visitors to a sustainable line and allowing patches of flora like sphagnum and other mosses to expand.

To continue to learn we further expanded our monitoring regime with the creation of dip wells to sample water tables and made further use of fixed point photography and vegetation quadrats, in part applying knowledge gained from attendance by staff and volunteers at ‘Bog Fest’ Peatland Conference in the Peak District in September 2017. Analysis of the cumulative information available to date indicates that interventions have in the most part been effective with significant re-colonisation of previously barely vegetated areas.

We re-introduced our conservation grazing regime at Ben Crom and introduced it to the Annalong Wood heathland site as well as enhancing fencing at Annalong Valley to facilitate future conservation grazing. Preparing for sustaining the work beyond the life of the Landscape Partnership also included research, specification and acquisition of specialist equipment.

Wildfire Control

We continued to take action to mitigate the threat of wildfire to our landscape both with site specific works and at a strategic coordinating level.

A controlled prescribed burn was undertaken at Ben Crom/Silent Valley after all necessary risk and weather assessments and liaison with NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).

We provided two wildfire introductory courses at Silent Valley for NIRFS staff, while input to the NI Wildfire Forum and NI Wildfire Strategy was informed by continued gathering of best practice knowledge, including meetings with experts from South Africa and Germany.

In 2017/18 wildfire outbreaks were again few and small in scale in the AONB. However, at the time of writing this report, fires in the summer of 2018 have, unfortunately, demonstrated the veracity of the sentiment expressed in our 2016/17 annual report that we cannot be complacent about this threat. Given the changes to climate and land use, addressing it will continue to be a key priority.



Our work to protect and propagate the genetically distinct Mourne Juniper continued, assisted by funds for equipment from the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership.

Seeds collected from ripe berries were nurtured in our incubator as were cuttings recently planted in a purpose built new propagation bed at Dunnywater nursery. A stratification trial of juniper seed was completed in August and exhibited some limited success in germination of the seed. Other batches were retained in propagators and monitored for germination.

Unfortunately, subsequent months showed a poor survival rate of germinated seedlings. However, using new facilities and equipment for propagation and bringing on of juniper from cuttings there was good success from this method. Monitoring of the 100 juniper specimens previously planted at three quarry sites around Drinneevar and Thomas’ Mountain continued, showing a good survival rate in the open landscape.

Red Squirrels

We worked in partnership with Ulster Wildlife Trust, Northern Ireland Red Squirrel Forum and Belfast Zoo to protect and enhance the growing red squirrel population at sites within the AONB. Provision of an office and equipment storage for the UWT Red Squirrels United project at our Silent Valley base provided a great foundation for the partnership working. Among the key activities we undertook were our ongoing monitoring and maintenance of camera traps and maintenance of feeders at Silent Valley and Mourne Park, including recruiting a third level student to assist this work. We provided grey squirrel control training for 3 volunteers and 8 staff. As well as the successful release of five young female red squirrels from Belfast Zoo to Mourne Park plans for an introduction of squirrels to the Silent Valley were well advanced by year end.

... And Lots More

Other highlights of our natural heritage related work in the year included the following:

  • Input to RSPB led Red Kites project as member of RKITES Steering Group. Roost Survey Training for two former Youth Rangers and promotion of Red Kite Tours.
  • Nesting Buzzard protection, including awareness raising through various media.
  • Surveying for rhododendron and invasive species removal training for landowners.
  • Engagement through Invest NI’s ‘Industrial Symbiosis’ with local businesses to utilise landfill waste in conservation projects. Includes plastic barrels from ChromaScape Europe Ltd and CES Quarry, Saintfield for ‘slipes’ in erosion control work hessian sacks from Baileys Coffee Company in Belfast to be used as an alternative for sheep’s wool to create floating paths over boggy areas.
  • Maintenance of native trees planted last year at Aughrim Hill ‘Trees for Mourne’ site.
  • Site visits with Woodland Trust to scope potential native woodland projects at Happy Valley, Annalong Wood, Bunkers Hill and Batts Wood respectively leading to ‘funding ready’ specifications.
  • Assistance to National Museums NI/ CeDAR ‘What’s In Your Pond?’ campaign for data on frogs and newts.
  • Barn Owl and Pine Marten monitoring • Engagement with UWT led Grassroots Young Farmer Project.
  • Bug Hunts in Castlewellan Forest Park and Family Nature Walk as part of Castlewellan SOMA festival.
  • Completion of ‘Mini Mourne’ Wildlife Gardens at Rathfriland High School; Kilkeel High School; St Louis Grammar, Kilkeel; St Malachy’s High School, Castlewellan; Holy Cross Primary School, Atticall; All Children’s Primary, Newcastle and Shimna College, Newcastle.

Engaging and Celebrating Volunteers

Following a period in which the Active Lifestyles project, funded by BIG Lottery for almost ten years, provided the mainstay of our volunteering programme, we relied this year on diverse sources for the staff and equipment required to support our wonderful volunteers and leverage the environmental outcomes that come from their efforts. These included the Baily Thomas Foundation, the Halifax Community Foundation, the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership and the Interreg funded ASCENT project.

This funding mix enabled us to continue to cater for both people with special needs as well as other groups and individuals. The former included clients from Mountview ARC, Autism Initiatives, Mindwise and Mencap who continued to attend the nurseries at Silent Valley and Dunnywater on a weekly basis to help look after the native trees and organic gardens.

