Last Episode of Ulster Giants visits the Silent Valley

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Wednesday, September 4th, 2019
Community, What's On

UTV series, Ulster Giants, which celebrates Northern Ireland’s rich civil engineering heritage, draws to a close on Monday 9 September with UTV presenter Joe Mahon taking us back to the Silent Valley.

Throughout the series, Joe has travelled all over Northern Ireland looking at the inspiring stories behind our examples of civil engineering, both outstanding individuals and the gigantic structures they created. 

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The programmes have celebrated the mighty achievements of the past that have transformed our daily living, and reveal the cutting-edge technology that will shape the future of our infrastructure. 



In this episode of Ulster Giants, Joe Mahon teams up with civil engineer Phil Donald again to re-visit the Silent Valley in the Mourne Mountains, this time to examine the other elements of this massive scheme which played such a vital role in ensuring a reliable water supply for Belfast.

The first is the Bignian Tunnel, opened in 1952, which carried water from the Annalong River, via a tunnel which had to be blasted through two miles of granite, to supplement the levels of the Silent Valley Reservoir.

The second was the construction, immediately afterwards and further up the valley, of the Ben Crom reservoir which stores another 1,700 million gallons of water, should it be required.

This is one of the highest and remotest dams in Ireland, yet its construction, according to Phil Donald, was nowhere near as challenging as its more famous predecessor lower down the valley.



When it was first built back in the early 20th century, the water from the Silent Valley went straight into the homes of Belfast, without any purification process.

And so, starting in the year 1904, The Belfast Water Commission undertook a quite epic task – to build a wall of natural granite stone to an average height of five feet, stretching for 22 miles, crossing over 15 mountain peaks and enclosing an area of some 9,000 acres, all to keep livestock out of the Silent Valley catchment.

That work was carried out by local stone-wall builders, some of whom spent 18 years of their lives completing it but, as N.I. Water has found, the fabric of that wall needs almost constant refurbishment.

Joe meets Alice Whittington (pictured above) of RPS, the Project Engineer who, in the year 2014, carried out a survey of damage to the wall and engaged the services of a modern generation of masons to restore it, as far as possible, to its original state.



You can watch the final episode on Monday 9 September at 8pm on UTV and on catch up on  

Follow the conversation on Twitter @UTVPress




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