Northern Ireland

Ballyhornan: The 'lost village' of County Down

For many people of a certain age, the mention of Ballyhornan brings back memories of school trips to the County Down coast. Others ask "Bally where?"

It lies six miles south of Strangford and four miles north of Ardglass.

During World War II the RAF built billets to accommodate military personnel who worked at the nearby Bishopscourt air base.

For decades, it was a hub of activity with its own cinema, dances and shops providing jobs for the local community.

However, all that was to change in the late 1980s when the RAF moved out and the billets were sold into private hands.

People bought them at rock bottom prices, moved in and many turned their new homes into little palaces.

The population grew to more than 1,000.

But as time went by, problems began to emerge.

The roads on the estate needed maintenance.

There had never been any street lighting and the sewers needed to be upgraded.

However, the biggest problem facing the new civilian population was that they owned the entire estate.

This meant that the authorities have no obligation to do repairs or upgrades.

The residents will have to fork out themselves to bring the infrastructure up to a certain standard before the state will take over.

That's not likely to happen.

'Ridiculous'

"It's like the lost village here," says resident Rosemary McMullan.

"It would be fantastic if the roads and sewers were fixed. You can't go out at night without streetlights.

"We're falling over each other and it's ridiculous. You can't even ride a bike."

Rosemary's neighbour, Angela Irvine, echoes her concerns.

"I have a child and I've gone through three buggies because of the roads."

Just a stone's throw away, over-looking the Irish Sea, lives Roisin Maguire.

The view from her living room is to die for.

She looks out at the uninhabited Guns Island.

Ballyhornan beach lies to the left and a four-mile coastal walk along the Ulster Way is to the right.

"It's a real privilege to live in a place that is so beautiful, it's one of the best kept secrets in Northern Ireland," says Roisin.

"But one of the main problems is the sewage system which is left over from World War II. The sewage is being pumped directly into the sea.

"We are told that the flow of water is outwards but we are not 100% convinced of that."

'Invest'

The Ballyhornan and District Community Association has done what it can to improve the quality of life in the area.

After struggling for ten years, there is now a new community centre next to the former airbase runway.

"We have five-a-side football, Zumba, mother and toddlers, youth club and birthday parties at the weekends," says Patricia Curran, chairman of the association.

She acknowledges that the problems of poor roads, lack of street lighting and a decrepit sewage system may take some time to solve.

"We would need the Office of First and Deputy First Minister to come on board and invest a lot of money in the area."

Legally the state is not obliged to do anything.

So ultimately the problems facing the residents of Ballyhornan may only be solved with an extraordinary gesture from the OFMDFM.