Other regular contributors were our weekly path team who continued to make a significant contribution to combatting erosion, not least with James Fisher and Stan Jameson recruited to augment the sustained efforts of Peter McGowan, Roy McCullough, Alan Dawson and Maria Harte. The level of competence achieved by the weekly path team and some other long term volunteers was attested to by the fact that we were able to recruit, on short term contracts, some of their number to assist our staff and contractors with emergency path repair works at Slieve Binnian, Ben Crom and Slieve Donard.

As well as training in conservation techniques through the activities undertaken, we also try to offer key volunteers more formal training opportunities. This year these included First Aid in the Outdoors training and 4 x 4 driving.

Young people also featured heavily in our volunteer effort. As well as our annual Youth Ranger programme which catered for 8 young people, we had activities for groups including the Pennisula Explorer Scouts and an event with Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service aimed at young people with troubled backgrounds. Attendance at the Queen’s University Career’s fair proved fruitful in terms of third level student volunteer recruitment and study visits focussing on heathland recovery and erosion control techniques and wildfire issues.

Corporate Groups continue to contribute, being particularly valuable for tasks that need many pairs of hands over a short intense effort. Citi Bank continue to lead the way bringing groups through the year as well as holding a Volunteering Week in June. The ‘Love Your Landscape’ corporate conservation day in cooperation with Business in the Community (BiTC) attracted Kilkeel firm Rockwell Collins and Her Majesty Passport Office and a BiTC staff group from Belfast. This looks set to be a popular annual initiative.

Celebrating Volunteers

We were delighted that our Citi Bank volunteers were recognised on a Northern Ireland stage receiving the ‘Live Here Love Here’ Coca-Cola Coast Care Group Award for doing much to keep the Kilkeel coastline clear of litter over the year. What’s more, this made it two years running that a MHT volunteer group was recognised by Live Here Love Here, following on from the recognition of our Youth Rangers in 2016. This year’s cohort of Youth Rangers achieved John Muir awards, a UK based environment award scheme which recognises connection with, enjoyment of and care for wild places.

Our own annual Mourne Natural Heritage Volunteer Awards also recognised some star volunteers. CJ Hennessy, who participated in a placement through Mencap, was ‘Best Newcomer’ for his work in the Silent Valley and Dunnywater Tree Nurseries. The Individual Volunteer Award went to Ruth McParland, a long-time associate of the Trust, recognising in particular her recent involvement in upland trails and heathland restoration work, supporting our Area Ranger. The Group Award went to our own weekly Volunteer Path Repair Team for making significant improvements to the Glen River Trail and, moreover, sharing their skills and knowledge with new volunteers and wider stakeholders. The Path Team play a significant role in supporting the ASCENT project (Apply Skills & Conserve our Environment with New Tools) funded by the European Union and in so doing they contribute to developing international learning and innovation to protect sensitive natural environments.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Reprofiling eroded peat banks

Fencing of heathland enhancement plot in Annalong Valley

Mourne Heritage Trust
Prescribed controlled burn at Ben Crom

Mourne Heritage Trust
Genetically distinct Mourne juniper plant bearing berries

Mourne Heritage Trust
Red Squirrels bred in Belfast Zoo have been released into sites in the Mournes (Photo courtesy of Jon Lees)

Mourne Heritage Trust
Our apiary at Dunnywater

Mourne Heritage Trust
Staff and volunteers attended 'Bog Fest' peatland conference in the Peak District

Mourne Heritage Trust
Youth Rangers with our volunteer path repair team

Mourne Heritage Trust
Corporate volunteer group erosion control on Slieve Donard

Mourne Heritage Trust
Our Citibank volunteers - Coast Care Award winners

Mourne Heritage Trust
2017 youth rangers receive John Muir awards

Visitor Management and Services

The mountains, hills, green lanes, forests, parklands and coast of the Mourne AONB all continue to be increasingly popular for outdoor recreation providing some of Northern Ireland’s best opportunities for walking, rock climbing, bouldering, coasteering and mountain biking. An important aspect of our role is to provide appropriate access to this special landscape whilst monitoring and mitigating the potentially adverse impacts that come with such popularity. In the year past we focussed particularly on the uplands and specific forest parks, informed by use patterns and feedback from users.

Visitor Monitoring – Walking

The table below sets out visitor counts derived from our electronic visitor counters at key strategic points, along with the two previous years’ data for comparative purposes.

2017/18 2016/17
Bloody Bridge Footbridge 32,064 31,696 26,372
Carrick Little/Slieve Binian 34,425 30,451 39,122
Glen River/Slieve Donard 79,654 – 97,392* 88,102 90,877
Ott/Slieve Loughshannagh 37,832 39,546 47,609
Trassey Track 56,829 44,085 54,946

*range provided because technical issues with one counter resulted in some loss of data. From observation we feel the actual number is likely to be close to the upper end of the range.

Glen River continues to be significantly the most used access corridor. This location has, accordingly, been the site of our most consistent path work with a part time team working year round and levering significant volunteer input. Taking account of feedback from on-site visitor engagement, the focus of the work has been on defining a clear path through the forest section and lower slopes of the open mountains as well as improving what had become a very uneven surface, an issue that was leading to the erosion of a wide corridor.

