Meet the workers whose office is the Mourne Mountains

By Ian McTear

  • Published
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An office in the Mournes

Imagine if your office was 220 square miles of mountains and forests, or your commute to work was a two-hour hike into the hills.

For those who work in the Mourne Mountains this is a daily experience, so commonplace it is hardly worth remarking on - other than to say how happy you are not to be confined to a desk.

Not all are in jobs you might expect - for every farmer and forester there is a moth counter and a bee keeper.

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Would you swap your office for this?

World's best office?

Veronica, a summer volunteer from Texas who was working on repairing the Glen River Path up Slieve Donard, was delighted to be there - even as she wrestled with boulders and vainly swatted away the clouds of midges.

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The team is working to repair the Glen River path

"The worst thing is, sometimes, you get these boulders the whole way out and then you go 'no, don't need that, that is not the one,'" she said.

"I really love working outdoors, like this is one of the best offices in the world. I could not be happier right now, I never wanted to work in a cubicle."

She added: "You come home and you think you have only done a little thing, but you have made the world a better place."

The midge struggle

Katie Taylor, who works as a ranger and was part of the team repairing the path, is more philosophical about how ineffective her cap has been against the midge onslaught.

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The workers have to constantly battle swarms of midges

"Every season has its challenges - midges in the summer - they own that spot and you know you can't deny them."

Rooney respect

Stonemason Andy Rooney is also part of a team taking advantage of the summer sunshine to carry out repair work.

He is from a family who are the fifth generation of stonemasons working on the Mourne wall. It is a 22-mile-long, hand-cut dry stone wall that passes over 15 mountains.

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Andy Rooney is following in his family's footsteps as a stonemason

The skills are passed down from father to son.

"Our grandfather would have worked on this wall and our great-grandfather as well," said Mr Rooney.

"You have to admire them, the conditions would not have been great then.

"They would have probably stayed up here until maybe midweek, back down for supplies, so it would not have been easy."

He added: "They would not have had the gear or the footwear or the waterproofs that we have nowadays."

Moth party

Andy Crory is single-minded in his devotion to working in the great outdoors.

Image source, BBC
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Andy Crory does not let birthdays or Christmas stop him from moth recording

He is a moth recorder in the Murlough Nature Reserve.

"I'll be down here Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve," he said.

"Does not matter - wife's birthday, my birthday, kids' birthdays.

"How are you going to get a handle on the numbers of these things if you don't trap?"

There are 700 types of butterfly and moth on the reserve and Mr Crory feels some kinship with them.

"It's like a party and you see the same friends every day. These are the people I see every day.

"I have just called moths people... oh dear."

The tree whisperer

Donald Whiteside, a wildlife ranger for the Forest Service for almost four decades, has also developed a close connection with the landscape.

During the filming of the series he was carrying out a deer survey in Tollymore, where there is a herd of about 150 fallow deer.

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Donald Whiteside has regular chats with the trees in the forest

"To me, trees are art of my life. Trees basically have spirits.

"They are a living part of mankind and relate back to when cavemen were about.

"Believe it or not, trees normally talk to me - strangely."

The Chronicles of Mourne starts on BBC One NI on Monday 29 October at 19:30 GMT.