Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership

The Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s programme to conserve and enhance some of the UK’s most treasured landscapes. A £3 million programme is underway which aims to engage people with the upland core of the Mourne AONB around the Mourne Mountains Landscape Character Area. Actions range from path construction to storytelling and from the history of granite quarrying to the prized upland heath habitat. We are currently working on a mini-site to provide up to date details of all the activity. In the meantime please see the Mournelive Facebook page for latest developments, including participation and volunteering opportunities.

What are Landscape Partnerships?

HLF’s Landscape programme helps protect and manage some of the UK’s most outstanding and treasured landscapes. It is for schemes led by partnerships of local, regional and national interests which aim to conserve and enhance areas of distinctive landscape character.

The programme aligns significantly with the UK’s commitment to implementation of the European Landscape Convention. Landscape Partnerships are considered as one part of a wider ambition to improve the landscape’s management and help people connect with it. HLF recognises that landscape conservation is a long-term process and whilst the funding can help support a period of more intense activity, it should also lead to continued activity and a lasting legacy.

MMLP Origins and Vision

In June 2012 Mourne Heritage Trust received the very welcome news that its proposal for a Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership had been approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) - and with it an award of over £1.5 million in funding from that source to anchor a £3 million plus programme of actions. The award was the culmination of a rigorous assessment of a Landscape Conservation Action Plan (LCAP) submitted by Mourne Heritage Trust in December 2012. The plan was the culmination of two years’ work through a Development Phase, which built on the vision and work of the work of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan Steering Group. In many ways the LCAP is a detailed development of a subset of the AONB Management Plan actions that relate to the high Mournes.

The formulation of the LCAP was closely guided by the European Landscape Convention’s definition of landscape as: ‘an area as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’. This is considered very apt for the Mourne Mountains – a natural wonder that is, in many respects, reflective of the interaction of man and nature.

The programme was also guided by less recent thinking, notably the work of the renowned geographer, Estyn Evans, who believed that the intertwining of three strands - namely habitat, heritage and history - provided the geographical basis for regional identity and sense of place. In 1951 Evans published his seminal book Mourne Country, which represents much of the inspiration for this project. In that book Evans said of Mourne, ‘..stories cling to almost every species of tree and plant’. And to that we could add that stories cling to every rock, quarry, sheep track, dwelling and stone wall.

The Specifics

Our Landscape Partnership focuses on the upland core of the Mourne AONB. It addresses many of the special features and issues identified in the AONB Management Plan for this particular part of the wider area. In all, the project covers an area of 223km² (the entire Mourne AONB is 570 km²) around the Mourne Mountains Landscape Character Area and the neighbouring towns and villages.

Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership Team
As many as 30 individual projects make up the Landscape Conservation Action Plan (LCAP) and aim to bring to life the many stories associated with the Mourne Mountains and its special qualities. These are grouped under ten project themes as follows:

•   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; 
•   Getting People Around the Mournes
•   Sharing Our Stories
•   Creative Mournes

To view a copy of our full Landscape Conservation Action Plan please click here

Local communities will be at the heart of the Landscape Partnership. Skills training and wide ranging participation will allow local knowledge to be shared in a variety of ways. A drive to re-invigorate traditional folklore, handicrafts and skills in communities will ensure the natural, cultural and Industrial heritage of the Mournes is preserved and shared with their visitors. Professional expertise will be brought by key partners such as Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), National Trust, District Councils and County Down Rural Community Network among others, while trail designers, conservation architects, interpretation and storytelling experts and a range of other professional disciplines also make a valuable contribution.

Our Landscape Partnership

Partners and community representatives at Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership launch
With an extensive programme to deliver it is important that the Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership is broadly based. We are fortunate to have the expertise and dedicated support of the following partners.

Local Authorities

Banbridge District Council
Down District Council
Newry and Mourne 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 Mountains Landscape Partnership in Quotes

Mourne Mountains Landscape Partnership launch – left to right - Isabel Hood (MMLP Chairman); John McArdle (Mayor of Newry & Mourne DC); Desmond Patterson (Chairman MHT); Margaret Ritchie MP; Martin McDonald (Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland Board member)

Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood (also commenting on the award of a first round ‘pass’ to proceed to Development Phase for our neighbouring AONB, the Ring of Gullion).

‘This is great news for two of our most prized landscapes, Mourne and Ring of Gullion, both of which are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It is clear evidence of the growing recognition that investing in our natural and built heritage can produce very significant community benefits as well as a sound economic return. It is also a strong endorsement of the approach taken by the Mourne Heritage Trust and the staff in Ring of Gullion to work with landowners and local communities to identify practical measures to enhance the landscape and promote its enjoyment by the visiting public.’

Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan

‘We are absolutely delighted the Mourne Landscape Partnership vision has been realised. The Mournes are one of the most iconic, naturally beautiful landscapes that we cherish in Northern Ireland. They are subject to a high number of designations for their heritage value such as Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and contain some of Europe’s most important tracts of upland heath. This scheme will ensure long-term management, promising long-term benefits for the local communities, visitors to the Mournes and to the heritage of this magnificent landscape.’

Ms Isabel Hood, Chairman of the Landscape Partnership Board:

‘There are three main focus areas to this programme – Granite, Water and Heathland. There are three heritages – the Natural, the Built and the Cultural. And there are three over-arching programmes – Increasing Community Participation, Access and Learning and Training and Skills. Underpinning all of this is sustainability and community involvement.

Mr Martin McDonald, Member of the HLF Committee for Northern Ireland

‘We are delighted to support this ambitious Mourne Mountain Landscape Partnership programme which will help the local community to manage and protect this hugely important natural heritage asset.  Mourne’s vibrant cultural heritage and rich industrial past will also be explored as part of the project, giving people the opportunity to engage with and connect to their local heritage.