OVER sixty teams of intrepid teens geared up for a weekend of adventure in the majestic Mournes, on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 April. As dawn broke Kilbroney and Tollymore camp sites were filled with the sound of excited teenagers from across Northern Ireland. All from different communities and backgrounds, they all had one aim in common to conquer the mighty Mourne adventure.
Almost 500 teens set out from the two locations, the Kilbroney camp trekked their way over difficult terrain for almost seven hours and with superb weather on their side they all arrived safely into base camp at Silent Valley. Dinner and friendships made, all retired to tents and were asleep by ten o’clock in readiness for day two of the Expedition.
After a hearty breakfast the teams left camp for their second leg across the Mournes into Donard Park. They trekked almost 30km in total with sore feet, and mental challenges didn’t deter their enthusiasm for phase two, a RIB trip from Dundrum Quay to Ballykinler beach in the safe hands of Mourne Underwater Search Team (MUST) and Community Rescue Service. This was the leg they all enjoyed the most, exhilarating and exciting as the crews landed them safely into Ballykinlar Beach.
Greeting them there was a series of tasks and physical challenges including first aid assessment and stretcher run, observation challenges, fire search and rescue simulations, and a comprehensive assault course. Reward for completing this gruelling expedition was an evening meal and presentation of medals, certificates, T-shirts and a group photo.
While the Kilbroney camp were trekking to Silent Valley, over forty teams were leaving Tollymore Forest Park to complete a 12km trek over the Mournes and into Donard Park and onward to their Rib trip and Ballykinlar activities all completed within a day. All teams arrived safely, and completed their adventure to a similar accolade.
In attendance at the presentations on Sunday at Ballykinler Training Centre, was Dame Mary Peters, who enjoyed her experience with the multi agency event organisers and good into the spirt of the adventure with a trip on the rib with the MUST crew!
She said: “This is a very exciting challenge for so many of our young adults who may not have had an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and to challenge themselves both physically and mentally, as an individual and team member. Hopefully this experience will encourage them to participate in sport and to have a greater appreciation of the great natural resource we have on our doorstep – the Mournes.”
Attending the event on Saturday and greeting the teams as they descended into Donard Park was Mayor of Newry & Mourne District Council Councillor John McArdle added: ”The Mourne Mountains are an invaluable resource to our community both in terms of sheep farming and recreation.
“Newry and Mourne District Council believe it is important that our youth are encouraged to use and explore this magnificent resource in a responsible manner. We have engaged young people from different backgrounds and communities across the Council District. Various sections from within Council such as the Good Relations section, Policing and Community Safety Partnership and PEACE III have supported our youth to prepare for the event.
“We hope that in challenging themselves, they will find that no mountain is insurmountable with the right preparation and determination and can apply this in the daily lives.”
Down PCSP Chairperson Councillor Carmel O’Boyle thanked all the lead agencies who prepared the children in the months leading up to this event. In particular, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service who provided the Safety Command Centre EXCON in Donard Park which was able to monitor all the teams throughout their Adventure and Expedition.
She also thanked the PSNI, MOD, Community Rescue Service, The MUST team, The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance, and added a particular thanks to the teams from Down District Council and Newry and Mourne District Council who had demonstrated how effective the various departments can compliment each other when working on joint projects.
Councillor O’Boyle added: “The Mourne Mountain Adventure was organised by a range of sponsors: Newry and Mourne District Council, Down District Council, The National Trust, NIFRS, PSNI, MOD and many other multi agency support services who co-ordinated the training and delivery of this exciting outdoor event. A special thanks also went to the Mourne Mountain Trustees who’s kind permission enabled our teenagers to enjoy this magnificent weekend and we look forward to another great escape to the Mournes in 2014.”