Ellie Harrison takes a journey that weaves across the border between Northern Ireland and Eire, starting deep underground in the Fermanagh and Cavan Caves.
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Today I'm on a journey that weaves a path
across the border between Northern Ireland and Eire,
beginning here in the west, deep underground, and ending high in the mountains of the east.
I'm starting my journey deep beneath the border
in the Fermanagh and Cavan caves at Corralea.
When I emerge, I'll head east to Aghalane,
then follow the border, hugging the Ulster Canal,
before ending my journey in the Mourne Mountains near Hilltown.
And along the way I'll be looking back at the very best
of the BBC's rural programmes from this part of the world.
Welcome to Country Tracks.
This area of Northern Ireland is one of the country's hotspots for caving,
with vast networks of tunnels and caverns up to 100 metres deep
and as much as seven kilometres in length.
-Hi, Marius. Good to meet you.
-Is this the cave?
'My guide today is Marius Leonard, a qualified cave leader
'who regularly takes visitors into these caves from his activities centre in Corralea.'
-'This particular cave is known as Coolarkan.'
Wow! This is amazing.
Yeah, it's quite a nice cave.
'It enters the hillside at the bottom of a 15-metre waterfall.'
OK, we're gonna need our lamps because it's very dark.
-Let me just turn your light on.
-There we go. All set up.
-OK, that's us. Just be careful where you walk.
'Now, I must admit that descending into subterranean tunnels
'wouldn't normally be my first choice for a day out.
'But I'm actually getting quite excited.'
This is absolutely amazing. It's nice and spacious, isn't it?
Yes, it is, it's big at this point.
I'm really grateful you didn't take me down a squeezy cave.
Well, there are small caves as well, actually, with small passages.
But this one here is quite an easy cave. It's a beginner's cave.
-So, this part of Ireland is really good for caves?
-Yeah, it is, yeah.
Fermanagh/Cavan is one of the principal areas for caving, along with Clare, down south.
And what is it about the geology of the area that forms all these caves?
Er, we've got...it's basically limestone, limestone rock,
that the caves are formed in.
And what you've got is...you've got a reserve of water up on the moor,
which is flowing off the moor.
And as soon as it hits the limestone it'll find cracks in the limestone,
and hence it makes that larger and larger throughout time, and hence we've got a cave.
-And all the different types of caves as well that that brings...
-Yeah, that's right, yeah.
It'll bring vertical caves, or it'll bring horizontal caves.
'The cave is chock full of fascinating rock formations,
'such as flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites.
'And there are some unusual deposits on the cave walls.'
What are those shiny white bits on the ceiling?
-Er, that's called cave silver.
And, er... you won't find it in every cave.
It's unique to some caves, where you get a certain amount of humidity.
And it's a bacteria that's growing on the ceiling.
-So it's not actual silver?
-No, it's not real silver.
And you get droplets of water on it.
And therefore, when you shine your light, it appears very silvery and sparkly.
Goodness! It's a really, really good example.
'Deep underground, in these magical caves, I can already sense
'that this part of Ireland, not normally known as a tourist destination,
'has a lot to offer visitors.
'The landscape above ground is magical, too, as Adam Henson found
'when he went on the trail of one of Ireland's best-known poets.'
I've come to the Irish Wild West, on a mission.
On a mission for adventure.
Known as the Land of the Horse, I'm planning a trek from the Atlantic,
round Ben Bulben mountain, to Glencar Lough -
following in the horsesteps of the great Irish poet Yeats, who once called this place home.
County Sligo is in the north-west of Ireland, near the border with Ulster.
Riders are lured here by the chance to gallop on empty beaches, and a freedom to explore.
Tilman Anhold set up the Horse Holiday Farm here 34 years ago.
-So, what's this one called, then, Tilman?
-This is Doonbeg.
Doonbeg is seven years old. He's an Irish draught.
We bought him as a two-year-old, and we have him now five years.
For leisure riding, you can't get a better horse than the Irish draught.
Ideal for what we're doing here, going cross-country,
the jumps, going on the beaches, going on the stones and all that.
-You can't beat them for that.
They have five legs, you know, they always find another one!
Just lead him around there...
Here you have your map for the day, you see.
Just go down to the shore, take a left. Go as far as you can go.
