Pupils and volunteers from Belfast Royal Academy braved the freezing weather to clear tonnes of litter from the less than beautiful parts of the Mountains of Mourne last Saturday.
The Clean-up, now in its 22nd year, has become an annual event and rite of passage for those involved in the school’s Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE). Over 140 students, staff and volunteers cleared more than 6 tonnes, approximately 10 cubic metres of waste and rubbish that had been dropped or dumped in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
John Reilly MBE, Master-in-Charge, has been organising the event for more than twenty years, he said:
“Our volunteers are an example of the real spirit of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Every year for more than two decades, pupils and volunteer staff our Belfast Royal Academy Award Centre have been getting their gloved hands dirty to help clean up what should be a protected area.
“We started the Annual Sponsored Clean-up as a way of raising money for our D. of E. but more importantly, as a means of giving something back to what is a breathtaking area of natural beauty. Every year, whatever the weather, our students enthusiastically volunteer and join in the Clean-up, and it has become something of a festive event.”
It is estimated that, over the years, the school has removed 100 hundred tonnes of dumped waste including abandoned cars and household appliances. This year was no exception, with stranger finds including; a locked safe, part of a fireplace, mattresses, a chip pan, building materials and hundreds of cans and bottles. With 400 participants Belfast Royal Academy’s D. of E. Centre is the largest school-based centre in Northern Ireland and one of the largest in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Cllr. Dermot Curran, Chairman of Down District Council and Cllr. Charlie Casey, Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, were on hand to wave the groups off from Donard Car-park early on Saturday morning. The Clean-up is annually supported by Down District Council, Newry and Mourne District Council, The Mourne Heritage Trust, The National Trust and Mark’s Skip Hire Kilkeel.