Chairman’s Introduction

ChairmanWelcome to the Annual Report of Mourne Heritage Trust for 2015/16 - an exceptionally challenging, but ultimately rewarding, year for all involved.

The business year began with considerable uncertainty hanging over some of the funding that sustains the Trust. In the face of budgetary pressures, the Department of the Environment had given notice of the early termination in June 2015 of its funding arrangement, delivered through Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). Considerable time was therefore invested in lobbying and influencing to address this serious threat to the Trust’s ability to operate. With the success of these efforts, considerable staff time subsequently went into detailed funding applications, first of all to the Natural Environment Fund – which secured an offer of funding for the nine months to 31st March 2016 – and then to the Environment Fund, which ultimately delivered continued funding for 2016/17 with the possibility of extension for a further two years.

The return to a relatively even keel in relation to our main core funding is most welcome and I hope that, in due course, 2015 will prove to have been a year in which the question of whether secure funding arrangements are required for care of our most prized landscapes was answered clearly in the affirmative. For this thanks must go to the 1500 plus people who signed a petition on our behalf. I am also grateful to staff in Northern Ireland Environment Agency for their ongoing positive engagement throughout what for them has also been a challenging period.

I must also, of course, acknowledge the commitment of the Trust’s own staff in a time of financial uncertainty. As well as working hard on the funding applications required, they found the determination and energy to continue to deliver an impressive range of services and positive environmental outcomes. Consequently, as you will see from our online annual report, we have been able to maintain a good degree of continuity in terms of progressing ongoing major initiatives. These include the care of the high Mournes path network and access routes, as well as the development of detailed plans for enhancing the condition of the surrounding upland heath habitat. These plans were partly informed by the further roll out of our programme of controlled burns at critical points in the landscape as both a wildfire prevention and habitat management tool. Juniper, red squirrel, wildlife gardening and other biodiversity projects continued along with the various built, cultural and natural heritage projects that make up the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership, the latter anchored by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. BIG Lottery continued to support our volunteering effort with the Active Lifestyles programme engaging many sections of society in health and well-being enhancing conservation activities.

2015/16 was notable as the first year in which the Mourne AONB sat in a single local authority area, that of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. I am delighted that the relationship the Trust enjoyed with the current Council’s predecessor organisations has been replicated and built upon. As well as the provision of services to help Council manage its access infrastructure and responsibilities in both forest parks and the wider countryside, we worked closely with the local authority to bring to a successful conclusion the Interreg IVA (European cross border funds) Mourne Cooley Gullion Geo-tourism project, leaving a legacy of enhanced access to and interpretation of the geological features of this special area. With Council and our other main funder, Tourism NI, we have also worked to further develop visitor experiences, both in the short term and in planning for the future.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate my thanks to the almost countless numbers of people who so strongly expressed their support for the Trust’s work to be sustained in online forums, letters , attendance at meetings and a variety of other ways. And of course, as always, my thanks to my fellow Board members and all our other volunteers. I look forward to continuing to work with you all in Caring for Mourne.

Desmond Patterson

Desmond Patterson

Introduction to Mourne Heritage Trust

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

The Mourne Heritage Trust was established in 1997 to meet an identified need for locally based, strategic management of the Mourne AONB, which spans 570 square kilometres in the south east of Northern Ireland and includes the Mourne mountains, a beautiful coastline, the ancient uplands of Slieve Croob and the foothills and drumlin country in between.

The model of a Trust-based partnership was agreed by Environment and Heritage Service (now Northern Ireland Environment Agency) and Northern Ireland Tourist Board (now Tourism Northern Ireland), in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture (now the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development) and the three local authorities of Banbridge, Down and Newry & Mourne respectively (now merged to form Newry, Mourne and Down District Council).

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees represents a partnership of interests which includes local elected representatives, landowners, farming and community interests, giving a strategic lead to the management of the AONB.

The Board met collectively on seven occasions through the year, while members also contributed through the Executive Committee, Natural Heritage Sub Group, Destination Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion Tourism Forum and Mourne Outdoor Recreation Forum, among other mechanisms.