You see a little car park there. That is where people bathe a lot.
-Go up about half a mile, mile.
-Oh, what freedom.
Back again into Grange, where you stay tonight.
-So, who's riding with me today?
Ian is for a couple of days. He's doing the same trek. He's a local guy.
-Hi, Adam, how are you doing?
-All right, yeah.
'It's a rare opportunity to go on a real adventure, with just a map and Ian as my guide.
'I'm free to explore at my own pace, starting with the Atlantic.'
And how long have you been riding?
Wow! Since you were two!
Ha! Yeah! I like you!
-Are those seals over there?
Wow, look at that!
OK, so the shoulders back, the heels down.
No problem, don't lose your nerve now.
So, are these beaches free to ride on, Ian?
Yes, all beaches are owned by the state, so they're completely free to ride on.
But no bathers on this one?
No bathers on this one.
With the Atlantic coming in there, there's too many swells.
It's something you don't come across much in England, being able to ride on the beaches.
This is a real treat.
That's great, isn't it? Fantastic!
-They were a bit nervous going in the waves there, weren't they?
-Yeah, yeah, they're coming in fast.
'Some friendly Irish cowgirls explained how to cross to Dernish Island.
'It needs to be done carefully, at low tide, to make sure you don't get stranded.'
That's really good, Ian! What's this range of mountains called, then?
-This is the Dartry range.
-So, that's Ben Bulben at the end, is it?
-That's Ben Bulben at the end, yes.
-Oh, what a magnificent sight.
-We'll ride around the back of it there.
-A lovely strip of sand here.
'Ireland is famed for training racehorses.
'And, with all this hard sand, even novice jockeys like me are inspired to let fly.'
-We'll go straight across there.
Oh, it's just so exhilarating!
It's just fantastic fun. Wide-open spaces.
Check out the view. Unbelievable!
Oh, I think I might have clouted my family glory there a little bit!
'Feeling saddle-sore, it was time for this red-haired ranger
'and his horse to find a watering hole, in the small town of Grange.'
-It's a bit like a horse car park, then?
-Something like that!
'This is a popular stop for all wannabe John Wayne's on the trail.'
-So, what's next?
-Head up the mountain, I think.
You can have a drink here.
There's a good lad. Go on, then.
Good boy. Go on.
There's a good boy. Amazing.
You've got a whole river, and you want his bit?
I can see the bottom in here.
'I could soon see what the local poet WB Yeats called bare Ben Bulben looming up ahead.
'We just had to find our way around it today.
'We came across what I thought were wild horses running free.
'It turned out they were actually being bred up here.'
There's a lot of horses here, Ian!
Take your pick!
-I suppose we'd better crack on.
-Come on, out the way, horses!
D'you know how high it is?
-You're making that up?
2,113 feet. Look at that!
'After a long day in the saddle,
'it was time to find my bed for the night, and say farewell to Ian.'
-So, I think the road takes us down now to the horse bed and breakfast, doesn't it?
-All right, well, thanks a lot.
-Good to see you.
Thanks for looking after me.
There you go. A bit more of a brush.
What a spot to spend a night, eh?
I suppose you're used to it.
Thank you very much.
A keen horseman, Yeats was inspired by the landscape of County Sligo.
And the Nobel-prize-winning poet is a major attraction for the area.
So, this is Yeats country?
Yes, this is the country which is called after WB Yeats, and which he immortalised in his poetry.
This wonderful countryside that he got to know when he was a schoolboy.
His family came from this part of the world, and he spent so many of his holidays in his childhood here,
that it became part of his life, and he said afterwards that he never
wrote any poetry without having something of Sligo in it.
And when it came to the end of his life, and he knew he wasn't going
to last much longer, he asked that he might be brought back,
and be buried here in Drumcliff churchyard.
Right, Adam, well, this is where we've arrived now at Yeats' grave.
Probably one of the most visited graves in the world.
There's a very interesting story about this, because in 1938,
just before he died, he wrote a long poem called Under Ben Bulben,
and in that poem he gave full instructions about where he was to be buried,
and what was to be put on this tombstone here.
And he says...
Under bare Ben Bulben's head,
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there Long years ago, a church stands near
By the road an ancient cross
No marble, no conventional phrase
On limestone quarried near the spot By his command these words are cut
Cast a cold eye On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by.
