The 100-year-old Mourne Wall has been given a facelift by stonemasons and other specialists using ancient techniques – but with the added benefit of 21st century helicopter support.
Although expected to last up to four years, the latest round of repairs along the 22-mile granite structure has been completed in less than two.
More than 600 repairs were carried out, including a 27 metre long collapse on Slieve Bernagh, as well as upgrades to paths, with workers hiking up to six kilometres in a single day during the NI Water restoration project.
The iconic wall was originally constructed by the Belfast Water Commissioners between 1904 and 1922 to mark the boundary of the water catchment which feeds the Silent Valley and Ben Crom reservoirs. The work has been carried out Geda Construction in partnership with a number of local stonemasons and RPS consulting engineers.
Paul Harper of NI Water said the project was part of the company’s ‘Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estates,’
He said: “I am delighted that this initial phase of work has been successfully completed. I would like to thank Mourne Heritage Trust, NIEA, National Trust and trustees of Mourne for their guidance and assistance throughout the project and pay tribute to the strenuous efforts exerted by the contractors and wider project team in reaching this milestone so quickly.”
Mr Harpher added: “While this phase of restoration has been funded through NI Water’s current capital works programme, we are aware that the wall may suffer further deterioration in the future. NI Water 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.”
Fortunately for the contractors, for the majority of the restoration work the stones were lying adjacent to the wall, however, missing capping stones – which weigh up to 120kg each – had to be sourced from local quarries.
The large stones were donated to the project by the National Trust, transported to site by helicopter and then rolled into place using centuries-old methods.