Board composition during 2015/2016

Trustee Main Sectoral Interest
Mr Desmond Patterson (Chairman) Farming
Dr Arthur Mitchell (Vice Chair) Environment
Mrs Rosemary Chestnutt (Treasurer)
Resigned October 2015
Tourism Business
Ms Isabel Hood (Company Secretary) Environment
Mr William Burns
Resigned January 2016
Mr Alastair Chestnutt
Joined October 2015
Tourism Business
Cllr William Clarke Local Elected Representative
Mrs Laura Devlin
Joined December 2015
Local Elected Representative
Mr Sean Fitzpatrick Farming
Ms Maureen Killen Community
Mr Glyn Hanna
Joined January 2016
Local Elected Representative
Mr Ryan Harty
Joined October 2015
Local Business
Mr David Maginn Tourism Business
Mr William John Martin Community
Mr Sean McCarthy Community
Mr Martin McMullan
Resigned October 2015
Tourism/ Activity Business
Cllr Carmel O’Boyle
Resigned December 2015
Down District Council
Cllr Brian Quinn
Resigned December 2015
Newry and Mourne District Council
Mr David Thompson
(Treasurer from Nov 2015)
Mr Ian Watts Angling
Mrs Jo Whatmough Environment

Annual General Meeting 2015

The Trust held its eighteenth Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 21st October 2015 at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre. The meeting was opened by Councillor Naomi Bailie, Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council marking beginning a new era with the Mourne AONB for the first time in a single council area as a result of the changes brought about by the reorganisation of local government under the Review of Public Administration.

Staff Changes

Ms Siobhan Thompson replaced Ms Emma Cunningham as Landscape Partnership Projects Officer.

Ms Rachel Bolt took up the post of Volunteer Co-ordinator which had been vacant at the beginning of the year.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Annual General Meeting 2015

Mourne Heritage Trust
Slieve Donard

Mourne Heritage Trust
Slieve Binnian

Mourne Heritage Trust
Overlooking Castlewellan

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mourne Juniper (Picture courtesy of Charles McRobert)

Mourne Heritage Trust
From Slieve Croob to the high Mournes

Staff Structure at October 2016

Policy Development

A key element of the Trust’s functions across all the work areas outlined in this report is informing public policy and programmes. This is to ensure that the needs of the Mourne AONB are appropriately considered. Where relevant policy inputs this year are included in the summary highlights of each section of this report.

Mourne AONB Management Plan

The framework for ‘Caring for Mourne’ is provided by the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Management Plan and accompanying Action Plan which together set out the long term vision for what can be done to protect, conserve and enhance the most important aspects of the area’s landscape.

The Management Plan was developed in 2010 through a review of relevant research to provide a sound evidence base and extensive consultation with local people and other stakeholders to provide further insights and build consensus. It is relevant to anyone whose activity or decisions affect the Mourne AONB and not just a plan for Mourne Heritage Trust. Therefore, while it is a non-statutory document, the successful implementation of the Management Plan draws on the commitment of various agencies and local stakeholders to pursue these principles in line with their abilities, priorities and resources.

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

For each of these particular aspects of our landscape theme the plan outlines the special qualities of the area and sets out the broad approaches considered appropriate to maintain and enhance those attributes. The Action Plan goes on to set out specific actions to give effect to these approaches.

At the end of 2015 progress against implementation of the Action Plan was as follows:

On or Ahead of schedule 109
Underway 21
Limited or no progress 7
Total 137


The percentage breakdown of achievement is as follows (presented along with the corresponding outcomes for previous years):

  End 2015 2014/15 2013/14 2012/13 2011/12 2010/11
On or Ahead of Schedule 80% 75% 66% 61% 58% 47%
Underway 15% 20% 27% 30% 26% 31.5%
Limited or no progress 5% 5% 7% 9% 16% 21.5%

In the last year we comprehensively reviewed achievement against the Action Plan for 2010 – 2015 in preparation for putting in place a plan for the period to 2022. Across the 28 objectives set for the Management Plan, the Steering Group considered progress against 13 to have been satisfactory and to have been demonstrably above expectations against another 13, significantly outweighing the 2 objectives against which progress was judges as below expectations. This equated to 93% of objectives against which progress was satisfactory or better.

The following specific observations were drawn from the review:

  • High Mournes Management: Very significant progress; leading practice in erosion control, wildfire prevention, heathland management.
  • Lowland and Coastal Practical Work: Not as well developed as in uplands.
  • Geodiversity: Interreg funded Mourne Cooley Gullion project produced significant outputs and was well received.
  • Built Heritage: Less work on vernacular buildings than previous five years, but more than expected on various monuments and stone walls.
  • Policy Issues/ Strategic Forces: some wider policy initiatives not progressed / influenced as envisaged e.g. climate change forum, Integrated Coastal Zone Management; sustainable energy
  • Cultural Heritage: Significant interpretation of key themes and high levels of public participation in a diverse range of activities
  • Sustainable Tourism: Change of emphasis from Europarc Charter to Green Accreditation Scheme.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Many and diverse developments in infrastructure.
  • Countryside and Visitor Management: Scope of management approaches expanded in line with developments in infrastructure, notably in relation to mountain biking.