The next most important route in terms of numbers is the Trassey Track. The count here suggests that our belief (reported last year) that numbers at this route were temporarily depressed in 2016/2017 - because of work to expand car parking capacity - was accurate. This impression is reinforced by the fact that counts at Ott, to where we considered some of the use had been displaced during the car park works, have fallen slightly. The count for Trassey is now at its highest ever, up by 3.4% on 2015/16. The increased pressure in this area is indicated by evidence from ranger patrols and liaison with residents and landowners identifying that, despite the increase in car parking, issues with congestion and vehicles parked on road sides have continued to be prevalent.

At Carricklittle the 13% increase from 2016/17 is the next biggest increase after Trassey. Although the level of use recorded remains below the 2015/16 peak at this site, it is well above the 30,211 recorded in 2014/15, when major path upgrade works were undertaken. Route inspection here identified the need for further works on those upgrades at, respectively, Carricklittle Track and areas of the summit of Slieve Binnian and for new works at the Binnian/Slieve Lamagan col.

Along with Glen River and Binnian, the other main focus this year of our visitor monitoring and walking infrastructure planning has been the Mourne Wall corridor. In order to better direct ground works, we procured, with funding from the MMLP, a drone aerial survey of the entire 22 mile circuit of this major walking corridor, along with the Glen River track and Granite Trail. As well as identifying eroded and eroding paths for further inspection and analysis, this detailed footage enabled us to identify ‘desire lines’ and thus to consider emerging patterns of use. The resource will be further analysed to address future walking infrastructure needs. A 3D model of the southern and western approaches to Slieve Donard – simply as an example – can be viewed on the link below.

Click Here

Visitor Monitoring - Mountain Biking

Castlewellan MTB Trails 29,569 32,602
Castlewellan Jump Tracks 70,754 63,955
Home Run, Rostrevor 12,049 910,557
Megamission, Rostrevor 10,650 6,939
On the Pulse, Rostrevor 5,784 2,217

The headline figures above indicate that the only part of the Mountain bike visitor infrastructure that has seen a decline in user numbers in the last year is the Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails, amounting to just under 10%. This is offset by an increase of just over 10% in use of the jumps track, an increase over twice the magnitude of the decrease on the trails – 6799 against 3033.

Of particular note is the significant increase in counts across each of the Rostrevor facilities – 14% on ‘Home Run’, 53% on ‘Megamission’ and a very significant 160% at ‘On the Pulse’. This puts the cumulative counts for the three Rostrevor monitoring points – 28,483 - on a comparable level to Castlewellan for the first time and represents an overall jump at that trail centre of 45%. This is both very welcome and significant as the increases directly mirror the balance of where we have directed our trail upgrade efforts.

As set out in last year’s annual report, in 2016/17, we had initiated upgrades to improve ride-ability and flow on Downhill 1 ‘Megamission’. These were completed in early 2017/18, whereupon we proceeded to Downhill 2 ‘On The Pulse’, identifying and addressing similar issues which had been considered to have depressed use levels. The very favourable user feedback in response to the improvements is directly followed through in these counts. The difference in the magnitude of the percentage increases at ‘On The Pulse’ and ‘Megamission’ suggest that use levels at the latter had begun to experience an incremental increase last year, as the improvement works were progressed and, moreover, that there is more growth to come in the use levels of the more recently upgraded ‘On The Pulse’.

It is also pleasing to note the increase in use at the Red Trail, ‘Home Run’. Reflecting the good results at the count points we carried out fewer significant modifications than the downhill trails but did still did seek to improve the experience through enhanced drainage and refurbishment of certain features. The counts seem to imply that continuous improvement to even a ‘well performing’ trail will deliver increased use.

The flip side of this of course may be that the almost 10% decrease in use in Castlewellan Trails reflecting the focus being – of necessity – on improving the Rostrevor experience. However, at this stage in the historical development of the trails, this drop off could equally reflect simply a peaking in use by those wishing to discover the trails. In addition the Castlewellan centre was more significantly affected by storm events – most notably ex-hurricane Ophelia. While our teams worked hard to clear fallen trees and repair the attendant damage to trails, some closures were unavoidable. Overall satisfaction of users with the Castlewellan centre remains high suggesting that there is the scope to have use trends on an upward curve again. We will continue to identify opportunities to enhance the experience in Castlewellan.

