MOURNE UPLAND PATH PROJECT
Work has started on the Mourne Upland Path Project, which will repair badly eroded sections of path network in the high Mournes. The sites, located within the Mourne Wall, include the route from the col at Slieve Binnian and Slieve Lamagan up to the North Tor on Slieve Binnian, an overall distance of about 1500m. The project has been funded through the NI Environment Agency’s Natural Heritage Grants Programme and NI Tourist Board’s TDS Signature Project.
The damaged area is within not only the Eastern Mournes Special Area of Conservation (a European level of habitat protection) and the designated national Area of Special Scientific Interest but also the water catchment for Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs.
MHT Chair Desmond Patterson said “MHT is delighted to see the repair works get underway to a site that has suffered severe erosion over the years. It is essential that a sustainable path network is maintained, making it easier to use, causing less impact on the environment and water supply.”
Initially, works commenced in January 2011 on the Carricklittle Track above the ‘black gate’ to allow work teams to get to Percy Bysshe quarry. This has the added benefit of making it easier for emergency services to get further into the mountains, a key requirement identified through the Safer Mournes Partnership which follows on from the upgrade of the Bloody Bridge quarry track to Crannoge quarry, completed in August 2010.
A helicopter will be used to lift stone taken from the spoil heaps at Percy Bysshe quarry to the path on Slieve Binnian. The stone will be used for pitching, slab work and blocking severely eroded sections. Techniques will include ‘benching’ and other similar sustainable methods to try and make the paths blend in better with the natural contours and easier to walk on. However, some more formal stone pitched sections will be necessary.
Work teams will be on site for a number of months and the appropriate and careful use of diggers will be integral to repair of the paths. The use of the machinery has been carefully planned to ensure that their impact on the sensitive habitats surrounding the paths – the reason for the work - will be very light, while enabling a more efficient work programme. Measures include the use of a machine with an optimum weight to distribution ratio, long reach and adaptable digger arm to minimise movement around the site and the precaution of biodegradable fluids and diesel. Careful ongoing monitoring of impact will be undertaken and practices adjusted as necessary.
MHT is very pleased that Mourne company Thomas Rooney and Sons will be carrying out a significant amount of the handwork; selecting stone and laying pitched and slab sections. Clive Richardson Ltd, the lead contractor, has significant experience in sustainable path techniques and working in sensitive environments. MHT hopes that further opportunities for the local workforce will arise in due course and has grant applications pending with government departments for similar work in 2011/12.
MHT will also be working with volunteers to repair a section of path at the Binnian/Lammagan col, hopefully the first activity of a dedicated ‘Mournes Path Repair Team’. Contact MHT (details below) if you are interested in getting involved, or even if you want to donate to support this important work.
Matthew Bushby, Countryside Services Manager with MHT said “We are grateful to representatives of the mountain user groups who provided feedback to us in the development of this project. We encourage all users to be careful around the site for the short period of the works, and welcome any comments they may have. We are also grateful to the cooperation of neighbouring landowners and local residents who may be inconvenienced at all as a result of the works.”
Please contact MHT at 028 4372 4059 or email@example.com or visit www.mournelive.com for more information.