Alongside the review of progress, a review of key policies and strategies, input from key partners and stakeholders and an online public survey informed our plan for the coming period which, by year end, was submitted in draft form to Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

In addition to coordinating and monitoring implementation of the Management Plan, the Trust’s role is involves provision of significant landscape and environmental management and enhancement services and developing and delivering relevant 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 different technical disciplines to the various activities and/or the contribution of these activities to delivering multiple outcomes.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Admiring a Mourne stone wall

Mourne Heritage Trust
Binnian Tunnel - partnership with NI Water improving interpretation at this feature

Mourne Heritage Trust
Euromeet Site Visit to Upland Path Initiatives in the Mournes

Mourne Heritage Trust
Partnership working with Fire & Rescue Service

Mourne Heritage Trust
Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails overlooking Carlingford Lough

Mourne Heritage Trust
Slieve Croob landscape

Natural Environment Enhancement and Protection

Our work to protect and enhance the natural environment continued to be informed by the Mourne Biodiversity Action Plan and was targeted on priority habitats and species.

Wildfire Control

A period of detailed research, planning and negotiation had culminated at the end of the last financial year with a series of trial controlled burns on a site between the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. This year saw the wider roll out of the techniques developed in conjunction with NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and closely guided by Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Controlled burns and other vegetation management techniques were focussed on identified ‘critical control points’ in the Bloody Bridge area in early spring 2016, timing that optimised the potential for regrowth of priority species in addition to achieving the wildfire control outcome of removing ‘fuel load’ at strategic points in the landscape. Follow up burns also took place to expand the scale of treated area at Ben Crom.

Post burn management and monitoring of the site treated in 2014/15 was also undertaken and learning reported to key stakeholders through the Mourne Wildfire Group. This wider strategic learning and development of best practice for Northern Ireland is a key objective of the Mourne pilot project. Integral to this were site based workshops with experts from the Pau Costa Foundation from Catalonia, Spain which resulted in agreement with stakeholders of recommendations for additional data capture and topographical monitoring to most effectively target controlled burns. These workshops, and the practical experience of the controlled burns, are adding to the knowledge bank of how fire behaves in an open landscape like the Mournes and assisting Fire and Rescue Service in deploying its resources in the incidents of uncontrolled fire that continue to occur.

Like some of our volunteering work – outlined below – our wildfire control work featured on a new BBC Northern Ireland rural affairs programme entitled ‘Home Ground’

Healthy Heathland

Our Countryside team continued to work closely with the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership to develop a comprehensive approach to protecting and enhancing our precious upland heath. This aims to go beyond addressing key threats, like wildfire and erosion, to actively restore habitat and contribute positively towards achieving favourable condition targets for key designated sites.

Building on consultations with heathland experts undertaken in previous years, we finalised the selection of nine sites for the development of management prescriptions and methodologies, contracting Penny Anderson Consulting to develop detailed management plans. Based on this work four sites were subsequently prioritised for action in phase I. A number of demonstration and consultation events – based on site assessment methodologies and discussion of restoration techniques and implications - were held for key stakeholder groups including the Bloody Bridge area farmers and outdoor recreation groups.

Meanwhile, works continued at two locations - Silent Valley boardwalk and Ben Crom - and included sward turning to regenerate heather from earth (as opposed to root stock), control of Molinia grasses and the monitoring and treatment of wet flushes. A final practical task completed by year end was the sourcing and deployment of appropriate materials, including coir rolls and geojute at Slieve Binnian, Lamagan and Binnian Lough sites and the completion of detailed specifications and tender documents for contractors. We look forward to this work continuing apace in the coming year.


Monitoring, solving and involving

At Mourne Heritage Trust we are continuously monitoring for environmental issues – through our ranger service, volunteers, social media and other mechanisms – and finding solutions. The list below is not exhaustive but is designed to illustrate the breadth of work this year, both geographically and in terms of the variety of the interventions used.