The Specifics - highlights of visitor management work

  • Maintenance of 52 Public Rights of Way and green lanes and of key long distance walking routes - Newcastle Way, Mourne Way, Granite Trail
  • Drainage works to Moat Pad (Slieve Croob area) to make sustainable ongoing use of this popular way marked way.
  • Engagement with landowners along Mourne Way and Trassey Track on stone wall damage and remedial work.
  • Weekly litter patrol and inspection and maintenance of 21 amenity sites.
  • Annual inspection of high Mournes stiles and 100 interpretation panels across the AONB and maintenance as required.
  • Ranger Service including programme of evening and weekend patrols in high season at anti-social and litter hotspots in the countryside and in-depth monitoring and responsive management of 15 key access corridors.
  • Mourne Wall summit tower clean up and related awareness raising publicity.
  • Major spot litter lifts at least weekly at locations including Spelga layby, Trassey track, Happy Valley, Hare’s Gap, Ben Crom shelter stone, Lough Shannagh, Annalong Valley/ Dunnywater, Bloody Bridge, Fofanny
  • Dam/Mourne Way, Tullybrannigan/Glen River, Ott. A number of these relate to wild camping and/or anti-social behaviour.
  • Onsite engagement with Duke of Edinburgh groups to promote best practice in wild camping and engagement with landowners to facilitate sites, notably at Sandy Brae.
  • Inspection and snagging on visitor management works at Ott car park including emplacement of boulders and re-profiling of banks.
  • Significant access corridor improvements at Bloody Bridge and Ott stile at Butter mountain and further works at Browne Knowe.
  • Weekly trail enhancement on Slieve Donard via new part time path team (levering Interreg VA funds) and significant volunteer input to delineate and improve a route to guide visitors, minimize ribboning erosion and deliver a high quality walking experience across 1km of forest and open mountain.
  • Upgrade of coastal path and bouldering access sites at Bloody Bridge. Agreement and publication of Code of Conduct for bouldering.
  • Completion of upland path improvements at Carricklittle/Annalong Valley over 1km (commenced in 16/17) and across a further 1 km at Binnian Back Castles.
  • Upgrade works at Saddle of Donard/Brandy Pad and Binnian Tors, completed in March 2018 across 1.5kms utilising £47,720 of in-year additional funds from NI Water and NIEA
  • Final specifications for 650m path upgrades at the Binnian/Lamagan Col, access agreements completed and, after helicopter lift of material, works across 200m completed.
  • Erosion repair in the Mourne Wall corridor and scoping and initial specification of further substantial path improvement (£80,000 budget) to be implemented in early 2018/2019.
  • Re-design and build on 3rd section of Downhill 2 (‘On the Pulse’) at Rostrevor to effect modifications on features where poor user experience has been identified. Further upgrades across the length of Downhill 2 to enhance trail flow and ride-ability.
  • Trail feature re-modelling on other mountain bike routes where monitoring showed desire lines were forming around unpopular features, with particularly significant improvements at Rostrevor Red Trail and to the black trails at both Castlewellan and Rostrevor, which were extensively refurbished.
  • Completion of 10.3 kilometres of dedicated, way-marked horse riding trails at Castlewellan Forest Park
  • Major fallen tree clearance and trail repair to address the impacts of serious weather events including Storm Aileen (September 2017), ex-hurricane Ophelia (October 2017), Storm Brian (October 2017), Storm Caroline (December 2017) and Storm Eleanor (January 2018).
  • An extra layer of inspection and vegetation clearance on the forests walking trail network added to maintain quality user experience in the context of prolonged damp conditions
  • Improvement on the viewpoint on the Cloughmore Trail (walking route) cutting trees to open the spectacular view of Carlingford Lough, installing a drainage channel and re-surfacing.
  • Further input, including user liaison and advice on technical design, for two new walking trails in Rostrevor (‘The Fallows’ long distance route & a family trail) along with Blue (family/ beginner) mountain bike trail.

Innovating and Sharing

Enhancing our knowledge of erosion control and path repair techniques has been a key focus this year, particularly through experimenting with new techniques and learning through sharing with others. Much of this has been driven by our European Union Interreg V Northern Periphery Area ASCENT project (Apply Skills and Conserve Our Environment with New Tools). The programme provided a Stitch-in-Time path team, able to devote time to pioneering innovative approaches and monitoring impact. It also enabled path building study visits to Mount Errigal (Donegal), Cuilcagh (Fermanagh), Hossa National Park & Riistanturi National Park (Finland). Our team also attend a path work training programme at Sliabh Liag, Co. Donegal and delivered path training to groups including National Trust volunteers.

Building on our input to the Ring of Gullion: ‘Developing and Managing Recreation in Protected Areas’ workshop in June 2017, much of the learning from our study visits and practical works was brought together at our ASCENT Upland Access Symposium at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre in November 2017. This three day event brought together experts from Scotland, England, Ireland and Iceland with local and national stakeholders, attracting an attendance of over 100 people. A key focus was a review of recognised upland path principles and their applicability for responding to increased erosion in environmentally sensitive landscapes. The debate was informed by presentations from Donegal County Council, Marble Arch Geopark, MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum, Mountaineering Ireland and Irish Uplands Forum along with recorded workshop sessions with inputs from, among others, Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, Outdoor Recreation NI and Sport NI.

We also continued to convene the Mourne Outdoor Recreation Forum (MORF) and to contribute to the Northern Ireland Outdoor Recreation Forum and engage with groups including the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Repairs to Bloody Bridge Track

Mourne Heritage Trust
Before and after trail works - Glen River Track

Mourne Heritage Trust
Before and after trail works - Glen River Track 2

Mourne Heritage Trust
Clearing green lanes ahead of Mourne International Walking Festival

Mourne Heritage Trust
Path Team which undertook repairs on Slieve Binnian to address the imapct of severe weather

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mountain BIke Trail maintenance

Mourne Heritage Trust
Castlewellan storm damage clearance

Mourne Heritage Trust
Re-opening and repair of forest trails after storms was a major occupation

Mourne Heritage Trust
We used timber from trees felled by hurricane Ophelia to make signage for Public Rights of Way

Mourne Heritage Trust
Moat Pad signage

Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Heritage Trust

Sustainable Tourism

A key touchstone for development of our sustainable tourism related work has been Tourism NI’s experiential tourism pillars. Our greatest focus recently has been on ‘Living Legends - Making our history, legends & stories alive and interactive’. The Mourne AONB is steeped in stories, myths and heritage that simply need to be drawn out and presented to the visitor. Our ‘legends within the landscape’ range from the role of the landscape in inspiring the magical world of Narnia to the achievements of the skillful and hardy Mourne people in our industrial heritage. We have continued to add depth and variety to these and other themes.

