A group of hardy volunteers braved the wintry conditions this weekend to clear up one of Northern Ireland’s most stunning beauty spots.
119 pupils and 36 adult volunteers from Belfast Royal Academy donned their scarves and gloves on Saturday, 8th December for their 23rd Annual Mournes’ Clean-up. Every winter the North Belfast school makes an annual trek to Co. Down where they clear away tonnes of rubbish ranging from litter right through to abandoned cars, and dumped household goods. This year was no exception with stranger finds including an old tube television, a pram, and more than 40 tyres.
The environmentally conscious school has undertaken the mammoth task for the past 22 years because the Academy’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre makes use of the Mourne Mountains for expedition work on 12 to 15 weekends per year. The annual sponsored Clean-up is a way of raising money for their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre, as well as allowing the pupils and volunteers a chance to give something back to their host area.
This year, South Down MP, Margaret Ritchie was joined by Chris Hazzard MLA and Chairman of Newry and Mourne Council, Mickey Coogan, who were on hand to welcome the school volunteers before they set-off into the mountains and beaches of the area. Ms Ritchie commended the work of the environmentally conscious visitors to Co. Down.
“The Mourne Mountains are one of Northern Ireland’s areas of outstanding natural beauty. As such, they are increasingly important to the South Down area because of the tourism they attract. Visitors come to the area because they are interested in the natural heritage, rich environment, or inspiration the mountains have lent to poets like Percy French, or author C.S Lewis. I’m pleased that the pupils and volunteers from Belfast Royal Academy continue to make the effort to protect the area, and clean-up after those who are less respectful of what is a beautiful environment.”
Master-in-Charge, John Reilly MBE, has been organising the clean-up since its inception 23 years ago and has said that since then they have cleared over 140 tonnes of rubbish.
“Belfast Royal Academy’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre makes use of the Mourne Mountains for expedition work on 12-15 weekends per year,” he said.
“Our pupils have benefited so much from taking part in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Mournes are a particular favourite amongst our pupils. They are always delighted to be giving something back and showing their appreciation for this stunning beauty spot.
“The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award promotes a sense of responsibility amongst its participants and we see this every year when we have around 150 volunteers who give up their Saturday morning and afternoon to take part.”
The Clean-up is annually supported by Down District Council, Newry and Mourne District Council and The National Trust, and is aided faithfully each year in its detailed planning and operation by The Mourne Heritage Trust.