  • gorse management in conjunction with landowners at locations including Bloody Bridge and Trassey
  • weekly litter patrol at 21 upland sites throughout the AONB and additional lifts to deal with dumping and litter hotspots
  • coastal litter lifts at locations including Mill Bay and Kilkeel
  • initiative to address accumulation of litter at Mourne Wall summit towers on Commedagh, Donard, Meelmore including signage, additional clean ups and press campaign with NI Water.
  • stone wall repair
  • pilot work to enhance the biodiversity value of the lowland path network including local green lanes through revised cutting and maintenance regimes
  • invasive species removal across 4 square kilometres
  • invasive species removal training
  • native woodland – primarily oak and hazel – planting at Tullyree Upper, Tullyree Lower and Aughrim Hill and further planting opportunity at Slieve Croob scoped for the 2016/17
  • grey squirrel control and red squirrel population enhancement in Mourne Park and Silent Valley
  • care of bee colony established in our apiary at Dunnywater

Our Mourne Juniper recovery programme also continued to exhibit success. After completing a detailed survey and satisfying the various statutory processes, including addressing bio-security issues, 100 new specimens were planted out in three quarry sites around Drinneevar and Thomas’ Mountain – chosen to enhance connectivity and thus the opportunity for the plants to prosper. Monitoring and aftercare of previously planted sites was ongoing and nursery propagation continued to be successful.

Many of the activities above benefit from the input of our dedicated volunteers. Too numerous to list comprehensively we will instead, as representation for all those who contribute, acknowledge the input of the winners of our Mourne Natural Heritage Awards.

Gareth Allen was the recipient of the individual award for his commitment to volunteering on a weekly basis for over 6 years. Gareth regularly attends the Trust’s two organic gardens and tree nurseries, and helps out with litter lifting and other important environmental work across the AONB. He is also the Trust’s resident chicken expert and maintains a careful eye to ensure its free range chickens remain healthy and produce plenty of eggs! Martin Carey, Chief Executive of Mourne Heritage Trust presented Gareth with his award said ‘Gareth is one of our volunteer stalwarts and fully deserves this recognition for his dedication, come rain or shine’.

The group award recognised the contribution of a partnership of Mediation Northern Ireland and an asylum seeker group it supports called AMAL, which primarily involves people from Sudan but also has participants from Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq and Syria. AMAL members have been volunteering in the Mournes for over 2 years undertaking erosion control work along popular walking trails, repairing dry stone walls, carrying out heathland restoration work and litter lifting from the beaches along the Mourne coastline. While the hardier types tackle the High Mourne activities, the beach clean-ups prove very popular with AMAL’s family groups and part of the success of the partnership has been the involvement of all ages and abilities. The group has greatly enriched our work, sharing cultural experiences and traditions with us as well caring for nature. In addition to featuring on BBC NI’s ‘Home Ground’ television programme, AMAL members were the focus of radio and web coverage. Please see and hear and

Along with volunteer rangers, special needs groups, corporate groups, youth rangers and individuals from a variety of backgrounds, the award winners contribute to and benefit from social inclusion and health outcomes as well as conservation. All of our funders contribute to supporting the volunteer pork but in particular the Active Lifestyles project, funded by BIG Lottery, drives participation. In the year past this funding enabled us to commission expert consultancy to help scope the potential for growing and financially sustaining our volunteering and we look forward to working on the recommendations of this exercise in the year to come.

Mourne Heritage Trust
Controlled burn at Bloody Bridge

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hand built stone dams reducing erosion through retaining sediment

Mourne Heritage Trust
Dams beneath heather to encourage species like cotton grasses and bog asphodel

Mourne Heritage Trust
Peregrine falcon hovering over the Mournes (photo courtesy of Ernie Wilson)

Mourne Heritage Trust
Thriving red squirrels

Mourne Heritage Trust
MIll Bay litter lift

Mourne Heritage Trust
Volunteers making bird boxes

Mourne Heritage Trust
Gareth Allen receiving natural heritage individual award

Mourne Heritage Trust
Representatives of AMAL and Mediaition NI receiving natural heritage group award

Visitor Management and Services

Sustaining outdoor recreation in the Mournes

The Mourne AONB is the most used area of Northern Ireland for some of our most popular outdoor recreation activities including walking, rock climbing and mountain biking. Much of this focusses on the mountains of the high Mournes, along with key forest, parkland and coastal sites where there is good countryside access. The importance of the high mountain access routes alone is illustrated by our pedestrian visitor counters which, large as the numbers are, give only a snapshot such are the variety of entry points to the hills. The Mourne AONB also contains two long distance accredited walking routes and over 20 other Quality Walks, along with an extensive network of green lanes and Public Rights of Way.


