The Mourne Wall Walk

In 1956 the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland organised the first “Mourne Wall Walk” encouraging the public to walk the length of the Water Commissions wall enclosing their catchment area. The wall is a grueling 22 miles with 10,000ft ascent and walking it in a single day is a considerable feat. Only a few walker participated in the first year but news of the event spread by word of mouth and and by 1960 there was nearly 150 walkers. By 1962 the numbers had increased to 250 and in 1967 500 turned up for the tenth anniversary walk. Numbers continued to increase year on year and by 1977  almost 2,000 walkers were taking part with 1,512 completing the event. The record was broken that year for the best finishing time by Jim Hayes, a 30 year old man from Comber who finished in 4 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds beating the then current record by 5 minutes. Numbers continued to increase and by 1979 3,000 people wanted to participate. By 1984 there was a serious concern about the damage that so many walkers were doing to the fragile Mournes environment and the Youth Hostelling Association cancelled the walk in the name of conservation.

Mourne Wall Walk participants pausing for refreshments in 1974

Mourne Wall Walk Completion Badge

Photos from Belfast Telegraph Archives and NI-WIld.o.uk

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