NI Water Starts Major Restoration Mourne Wall Project

NI Water is about to commence work to restore parts of the historic Mourne Wall, which will benefit the scenic Mournes area.

The first phase of work, which is expected to get underway towards the end of May 2017 will see the restoration of a 2.5km section of the Mourne Wall between Slieve Loughshannagh and Slieve Meelmore which is surrounded by NI Water land.

Local experienced stonemasons will carry out the repairs under the management of NI Water contractor, GEDA Construction with advice and guidance from Mourne Heritage Trust (MHT). This project is part of NI Water’s commitment to the ‘Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estates.

(L-R) Desmond Patterson Chairman of Mourne Heritage Trust, Helen Anderson, Director, Natural Environment NIEA, DAERA, Niall McGovern GEDA Construction, Councillor Garth Craig Deputy Chair Newry Mourne and Down Council, Iain Greenway Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities and Dermott McCurdy NI Water Project Sponsor pictured at the launch of the restoration of the Mourne Wall.

Dermott McCurdy NI Water’s Project Sponsor added: “During this first phase of the restoration of the wall, NI Water will be working closely with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, our contractor GEDA Construction, local stone contractors and the Mourne Heritage Trust to assess the sympathetic construction methods employed, with a view to developing a wider 4-year programme of work.”

“To repair certain sections of the Mourne Wall, it will be necessary to transport stone and other material to site where it is not readily available. This will be done through carefully planned helicopter drops to agreed locations within the Mournes area.”

“This is a significant investment by NI Water and we look forward to working with and gaining the support of all our stakeholders, as we strive to protect the integrity of one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic listed monuments.”

Councillor Garth Craig, Deputy Chair of Newry Mourne and Down Council said: “The council is delighted that work will commence shortly to repair parts of the historic Mourne Wall.

“The wall crosses 15 mountains across the Mourne range and took approximately 18 years to build, with completion of the original wall in 1922.

“This important project will carefully restore and improve parts of the wall, enhancing environmental protection and tourism in this beautiful scenic area.”

(L-R) Dermott McCurdy (NI Water); Michael Sleator (Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities; Niall McGovern (GEDA Construction); Michael Donnelly (NI Water); Alice Adams (RPS); Iain Greenway (Historic Environment Division Department for Communities), Helen Anderson (Director, Natural Environment NIEA); Brian Rooney  (local stonemason); and Desmond Patterson of the Mourne Heritage Trust pictured at the launch of the restoration of the Mourne Wall.

The Mourne Wall

The building of the Mourne Wall was part of the first stage of the Mourne scheme. This scheme aimed to bring water from the Mournes to Belfast, to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding industrial city.

In 1904 work began on building the impressive wall designed to define the boundary of the 9000 acres catchment area for the scheme.

The wall was referred to as “The Black Ditch” by the stone men who built it, but now is commonly known as the “Mourne Wall

The Towers

Three distinctive stone towers were also built as part of the original Mourne Wall project. These towers sit on or near the summits of Slieve Donard, Slieve Commedagh and Slieve Meelmore.

The towers are thought to have been built as shelter to protect the stone men as they toiled against the elements to complete the wall. The towers are still a refuge for walkers today.

Each of the towers has an engraved date:1910 Slieve Donard, 1913 Slieve Commedagh, 1921 Slieve Meelmore.