Pedestrian counts - 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016 2014/15
Bloody Bridge Footbridge 25,652 21,374 18,082
Carrick Little 39,122 30,211 21,569
Glen River 90,877 84,735 n/a
Ott 47,609 34,914 n/a
Trassey 54,946 53,172 n/a
TOTAL 258,206 224,406 -


As illustrated by the counts the use of the Mourne Mountains is not only significant – topping a quarter of a million at the five selected points – but also increasing. The rise of 33,800 in total users from 2014/15 represents a 15% jump. The increase of almost 9,000 in each of the last two years at Carrick Little track is notable along with the 36% rise in numbers using Ott track in the space of 12 months. These figures, along with the evidence of observation, highlight the ongoing need for the services outlined in this section.


An important continued focus has been the monitoring and ‘stitch in time’ maintenance of the upland path network following completion of two major phases of erosion management works around Slieve Binnian, the Brandy Pad and Slieve Donard in 2014. Particular attention was required at Binnian North Tor, where to address issues evidenced as the large scale path works bedded down and were impacted by patterns of use and weather. Also important was the scoping and planning of the next phases of major erosion control work at Binnian/Lamagan Col and Ott, with the former hopefully to be implemented in 2016 and resources to be sought for the latter.

Away from the higher mountain paths, upgrade works at quarry tracks were a feature of this year’s work notably at Bloody Bridge and Browne Knowe. Both sites involved enhanced drainage and re-profiling to address repeated wash outs. We also carried out snagging works on the Cloughmore Trail in Rostrevor and refurbishment on the lower ‘bogie line’ section of the Granite Trail outside Newcastle.

A positive development towards building our future capability to deal with visitor management was the success of an application to the Interreg V Northern Periphery Area project with Donegal County Council and various Scandinavian partners. From autumn 2016 this will provide us with some dedicated staffing to deliver ‘stitch in time’ path maintenance capacity – where currently we rely on our countryside and ranger teams finding space among their many duties - and will also allow us to share and compare best practice in the management of visitor access issues at ‘honeypot’ upland sites. The focus for the work will be Slieve Donard and its key access approaches and thus National Trust and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will be key partners.

To build capacity among landowners and volunteers we conducted a week long path repair training workshop in conjunction with the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership and provided tailored path repair days for various groups from July to September at Ben Crom Reservoir and Glen River areas.

We continued to develop our mountain bike trail management service at Castlewellan Forest Park and Rostrevor Forest, with additional staff assisting the trail Trail Ranger for much of the year. This allowed us to further scope and plan solutions to issues raised in user feedback. Works to enhance trail flow on Downhill 2 in Rostrevor adhered to strict specifications and guidance from a professional trail builder and have received good feedback from users. The retro fitting of grip strips to improve the experience of riding boardwalk sections has also been well received.

Monitoring, solving and involving

Alongside the major infrastruture works - and as with our natural environment guardianship - we continuously monitor for visitor access issues and, working with landowners and user groups, endeavour to find and implement solutions. The following is a selection from the year past:

  • evening and weekend patrols in high season at visitor hotspots in the countryside
  • engagement with farmers at Killowen and agreement of approaches to inappropriate access including installation of new access stiles at Slieve Martin / Kilfeaghan
  • fencing at Trassey Track to ensure visitor and livestock separation at a key interface
  • liaison with Outdoor Recreation NI Mourne Forests Officer on various visitor management issues
  • gorse removal to reopen overgrown section of Mourne Way at Fofanny
  • path repair works between Ott car park and Butter Mountain stiles
  • weekly inspection and maintenance at 21 amenity sites
  • inspection of 70+ stiles and maintenance as required
  • maintenance and analysis of electronic visitor counters
  • facilitation / advice to major walking and mountain biking events
  • agreement and promotion of voluntary best practice code for way marking of events
  • scoping of improvements to mass participation events assessment process
  • technical input to Coastal Walking Feasibility Study & Kilbroney Park Development Plan
  • development, via the Mourne Outdoor Recreation Forum (MORF), of an action plan to deliver priority recommendations of the Mourne and Slieve Croob Strategic Path Review
  • training of staff in use of Argocat all-terrain vehicle for ongoing path maintenance.
  • summer site visits and survey of wild camping, in conjunction with Sportni