Of course the area also has great natural strengths in relation to ‘Unique Outdoors - Becoming a distinct outdoor recreation & adventure playground’ being the leading area in Northern Ireland for outdoor activities. As well as the work described in the previous section of this report to maintain the infrastructure that facilitates activities and to ensure their sustainability, we develop and/or contribute to opportunities for improved infrastructure, services and events.

Much of our work relating to the Unique Outdoors also delivers on ‘Coast and Lakes - Turning our coast & waterways into unique global destination experiences’. As well as our spectacular reservoirs and lakes among the peaks, the ‘mountains sweep down to the sea’ and the 72 kilometres of coastline in the Mourne AONB have the variety of sandy beaches, rocky coves and biodiversity rich mudflats and estuaries to offer a wealth of experiences.

Adding distinctiveness and vibrancy to experiences of these cultural and natural assets is important so we focus across all of the themes on opportunities related to ‘Culture/ Creative Vibe - promoting contemporary & vibrant NI experiences’ and ‘Naturally NI - adding authenticity through our local culture’. Our rich cultural and industrial heritage, our people and our stories are key to this.

Below we set out some highlights of the work involved in bringing these themes to life through projects as varied as new tourism focal points and interpretation collateral help tell the distinctive story of the area to a wide range of hands on traditional activities and storytelling, while for the more intrepid we continue to cater for adrenaline based events, as well as continuously improving the walking and mountain biking opportunities.

In delivering these outcomes our sustainable tourism team worked closely with our ranger and countryside teams to maximise the visitor opportunity across our activities and also with the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership to align with our experiential themes. This integration delivered a broad range of outcomes for tourism. Highlights are set out below.

Mourne Water Story

  • Re-instatement of an original Watertown worker’s house at the Silent Valley, acting as a focal point for interpreting the heritage of that key aspect of the AONB, the building of the reservoirs and the Mourne Wall
  • Enhanced interpretation telling the story of the building of the Binnian Tunnel
  • 'Silent Valley Activity Sheet’ for children designed, produced and circulated to local tourism, hospitality and other businesses
  • Input to NI Water’s £1.4m Mourne Wall restoration and surrounding path corridor upgrades
  • Consultation with relevant agencies and stakeholders on a ‘Silent Valley Vision’ for future visitor enhancements
  • Mourne Film (detailed below) significantly features the Mourne Water Story


  • Completion of Phase II of the Narnia Trail in Kilbroney Park to extend the walk and add new features. Work included extensive landscaping, a maze featuring Aslan’s table and 5 new sculptures – Mr Tumnus, Aslan, Mr Beaver and the wolves.
  • Narnia Family day.
  • Narnia Kid’s Activity Sheet.
  • Music & Storytelling in Rostrevor Inn focusing on ‘St. Bronach’s Bell & Stories’ and ‘Sing a Song of Mourne’.
  • Guided tour of Kilbroney Graveyard followed by more stories and song in Rostrevor Inn.
  • Outdoor screening of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe film in Kilbroney Park.
  • Rostrevor Village and Heritage Trail leaflet encouraging and facilitating exploration of local heritage that inspired Narnia.
  • Application to Heritage Lottery Fund for further development of the Narnia experience in line with the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Mourne Granite

  • Geology ‘Walk and Talk’ with Dr Mark Cooper (Geological Survey NI) acting as a capacity building event for local guides to develop their expertise.
  • ‘Diamond Rocks’ and ‘Newcastle’s Granite and Maritime’ guided walks.
  • Professor Ian Meighan geology talk in Newcastle Community Cinema followed by a Q&A session and a stone cutting demonstration.
  • Pilot of a ‘Granite Through The Ages’ guided tour of S McConnell & Sons in Kilkeel and a follow up tour.
  • Updates and reprint of ‘Annalong Cornmill and Granite Heritage Centre’ leaflet.
  • Study of use of Mourne Granite in north-west England identifying sites in Liverpool and St Helen’s where Mourne granite was used and identifying sources for future research work.
  • Mourne Film (see below) also significantly features the Mourne Granite Story including footage of working quarries and oral histories.

Mourne Forests

  • Aspects of Tollymore’s heritage story interpreted through Tollymore’s Heritage – A journey through time’ leaflet and on site interpretation panel on arboreal heritage.
  • Five guided walks entitled ‘Tollymore’s Heritage – A Walk Back in Time’.
  • Two ‘Castlewellan & The Annesley Family’ guided walks, led by a recently trained local guide and a ‘Lady Mabel Annesley & Castlewellan Forest Park’ guided walk in July.
  • Completion of ‘Kilbroney Tree Trail’ leaflet, in conjunction with local community.
  • Input to Castlewellan Heritage Demesne Working Group to shape a major application for heritage and visitor related developments. This included input to studies of traffic management & car parking, heritage buildings visitor facilities feasibility, a biodiversity audit, an arboretum audit & Statement of Significance along with assistance with communications and consultation.

