B.R.A. Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Makes a Mountain Out of Rubbish


Pupils and volunteers from The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at Belfast Royal Academy braved the freezing weather on Saturday to clear tonnes of litter from the less than beautiful parts of the Mountains of Mourne. 

The Clean-up, now in its 25th year, has become an annual event and rite of passage for those involved in the school’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE). Mourne Heritage Trust Chairman, Mr Desmond Patterson, was on hand this year to present some books for the school’s library as a token of our gratitude. Over 130 students, staff and volunteers proceeded to clear more than 6 tonnes, approximately 10 cubic metres of waste and rubbish that had been dropped or dumped in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

John Reilly MBE, Master-in-Charge, has been organising the event for twenty-five years. He said:

“Our volunteers are an example of the real spirit of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Every year for twenty-five years, pupils and volunteer staff from our Belfast Royal Academy DofE Award Centre have been getting their gloved hands dirty to help clean up what should be a protected area.

We started the Annual Sponsored Mournes’ Clean-up as a way of raising money for our DofE. But, more importantly, as a means of giving something back to what is a breathtaking area of natural beauty. Every year, whatever the weather, our students enthusiastically volunteer and join in the Clean-up, and it has become something of a festive event.”

It is estimated that over the years, the school has removed 120 tonnes of dumped waste, including abandoned cars and household appliances. This year was no exception, with stranger finds including: a garage door, a television, sleeping bags, a tent, car springs, numerous tyres including a very large tractor tyre and a complete change of clothes (underwear, socks, trousers, t-shirt and shoes). With over 400 participants, the DofE at Belfast Royal Academy is the largest school-based Centre in Northern Ireland, and one of the largest in the UK.

Representatives of the many agencies and bodies which annually support the event were present early in the morning to wave the groups off from Donard Park: Councillor Brian Quinn, Deputy Mayor, Newry and Mourne District Council; Councillor Dessie Patterson, Vice-Chairman Down District Council and Chairman, Mourne Heritage Trust; Ms. Margaret Ritchie MP for South Down; Mr Jim Wells MLA, Minister for Health; Mr Sean Rogers MLA; Mr Matthew Bushby, Countryside Services Manager, Mourne Heritage Trust; Mr Damian McClean, Ranger for South Down, National Trust; Mr Liam Dinsmore, Management Services Officer, Newry and Mourne District Council; Ms. Rebecca McGreevy, Education Officer, Down District Council; Mr Phil Savage, Countrside Officer, Mourne Heritage Trust; Ms. Joanna Clarke, Senior Youth Worker, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, B.E.L.B.; Ms. Nicola Murray, Community Development Officer, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. Grateful support was also received from Mark’s Skip Hire, Kilkeel and refreshments were provided by Coca-Cola Clean Coast Programme.