Mourne Heritage Trust
Upland Path repair techniques

Mourne Heritage Trust
Path repair site visit

Mourne Heritage Trust
Upland path repair training

Mourne Heritage Trust
Inspection and consultation at mountain bike trail

Mourne Heritage Trust
Tree clearance was a major occupation after storms Frank and Gertrude

Mourne Heritage Trust
Stile and fencing installation

Mourne Heritage Trust
Clearing parking bays after winter storms

Sustainable Tourism

The landscape and related heritage of the Mourne AONB is a major attractor and we continued to encourage exploration of authentic Mourne experiences. Key highlights this year fell into three main areas:

  • Animating Experiences – An accredited tour guide training programme in conjunction with our Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership, provided a cohort of people expert in both the generic skills of guiding and more particularly the natural, built and cultural heritage of the Mourne area. After an oversubscribed application process, twenty four people were selected, with the first cohort of twelve having ‘graduated’ by the year end. In addition, working with tourism businesses we achieved consensus on key heritage experiences and their component parts, establishing a basis for packaging and clustering around key themes namely Mourne Granite, the Water Story and Narnia. We contributed significantly to completion of the European Union funded Geo-tourism programme, including new marketing and interpretation collateral.
  • Visitor Infrastructure and Site Interpretation – Amenity site upgrades at the Binnian Tunnel and Spelga Reservoir further rolled out the destination look and feel developed for the Mourne Coastal Route, as did upgrade work to the interpretation and artefacts around the Granite Trail. A one kilometre ‘strategic link’ section of upland path was completed between Ben Crom reservoir and the Binnian / Lamagan col, while the final piece in our public art trail was installed in Hilltown celebrating the village’s story as a market and ‘the crossroads’ of the Mournes.
  • Scoping and Pre-Development Works – We contributed our specialist knowledge to exercises including: a scoping study on coastal walking developments; further proposed developments on the Mourne Coastal Route; a KIlbroney Park tourism masterplan and Northern Ireland Water development plans for the Silent Valley. Progress was also made towards framing a major visioning study of enhanced access and gateway facilities at the northern approaches to the high Mournes and surrounding forests and coast. The Euro’meet Outdoor Activities Conference, hosted in cooperation with Sportni and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, attracted delegates from 15 countries and served as both a showcase for outdoor pursuits and a focus for consideration of further development. (See conference report at )

In our sustainable tourism work we have given close consideration to Tourism NI’s experiential tourism pillars. Outlined below is some of the specific work against each of these.

Living Legends
‘Making our history, legend & stories alive and interactive’.

The Mourne AONB is, of course, steeped in stories, myths and heritage making this a key theme for our work. Our ‘legends within the landscape’ range from the role of the Mournes in inspiring the magical world of Narnia, for which C S Lewis drew on the inspiration of the Mournes, to the very real achievements of the skillful and hardy Mourne people in our industrial heritage - whether through the construction of the Silent Valley dams, building the Mourne Wall or quarrying granite. Here are some examples of how we have been bringing these stories to life for the visitor:

  • Upgrade of amenity facilities and interpretation at the Silent Valley end of the Binnian tunnel offering a ‘new’ heritage focal point
  • Project scoping and planning for reinstatement of a Watertown House in Silent Valley
  • European Heritage Open Day - guided walks of Tollymore built heritage and Mourne Wall summit towers
  • Input to Mourne Wall survey and conservation plans
  • Mourne Wall Summit Towers short film and leaflet
  • ‘Dry Stone Walls of the Mourne Mountains’ publication completed and publicised
  • Input to interpretive brochure for both the Narnia and the Cloughmore Trails
  • Continued participation in feasibility project looking at potential for development of ‘gateway’sites, including Thomas’ Quarry
  • Research on uses of Mourne Granite
  • Annalong Cornmill and Granite Centre open through high season (April – September)

Unique Outdoors
‘Becoming a distinct outdoor recreation & adventure playground’.