Outdoor Adventure

  • Various outdoor adventure infrastructure improvements as outlined in the previous section of this report including significant path works in the high Mournes across over 5 kms; downhill mountain bike trail enhancement; new bouldering access at Bloody Bridge river; planning of new walking and mountain bike routes in Rostrevor.
  • Series of Guided Walks provided. In addition to those listed above this included 3 x ‘The Lesser Known Donard’, 4 x ‘The Archaeology of Slieve Croob; 2 x ‘The Hidden Gems of Dundrum’; 2 x ‘Newcastle’s Built Heritage’ .
  • Wildlife Events including Sea Safaris, Bug Hunts and Red Kite Tours.
  • The ‘Mourne Mountains Heathland Guide’ for walkers proved popular, allowing visitors to identify and learn about plant species they come across in upland hikes and rambles.
  • Facilitation of the Mourne International Walking Festival in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down DC and of Mountain Bike events. The latter included Ulster Cross Country Series; Psycle 8hr Mountain Bike Race; Irish Downhill Mountain Bike Series National Championships; Ulster Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships; Vitus First Tracks; Psycle 24hr Mountain Bike Race; and Red Bull Foxhunt (Click Here). Work included route planning and preparation, marshalling and post event inspection/remedial works. For the second Psycle event significant work was also completed to ensure it could proceed in the wake of damage to trails by ex-hurricane Ophelia.

Authentically Mourne – collecting and celebrating our heritage

  • Mourne Film combining archive material from NI Screen and other sources with more recent oral histories. ‘Down Memory Lane in the Mournes’ premiered in the Newcastle Community Cinema and can be viewed on YouTube
  • Four oral histories added to the Mourne archive 1) the linen trade (Click Here) 2) the story of the Youth Hostel Association in pioneering outdoor activity in the Mournes (Click Here) 3) Traditional Games (Click Here) 4) Boleying (traditional farming in the high Mournes) (Click Here).
  • Feedback collected and provided to recently trained local guides on a series of guided walks which acted as further capacity building and market testing for this group.
  • New interpretation panel for Hilltown, covering its history as the ‘crossroads of the Mournes’ and the story of the public art piece inspired by this heritage.
  • Nine Hearthside Heritage experience events including willow weaving, traditional needlework, wood carving and drawn thread.
  • Continued support, including funding and professional assistance, to the development of a bespoke Mourne musical theatre production based on the story of ‘Tory’ (outlaw) Redmond O’Hanlon.
  • Continued support to Mourne Community Choir, culminating in second public performance at the Soma Festival in Castlewellan in July.
  • Liaison with Waddell Media leading to a successful pitch to BBC NI (with potential for UK wide broadcast subject to assessment on completion) for ‘A Year in the Life of the Mournes’ TV show.
  • The first three ‘Mourne Bite Size’ online information sheets covering ‘Poverty Mountain’, ‘New Year Traditions in Mourne’ and ‘Watertown House’ were researched and distributed.

Researching, planning and advising

  • In addition to our visitor monitoring outlined in the previous section of this report, we designed and commissioned (from Ipsos Mori) a survey for 8 key heritage tourism sites in the area delivering 400 visitor interviews which will inform future visitor infrastructure and interpretation development.
  • Contribution to completion of the Mourne Gateway Access Study, which developed proposals for significant new infrastructure & sustainable visitor services to enable Newcastle to function as a gateway to the Mournes. This included coordination of final stakeholder input and technical advice to consultants.
  • Input to Experience Development Plans exercise in conjunction with Council and contribution to four EPIC experiences tourism industry workshops.
  • Input to Historic Environment Division Stakeholder group on landscape tourism related considerations, European Year of Cultural Heritage and communications plan for NI historic environment.
  • Membership of the Geopark Steering Group developing proposals for a Mourne, Gullion, Strangford, Lecale (working title) Geopark including advice on communications strategy and input to a study visit to Fermanagh Cavan Global Geopark.
  • Detailed submission to Heritage Lottery Fund consultation on future funding priorities, making the case for further investment in heritage related tourism and providing relevant examples from our experience.
  • Information and advice to numerous local tourism businesses on heritage and nature based tourism.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Walking trails in Castlewellan Forest Park

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mourne Bite Size e-zine

Mourne Heritage Trust
Interpreting the Mourne Water Story

Mourne Heritage Trust
Telling the stories of the workers who built the Mourne reservoirs

Mourne Heritage Trust
Telling the story of the Binnian tunnel

Mourne Heritage Trust
New sculptures on the Narnia Trail

Mourne Heritage Trust
Narnia Family Fun Day

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mountain bike trail enhancements

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hilltown Heritage Panel

Mourne Heritage Trust
Sea Safari

Mourne Heritage Trust
Geology training for tour guides

Connecting People and Heritage

The Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership (MMLP) drew to a close in December 2017, following a one year extension to the original timescale and having engaged people from many backgrounds with their natural, built and cultural heritage. Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership programme, which provided the bulk of the funding for this work, focuses on the enhancement and conservation of some of the UK’s most outstanding and treasured landscapes. Our programme for the Mourne Mountains and hinterland was guided by a Landscape Conservation Action Plan which addressed the following themes:

Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership Themes

• Encouraging Healthy Heathland
• Saving Mourne Juniper • Appreciating and Caring for our Walls and Monuments
• Making Recreation Sustainable
• Creating Focal Points
• Participative Research and Learning
• Developing Trails with Tales
• Sharing Our Stories
• Creative Mournes

The extension followed a progress and budget review which identified projects that presented the need and/or the opportunity for investment of surplus funds from other projects that had either achieved their objectives with less expenditure than estimated or failed to prove as successful as had been envisaged. For example a second phase of the Narnia Trail was developed capitalising on the popular success of the original trail. As well as enabling delivery of additional outcomes, the extension also allowed us to complete projects that had been delayed due to extraneous factors but which were still capable of delivering valuable outcomes within budget.

