Work restoring Mourne Wall to its former glory scoops award

Work restoring Mourne Wall to its former glory scoops award

9 January 2019

THE Northern Ireland Water project team working on the Mourne Wall restoration scheme has scooped a prestigious award.

The team was recently presented with the Institution of Civil Engineers Sustainability Award for its work on the restoration of a major section of the iconic 100 year-old wall.

The biennial sustainability award is presented to a project that demonstrates sustainability through innovation with the team delighted with its success.

NI Water’s senior project manager, Michael Donnelly, said the restoration project saw the integration of sympathetic, traditional construction techniques and modern innovative surveying methods to complete a “challenging programme of 600 repairs over 15 mountains.”

He continued: “To have this prestigious award bestowed on the team is recognition of the dedication and collaborative working instilled by stakeholders from the outset.

“I would like to thank the Mourne Heritage Trust, Environment Agency, National Trust and Trustees of Mourne for their guidance and assistance throughout this initial phase of repairs.”

Mr Donnelly also paid tribute to the “strenuous efforts” exerted by GEDA Construction, local stonemasons from Thomas Rooney and Sons and the team from RPS Consultants in completing the project in less than half the estimated timeframe.

The contractor who carried out the work used a helicopter to lift dry stone into the high Mournes as part of a scheme to refurbish a 2.5km section of the 22 mile-long granite wall built in the early 20th century by the Belfast Water Commissioners. 

The wall stretches across 15 peaks and took nearly two decades to construct. Over recent months, bags of capping stones weighing just under a tonne each were airlifted to Slieve Commedagh, Slieve Donard and Slieve Bearnagh. 

Around 2,000 capping stones were used to stabilise sections of the wall, with the stones salvaged locally and weighing between 80 and 120kgs each. They enabled the contractor to complete and fully stabilise sections of the Mourne Wall that had already been repaired.

Working through all types of weather, the repair team hiked up to 6km a day to carry out the repairs and, fortunately, for the bulk of the restoration work, the stone they required was lying adjacent to the wall. The missing capping stones were sourced from local quarries and donated by the National Trust.

The most most recent phase of the restoration project saw over 600 repairs undertaken along the structure – including a 27 metre collapse on Slieve Bernagh – as well as extensive path works. 

Originally estimated to take four years to complete, the project was completed in less than two, with contractor Geda Construction working in partnership with local stonemasons.

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.

In addition to the wall repairs, an extensive length of path works were undertaken in conjunction with Mourne Heritage Trust to future-proof the restoration work and protect the integrity of the wall as part of the scheme.

NI Water said as part of its commitment to caring for historic estates, it undertook surveys along the entire stretch of the historic wall in 2016 and set in place funding for a programme of wall and path repairs to get underway the following year.

The organisation also revealed that while the recent phase of restoration work was funded through NI Water’s current capital works programme, it is aware that the wall may suffer further deterioration in the future. 

NI Water says it is committed to undertaking subsequent surveys and, subject to funding, carrying out repairs during the next six-year capital works programme which commences in April 2021.