In this theme Tourism NI considers ‘all activities that involve a combination of physical activity; cultural exchange or interaction; and/or an engagement with nature’. The Mourne AONB is the leading area in Northern Ireland for outdoor activities. As well as the day to day services to maintain the infrastructure required to facilitate activities and ensure their sustainability (as described elsewhere in this report), listed below are some access opportunities, services and events which we have either developed or contributed to:

  • Works, based on user feedback, to enhance experience on downhill mountain bike trails at Rostrevor
  • Engagement with event organisers to facilitate the Irish Cross Country National Point Series at Castlewellan, the Irish National Mountain Bike Marathon Championships and Red Bull Foxhunt at Rostrevor
  • Technical input to Kilbroney Park Masterplan with regard to proposals for a new Blue mountain bike trail, a mountain bike pump and skills track and network of walking routes
  • Ongoing upgrade on upland quarry tracks including Bloody Bridge, Carricklittle, Ott and Brown Knowe
  • Assistance with Giro D’Italia Gran Fondo, the Mourne International Walking Festival and Mourne Landscape Tour in the Irish Open Fringe Festival
  • Input to hosting of Euromeet 2015 outdoor activities conference which attracted over 140 attendees and achieved 94% participant satisfaction
  • Input to interpretation and marketing collateral produced by Mourne Cooley Gullion Geotourism project

Coast and Lakes
‘Turning our coast & waterways into unique global destination experiences’

The 72 kilometres of coastline in the Mourne AONB is a key asset. From Carlingford Lough, the only deep water lough on the east coast of Ireland, to the sandy beaches of Murlough National Nature Reserve and the rocky coves and cliffs in between where the ‘mountains sweep down to the sea’, there is a wealth of experiences to be enjoyed. So too around the lakes and reservoirs in our mountains. Here are some of the things we have done to encourage their appreciation:

  • Upgraded amenity site at Spelga Dam in conjunction with Mourne Cooley Gullion Geotourism
  • Input to a review commissioned by NIW of the potential for recreation developments at Silent Valley Park and its catchment
  • Input to Mourne Coastal Route Phase 3 Masterplan
  • Enhanced interpretation accompanying upgrade of visitor infrastructure at Cranfield
  • Input to Coastal Walking Routes audit and scoping study
  • Completion of Post Project Evaluation for Mourne Coastal Route

Culture / Creative Vibe - ‘promoting contemporary & vibrant NI experiences’

This pillar concentrates on the intangible including literature, music, events and arts. Here are some examples of how we have used art and artistic activities to interpret key heritage themes:

  • Installation of eleventh piece in our public art programme at Hilltown
  • Public Art Trail leaflet developed and available to download
  • Hearthside Heritage workshops including willow weaving and traditional patchwork and hand weaving
  • Mourne Community Choir developed to the point of undertaking performance events
  • Mourne Songbook produced and available to download

Naturally NI - ‘adding authenticity through our local culture’

Naturally NI is defined by Tourism NI as ‘everything that cannot be replicated’. Our work contributed particularly this year to two of the three strands of this pillar; ‘Our People & Our Stories’ and ‘Our Crafts’ through actions including the following:

  • Development of a Mourne Photographic Archive
  • Collation of oral histories on key themes which will provide material for further interpretation
  • Provision of a series of storytelling nights at venues across the area
  • Provision of a Narnia themed drama summer school which included the development of ‘mini sketches’ for performance at a number of the stations along the Narnia trail
  • Development and delivery, through JB Associates, of a bespoke Mourne Tour Guides Training Course catering for 24 participants from 47 applicants


Mourne Heritage Trust
Tour Guide Training

Mourne Heritage Trust
Narnia Family Fayre launch

Mourne Heritage Trust
The Narnia and Cloughmore Trail Leaflet

Mourne Heritage Trust
New interpretation at Granite Trail

Mourne Heritage Trust
Binnian Tunnel amenity enhancements

Mourne Heritage Trust
Spelga Dam - Amenity Site Upgrade

Mourne Heritage Trust
Gran Fondo 2015

Mourne Heritage Trust
Delegates at Euro'meet 2015

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hilltown Public Art - A Pony, A Pump and Two Gentlemen Who Never Met

Connecting People and Heritage

The Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership (MMLP) continues to engage people through a wide variety of projects under the natural, built and cultural heritage themes. Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership aims to conserve and enhance some of the UK’s most outstanding and treasured landscapes. Our programme is guided by a Landscape Conservation Action Plan which addressees 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

Activities in this year differed considerably from the previous year, which had been dominated by the completion of capital projects - many funded by the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme. This allowed the focus to change to a number of the ‘softer’, more cultural projects, so community engagement was key to success.

The following projects demonstrate the breadth of the programme in terms of activity, whilst also demonstrating the range of people with which the Landscape Partnership engages.


The publication of the Mourne Songbook marked the culmination of many hours of hard work by our local musicians, under the expert guidance of Peter Baxter and his colleagues from SongSchool. Workshops from the previous year had helped to foster an avid bunch of musicians who were keen to pen some songs, inspired by the amazing Mourne landscape. This project is a great example of inter-generational working as people of all ages pooled their skills and, collectively, were able to achieve things that may not have been possible as individuals.