The following projects were among the key focuses for the year past and illustrate the range of outcomes facilitated by the Landscape Partnership funds.


This was an example of a project that was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances but always viewed as a priority due to its ability to help interpret the story of the Silent Valley in a unique way.

‘Watertown’ was the temporary settlement developed at Silent Valley in the 1920s to house workers building the dam and had its own cinema, hospital and policeman. Yet, short years after the completion of the works little trace remained. A former Watertown house that had been in storage for over fifteen years had deteriorated badly and was therefore no longer suitable for reassembly. At this stage, negotiations began with the owner of another original Watertown house located on the Head Road, just outside the boundary of the Silent Valley mountain park. The three-room house, which had been vacant for a number of years, was kindly donated by the Haugh family.

With permissions from Historic Environment Division and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to carefully dismantle and relocate, work could finally begin in earnest.

The dismantling and reassembly was undertaken under the expert guidance of conservation architects, Consarc Design, and captured on camera by the BBC, who featured it as part of the Home Ground series in May 2018. The interior was then fitted out with the assistance of a local antiques expert, recreating a 1920s look to help portray the life of the dam builders. The house is now a walk-in museum, open daily to the public.


The healthy heathland project was carried in out in two main phases, the second phase following the early signs of success observed from the earlier works. Acquiring and helicoptering specialist materials and equipment to site allowed dams to be created at Binnian Lough using a combination of coir rolls, stone and peat to retain water and allow recovery of badly eroded areas. Geojute was also applied to stabilise banks and peat hags. The skills within the Mourne Heritage Trust team were greatly enhanced through the project and the purchase of specialist equipment, particularly a digger, will facilitate them to undertake work which they have traditionally had to outsource, contributing towards the long term sustainability of the work.

Other very valuable resources were commissioned such as the aerial survey of the healthy heathland sites as well as the Mourne Wall and its corridor. This information has captured vital information that will be used as baseline data and will enhance efficiency as fewer ground surveys will be required. This information can also be used as evidence of need for future funding applications involving upland management.

Sharing the learning was an important aspect of the work and included facilitating site visits from third level education groups, landowners and environmental NGOs, young farmers and not so young farmers! The Landscape Partnership also funded production of the Mourne Mountains Heathland guide which comprises species swatches to allow anyone to identify key species as they explore the high Mournes. We were delighted that the work was recorded for television by both BBC Home Ground and by Waddell Media for a BBC Documentary ‘A Year in the Life of the Mournes’.


This was the third major educational resource to be produced for local primary schools, following on from the natural and built heritage teachers’ packs from previous years. Given the vast amount of cultural heritage related to the Mournes, it was a challenge to decide what not to include and, accordingly, the aim was to provide a broad selection for the reader.

The book included information on notable Mourne people, traditions of yesteryear, songs and poems as well as sayings and words that are not commonly used nowadays. It is hoped that the book will appeal to all age groups, acting as a reminiscence tool for older generations as well as an educational resource for the younger.

Summary Highlights 2017 – 2018

Activity in 2017/2018 varied across the four programmes, with some projects resourced to continue to deliver more of what had successfully been completed in the past (e.g. Hearthside Heritage workshops) while others, particularly Healthy Heathland, saw lots of new activity supported based on a review and revision of activity.

Programme A – Conserving/Restoring Natural & Built Heritage

This programme aims to enhance the condition of the heathland mosaic, support the propagation of the unique and endangered Mourne Juniper, alleviate the legacy of erosion and restore vulnerable features of the built heritage of the Mournes.

  • Juniper propagation unit at the Silent Valley
  • Second phase of Healthy Heathland works
  • Mourne Mountains Heathland Guide to allow easier identification of plant species in the high Mournes
  • A further phase of erosion control at the Bloody Bridge, targeting the areas used by bouldering/outdoor activity groups
  • Aerial survey of the Mourne wall, Glen River Track, nine healthy heathland sites and three quarries above Newcastle

Programme B – Increased Community Participation

This programme aims to create participative opportunities for communities which reunite people with the landscape and traditions through a variety of mediums.

  • Archive database established to retain and present details of documents/photos/ artefacts linked to the main MMLP heritage themes
  • Three further Oral Histories recorded covering different aspects of life in the Mournes
  • Mourne film (“Down Memory Lane in the Mournes”), premiered in Newcastle Community Cinema
  • Research on the end use of Mourne granite when it was shipped to England Storytelling Nights facilitated by local people
  • Series of guided walks (33 in total) using locally trained guides
  • Mourne Community Choir meeting regularly throughout the year, culminating in first public appearance in February 2017
  • Events: Soma Festival (July 2017); Silent Valley Family Fun Day (August 2017); Thresher’s Day (Annalong, September 2017); Narnia mini festival (Kilbroney Park November 2017);
  • Musicians group completed writing of a musical/drama on the local outlaw – or Tory - Redmond O’Hanlon and performed to a full house in October 2017
  • Drive in movie event in Kilbroney Park (“The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe”)
  • Installation of the newly designed interpretive panel in Hilltown
  • Reinstatement of Watertown House at Silent Valley

Programme C – Access & Learning

This programme aims to improve access in the physical and intellectual sense. The creation or enhancement of “trails with tales” raises awareness of the heritage of the area while a diverse range of events and activities allow people to engage with heritage in ways that suit their interests.