Well, thank you very much, Stella, that was lovely.
-It's probably time for this horseman to get back on his way.
-I think so!
Today, I'm heading to Glencar Lough, where I've arranged to meet the owner, Tilman.
All I've got to do is find the way.
'As I head up into the remote parts of the Irish Wild West,
'I'm armed only with a small camera.'
I'm climbing up Ben Bulben now, which is known locally as King's Mountain.
The change of scenery is just fantastic, from being on the beach.
It's a lovely time of year now, all the trees have got
fresh green leaves, and the spring flowers have come out.
Little butterflies fluttering around.
One man with his horse.
It's just great, really.
It's real escapism at its best.
My route up took me along an old cart track.
There were no signs, so you have to be careful where you go, as a lot of the land is private.
Although a lot of the beaches are free to ride on,
quite a lot of the farmland is blocked to riders,
although there are some permissive access routes.
And unlike in England, where there's right to roam,
here, farmers are quite protective of their land.
'My plan was to reach the summit,
'then make my way down to Glencar Lough.'
Well, I've finally made it to the top. And what a view!
Going back a few years, it must have been great being a stockman up here,
working on horseback, or up in the forests.
It's real wild country.
Amazing! There's Glencar Lough!
And here comes Tilman!
-How are you keeping?
-All right, yeah. Good to see you.
-Good to see you.
-How are you doing, my friend? How are you?
-Good, good, good.
-Isn't it wonderful?
This year, we've had it exceptional, we've had good weather since the middle of March, really.
I thought it was always sunny in the west of Ireland.
Not always, but it's getting better!
Look at all them shamrocks here, acres of them.
-Lucky shamrocks, hey?
-Lucky they are!
The horses like them, they really like them.
-Wow! What a view, Tilman, Glencar Lough, is it?
-It is, it is.
-Look at the mountains.
And then the lough runs into the sea?
Runs down to the ocean.
And that's a great river then for salmon.
It's not hard to see why this place was such an inspiration for poetry.
From the hills above Glencar
In pools among the rushes That scarce could bathe a star
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
We give them unquiet dreams
Leaning softly out From ferns that drop their tears...
Adam, in Yeats country.
Er, so, hence the name White Fathers Cave...
'A few miles from the caves of Coolarkan,
'south of the border, Marius and I are heading underground again.'
So, the name of this cave is called White Fathers Cave.
And it's named after the monastery, which is just above us,
where the White Fathers missionaries stayed.
And hence it gets the name White Fathers Cave.
The big difference here is that the entire cave floor is a river.
So, we're gonna get a little bit wet.
up to your welly boots.
-Wellies I can handle.
But then unfortunately, it goes up to your knees.
Oh, goodness! I don't like the sound of where this is going.
And then it goes to your...hips.
-You'll love that!
-It sounds cold.
But the water is tropically warm.
I don't believe a word you've just said there, Marius.
Although you are launching in with quite a cavalier attitude.
-I'm trying to teeter around where my boots don't...
-There are palm trees round the corner.
Right! I'm waiting for that moment where it breaches the boots.
-It's coming, I can feel it.
-Oh, yes, it's arrived! Over the feet!
That's FREEZING! And that's just the boots!
Oh! People do this, do they?
'OK, so I might be feeling soggy and cold,
'but the formations here are truly wonderful.'
So, what we've got here is a formation called flowstone.
And it's the calcium carbonate, which is brought with the water.
And as it flows along, the water flows along, it deposits the calcium carbonate onto the rock.
And hence gives this formation.
The formations certainly make up for the cold water.
Well, you know, actually, they do. This is amazing.
-Again, more flowstone.
It's different again, we've come round another corner, and it looks different again.
Yeah. It's beautiful here. You've got a different type of formation,
on the ceiling, like a stalactite, only it's oozing out of the rock.
And then below it, we've got again some flowstone,
where the water's flowing, depositing calcium carbonate as it moves.
-And the layers are so clear on here, it's amazing.
And you've got these little pools.
Sometimes I imagine it looks like little paddy fields.
It really does.
And it's just kept in very pristine order. A lot of cavers,
we don't go near it, we don't walk on it, we don't touch it.
You know, it's great to see that you come down here as often as you do,
and you act as a guardian and a custodian of the formations here.