The local secondary level schools were invited to take part in music workshops and this resulted in the production of songs from Shimna College, St Malachy’s High School and St Louis Grammar School. These songs are also featured in the Mourne Songbook.

The songbook was formally launched on the 4th March when the local musicians were joined by their family and friends for what proved to be a very entertaining evening. The Mourne Community Choir also performed a couple of numbers and the evening concluded with a number guaranteed to generate audience participation - the Percy French classic, ‘The Mountains of Mourne’.


This programme, which targets primary school children, aims to raise awareness of different aspects of our heritage, with the focus for this particular period being the built environment. The previous year focussed on natural heritage and the final year will concentrate on cultural heritage.

Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) set about developing a bespoke Teachers’ Pack, focusing on significant sites such as the Silent Valley, Annalong Cornmill, Tollymore Forest Park and Hanna’s Close. Each primary school was invited to attend a workshop, either at the Silent Valley Education Centre or, if transport was not available, in their own school.

The team developed workshop activities that really engaged the children and made the learning process both effective and enjoyable. Teachers reported children being much more aware of buildings in their immediate environment and some of the schools did additional work, outside of the workshop, as a direct result of what they learned through the programme. The educational resource – ‘The Mournes and Me’ - is available for download through

Summary Highlights of Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership

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.

  • 100 Juniper plants were replanted in the area around Drineevar Quarry (July and August 2015) and valuable survey/monitoring work continued, thanks to our volunteer input
  • Healthy Heathland baseline survey undertaken
  • Healthy Heathland Management Plan produced

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.

  • 3 Oral Histories recorded in Dundrum
  • 3 Storytelling Nights facilitated by local people (November/December 2015)
  • Tour Guide Training – 2 x 8 week courses produced a total of 24 local tour guides
  • Narnia themed Drama Summer School held in Rostrevor (July 2015)
  • Mourne Community Choir launched in June 2015
  • 5 Guided Walks offered for European Heritage Open Days (September 2015)
  • Narnia Family Fayre supported - Kilbroney Park on Easter Monday
  • Local community festivals supported - Lower Mourne Threshing Day and Hilltown’s Hidden Heritage
  • Public Art installed in Hilltown – ‘A Pony, a Pump and 2 Gentlemen who Never Met’
  • Year 13 School Groups write and record songs for the Mourne Songbook
  • Mourne Songbook launched in March 2016

Programme C – Access & Learning

This programme aims to improve access in the physical and intellectual sense – the creation or enhancement of “trails with tales” will raise awareness of the heritage of the area as well as providing scenic walking trails for locals and visitors alike.

  • Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) began delivering Built Heritage workshops to local Primary Schools
  • Mini Mourne project commences – area beside Silent Valley Café cleared and heathers planted
  • Narnia & Cloughmore Trails publication completed

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 provided a broad range of workshops including willow weaving, drawn thread, Mount Mellick embroidery, hand weaving, Carrickmacross Lace, calligraphy, Christmas Crafts and Tableware
  • Community Quilting project completed
  • Natural Heritage Training – a series of walks and talks was delivered between April and June 2015 - Barn Owls, Butterflies and Moths, Pine Martens, Hedgerows, Marine Environment and local seabirds

Our Landscape Partnership

Local Authorities
Banbridge District Council
Down District Council
Newry and Mourne District Council
From April 2015 – Newry, Mourne & Down District Council

NI Statutory Authorities
Northern Ireland Environment Agency
Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Department of Agriculture 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

Mourne Heritage Trust

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mourne Songbook

Mourne Heritage Trust
Mourne Songbook Launch - Roland Inman entertains the audience with his song ‘The Annalong Valley’

Mourne Heritage Trust
Sample activity on offer in the Built Heritage workshop

Mourne Heritage Trust
Narnia Summer School

Mourne Heritage Trust
Community Quilt

Mourne Heritage Trust
Hearthside Heritage

Mourne Heritage Trust
Storytelling Rostrevor Inn

Mourne Heritage Trust
'Mini Mourne' heathland sensory garden at Silent Valley

Mourne Heritage Trust
Willow Weaving

Mourne Heritage Trust
Thresher at Annalong event

Mourne Heritage Trust
Accredited Tour Guide course 'graduation'

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 2015/16 please click here

Mourne Heritage Trust was funded by in 2015/16 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