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The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre at Belfast Royal Academy held its 26th Annual Sponsored Mournes’ “Clean-up” and Environment Day on Saturday 12th December, 2015.

Taking part were 149 people, i.e. 124 pupils, all Duke of Edinburgh’s Award members from Forms 3 to Middle 6, as well as 25 adult helpers, including former pupils who are Gold Award holders, parents and teachers. This was an excellent turn-out in the face of very poor weather conditions in the Mournes area. As a result of these conditions it was decided, for safety reasons, to restrict the Clean-up to two forests, Donard Wood and Rostrevor Forest. Rostrevor Forest was tackled by two large teams, one starting from Shanky’s Hollow and the other from the entrance to Kilbroney Park, both teams meeting in the middle at Yellow Water River picnic site.

Even though the weather was very poor, quite an amount of rubbish was cleared. Much of it was day trippers’ litter, including cans, bottles, crisp packets and sweet wrappers. However, domestic waste was also removed by the teams, including plastic piping, car springs, car wheel hubs, frames of chairs, tent frames and, in one location, a burnt armchair.

Much appreciated assistance was given by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, The Mourne Heritage Trust, The National Trust, The Forest Service, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Mark’s Skip Hire (Kilkeel).

Mr. Moore Dickson, Headmaster, Mr. Dominic Walsh, Warden of the Academy’s Board of Governors, Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick,  Vice-Chairperson, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Ms. Margaret Ritchie MP for South Down, Mr. Sean Rogers, M.L.A., Mr. Niall Kelly, Countryside Ranger, Mourne Heritage Trust, Mr. Damian McClean, Ranger for South Down, National Trust, Mr. Chris Madden, Outdoor Team, Education Authority: Belfast Region, Mr. Richard Dougherty,  Operations Officer, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Northern Ireland, Mr. Canice O’Rourke, Director, Regulatory and Technical Services, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Ms. Colette O’Rourke, Performance and Quality Officer, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council were present in Donard Park, Newcastle, early on the Saturday morning to lend their support to the event and to wish the B.R.A. Team every success.

Mr John Reilly, Joint Co-ordinator of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Centre at Belfast Royal Academy, said at the close of the event, “The day has been very successful indeed. We have lifted a mound of rubbish. It is rather disturbing each year to see, in certain locations, the amount of rubbish, particularly domestic rubbish, being dumped in an area of such beauty as the Mournes. People should appreciate the countryside and take care of it. All those who took part in our Clean-up have worked hard and had fun. I think it is excellent that, so near to Christmas and despite the challenging weather conditions, so many young people are prepared to give up their Saturday to care for our environment in this way. We normally make use of the Mourne Mountains for our expedition work on 12-15 weekends per year and we feel it is appropriate to give something back.”


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