TV show on ‘Giant’ Silent Valley

TV show on ‘Giant’ Silent Valley

4 September 2019

BROADCASTER Joe Mahon’s UTV series, Ulster Giants, finishes next Monday evening with a visit to the majestic Silent Valley in the Mournes.

Throughout the series Joe has travelled all over Northern Ireland looking at the inspiring stories behind local examples of civil engineering, the outstanding individuals and the gigantic structures they created.  

The final programme shows the role that the reservoir has played in the region’s development, particularly for Belfast.

When it was first built back in the early 20th century, the water from the Silent Valley went straight into the homes of Belfast, without any purification process. 

In 1904 the Belfast Water Commission undertook a quite epic task – to build a wall of natural granite stone to an average height of five feet, stretching for 22 miles, crossing over 15 mountain peaks and enclosing an area of some 9,000 acres — all to keep livestock out of the Silent Valley catchment. 

That work was carried out by local stone-wall builders, some of whom spent 18 years of their lives completing it but, as NI Water have found in recent years, the fabric of that wall needs almost constant refurbishment.

In the programme, Joe meets consultant engineer Alice Whittington, who carried out a survey of damage to the wall in 2014 and engaged the services of a modern generation of masons to restore it to its original state as much as possible.

He also teams up with civil engineer Phil Donald to examine the other elements of this massive scheme which played a such vital role in ensuring a reliable water supply for Belfast. 

The first is the Bignian Tunnel, opened in 1952, which carried water from the Annalong River, via a tunnel which had to be blasted through two miles of granite, to supplement the levels of the Silent Valley Reservoir. 

The second was the construction, immediately afterwards and further up the valley, of the Ben Crom reservoir which stores another 1.7 billion gallons of water. 

Ben Crom is one of the highest and remotest dams in Ireland, yet its construction, according to Phil Donald, was nowhere near as challenging as its more famous predecessor lower down the valley.

Ulster Giants is broadcast on UTV at 8pm.