  • Phase II of the Narnia Trail
  • Mourne Cultural Heritage Book
  • Narnia themed drama project with St Bronagh’s PS (Rostrevor), Braniel PS (East Belfast) and the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
  • Interpretive panels at the Dunnywater end of Binnian Tunnel and the Nature Trail in the Silent Valley Mountain Park
  • Educational/interpretive materials including Kilbroney Tree Trail, Rostrevor Heritage Trail, Tollymore’s Heritage, Narnia kid’s activity sheet, Silent Valley kid’s activity sheet.

Programme D – Training & Skills

This programme aims to develop the knowledge and skills of the communities of Mourne so that their ongoing contribution will help to create a legacy for the project and that their efforts will help to conserve the natural, cultural and built heritage of the area.

  • Hearthside Heritage Training programme of 21 workshops, including a number targeted at people with learning difficulties
  • Natural Heritage Training including Red Kite and Sea Safaris
  • Wildlife gardens established in four post-primary schools
  • Built Heritage skills training including tours of McConnell’s stone and an Introduction to Lime course
  • Healthy Heathland training including site workshops with visiting experts from Moors for the Future (Yorkshire), attendance at heathland management conference in the Lake District and hands on heathland skills development

Our Landscape Partnership

We would like to record our thanks to the partners who made up the Landscape Partnership and helped us successfully deliver this very significant programme of investment in our landscape and related heritage.

Local Authorities
Newry, Mourne & Down District Council

NI Statutory Authorities
Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Tourism Northern Ireland
Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development
Geological Survey of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Water
National Trust

Community and Voluntary Sector
Alliance Youth Works
Annalong Community Development Association
County Down Rural Community Network
Mourne Heritage Trust

The Landscape Partnership in Numbers

A comprehensive external evaluation of the Landscape Partnership programme was undertaken in 2017 and some of the highlights are outlined below


£1,337,195 match funding secured by the MMLP to complement the investment of £1.5m from Heritage Lottery Fund

19 built heritage structures restored
1 listed building dismantled, restored and relocated
5 books researched and produced
41 interpretive panels installed at 17 sites
5 short films researched and produced
2 Murder Mystery scripts written (Silent Valley & C.S. Lewis)
1 community quilt produced
1 piece of public art installed
4 Mourne tapestries designed and woven
3 trails enhanced and/or extended
4 trails created 3.7km of eroded paths in high Mournes restored
9 management plans developed for the Healthy Heathland sites
1034m of dry stone walls restored
100 juniper cuttings propagated and replanted
1 Juniper Propagation Unit created
11 leaflets designed and produced
2 teacher’s packs created and distributed (Natural & Built Heritage)
1 musical drama researched and produced (Redmond O’Hanlon)
18 heritage events supported
207 workshops delivered
569 volunteer days contributed to various projects
2004 participants in accredited and non-accredited training
30,127 programme participants

Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hearthside Heritage Training Course

Mourne Heritage Trust
Watertown House during restoration

Mourne Heritage Trust
Watertown House reinstatement completed

Mourne Heritage Trust
Bringing heathland enhancement materials to site

Mourne Heritage Trust
Heathland Guide

Mourne Heritage Trust
Cultural Heirtage Book

Mourne Heritage Trust
Heritage Publications

Mourne Heritage Trust
Creating a wildlife garden at Saint Louis Grammar School, Kilkeel

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hearthside Heritage Crafts

Mourne Heritage Trust
Redmond O'Hanlon original musical theatre performance

Mourne Heritage Trust
Willow Weaving

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mourne film combines archive material with recently recorded oral histories

Mourne Heritage Trust
Wood Carving Course

Mourne Heritage Trust
Wood Carving Trainees

Mourne Heritage Trust
Built Heritage Skills - Introduction to Lime course

Mourne Heritage Trust
Heritage of Mourne calendar

Company Details

Mourne Heritage Trust Online

The website also includes links to and from our various other online mechanisms as listed below.

Just Giving

Volunteers and Donors

We would like to record our sincere gratitude to all our generous donors and to all of those who support the Trust with their time, our wonderful volunteers. Donations come through mechanisms including collections by walking groups, proportions of entry fees to mass participation events and from generous individuals. For people interested in making donations we have established a JustGiving account online. Alternatively, for volunteering opportunities please contact the Trust office where staff will be pleased to discuss how you can support our work in Caring for Mourne in line with your interests.

Company Information

Mourne Heritage Trust Limited
Company Registration Number: NI 32946

Main Registered Office
19 Causeway Road
County Down
BT33 0DL
Sub Office
Silent Valley Gate Lodge
74 Head Road
County Down
BT34 4PU
Purdy Quinn Chartered Accountants
42 Greencastle Street
County Down
BT34 4BH
Bank of Ireland Ltd
12 Trevor Hill
County Down
BT34 1DN
McBurney & Co.
5 Church Square
County Down

Click here to print this Annual Report

To view our summary accounts for 2017/18 please click here

To view the minutes from our AGM please click here

Mourne Heritage Trust was funded by in 2017/18 by
Mourne Heritage Trust

Our activities this year have also been supported by:
Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Cooley Gullion Geotourism,
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council
Mourne Heritage Trust