Northern Ireland

Mourne mountains in the blood

Snow covered slopes
Wave crashing over deep end sign
Single sheep against granite rock background
Tower
Gathering clouds with wildflowers in foreground
Woods reflected on lake surface
Shaft of sunlight on mountain and sea

Good Morning Ulster presenter Noel Thompson, who is putting on an exhibition of his pictures of the Mourne mountains this month, explains his lifelong love affair with the area.

When a trail for BBC Newsline appeared a few years ago showing me walking in the Mournes, many people thought it meant that I lived in the Kingdom of Mourne.

Indeed I'm told people in Rostrevor spoke fondly about knowing me as I was growing up there.

Well much as I would like to have been born in Rostrevor or anywhere around the mountains, sadly it was not so. I was born and reared in Belfast, but the Mournes are in my blood.

Cooling stream

I have this theory that, in the long gone times when families went on "days out", half the families in Belfast would go to the north coast, the other half to the Mournes.

We were in the latter half. Every Easter Monday and Tuesday and a few times over the summer, we would pile into the car and head for Tollymore Forest Park or some mountain car park, and spend the day picnicking and playing, as happy as sandboys.

We did things in style. Mother would serve ham and salad on china plates with the proper knives and forks, while my Dad would labour over an ancient Primus stove, turning out gallons of strong tea for the faithful.

Some years there may even have been a bottle of wine slipped into a cooling stream for adult refreshment.

One very strong memory is of my dad taking me and one of my brothers for a weekend in the Kinahalla youth hostel.

Thrill

We ate baked beans and fried eggs and got horribly lost in thick mist on Hen Mountain.

It didn't put me off though and over the years I have walked the Mournes from side to side and front to back many times.

Reaching the top of one of the peaks, however big or small, is always a thrill, and every time I go up I ask myself why I have not spent more of my time doing this.

I make no claim to being an expert photographer, but I never go into the mountains without a camera, and have accumulated thousands of pictures.

So I thought, why not pick the best of them and ask Down Council if they'd be interested in showing them.

To my delight, the council was very open to the idea, so it is with its generous support that my exhibition opened in the Newcastle tourist centre on Monday 17 September for a five week run.