It's like the best field trip, coming down here. I love it!
-Up to your knees...
-Up to YOUR knees! Up to my thighs!
Nice and slowly...
And how long would this beautiful parasol here have taken to form?
It's difficult to say, really. But generally, one thinks about a centimetre taking about 1,000 years.
So, roughly, give or take, depending on the flow of the water,
and of the concentrate of the calcite in the rock.
It's worth getting blue toes for.
-It is certainly, yes.
-Shall we go on?
-Shall we go on, yep?
'The peace and tranquillity of these caves
'hasn't always been matched above ground, along Ireland's border.
'Against the backdrop of some of the most beautiful countryside in the British Isles,
'violence has blighted the lives of many communities living here.
'In 1997, the peace process was in its infancy.'
This is border country,
between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Because of the fear engendered here,
many farming families fled to places that were safer.
And now, despite all the uncertainties around the peace talks, which are due to start tomorrow,
the process has begun of trying to persuade
many of those families to come back.
For nearly 30 years, since bombs and shootings became commonplace,
the army has patrolled these lovely country lanes along the Ulster side of the border.
Despite the current ceasefire, there's still tension here,
heightened last week by the IRA's refusal to accept the decommissioning of arms.
But there is also talk of reconciliation.
The farmers who fled from this predominantly Catholic area
were all Protestants, people like William Long.
He was also a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment,
as was a neighbour and friend murdered by the IRA in 1972.
The security forces told me they couldn't protect me indefinitely.
And the advice was to move to a safer area.
-What, as quickly as possible?
-As quickly as possible, yes.
So, how long after your friend was murdered did you move?
Nine days, exactly.
And how much have you personally missed the farm?
I mean, this has been in the family for 200 years or more, hasn't it?
Oh, I don't know. I couldn't explain how much I missed it.
I ended up, as you know, in the security forces, a full-time member of the security forces.
But I wasn't a soldier. I was a farmer at heart.
Some farmers in similar situations emigrated. Others moved to the towns.
Recently a Protestant group was set up
to help those families who think they should now return to their land.
Now is the time we feel to take an opportunity to get together,
and take in their experiences, and provide support to them,
be it financial or emotional.
And we realise that it is a very tender time in the peace process,
but we're hopeful that we can get things moving, and we're not going to let the peace process
get in the way of trying to do something positive for the community here.
You've applied for funding, haven't you, to the reconciliation fund?
Why do you need this money?
Well, really because the land hasn't been cared for, as it were.
If the farmers had been there on site, they would have cared for it lovingly.
As it were, they had to leave it, and let it out in many cases,
so it was not cared for as an owner, if you like.
So, drainage hasn't been taken care of.
Outhouses haven't been looked after as well as they should have been.
Concrete lanes weren't put in.
All of that sort of area has to be looked at.
And presumably the houses as well have been abandoned.
Yes indeed, these have to be looked at as well.
The family who lived in this farm fled for their lives
after a terrorist attack nearly a quarter of a century ago,
hurriedly leaving behind many of their possessions.
They started a new life many miles away.
Could you be tempted to move back into this house?
-Yes, I think I could.
-What would it take?
Well, as you can see,
the house is in a very bad state.
So, a bulldozer to level it and build a complete new house.
That would take a lot of money, wouldn't it? Have you got that cash?
Well, we would hope the Government might provide us with some grant towards the cost of that.
And you wouldn't be worried now about any danger in moving back?
We're in a new situation now.
Plus the fact that I'm out of the UDR now for six years,
I don't think it would be any great problem.
John McClure is back rearing cattle on his land.
All he wants now is to live here as well.
This used to be one of the main roads across the border in County Fermanagh.
But as you can see, it's not been used for a long time now.
And the reason is that this bridge across the canal,
which marks the border here, was blown up in the early 1970s.
It was demolished to try and stop terrorists coming across from the Republic.
And it happened shortly after a Protestant farmer and his wife
were murdered just a short distance from here.
One of their neighbours, who was related to the couple, lives here,
in the nearest house to the blown-up bridge.
Despite the horror of the killings, and threats to her own family,
she and her husband decided to stay.
But after your relatives were murdered, you must have been tempted to leave here?
Yes, indeed, I was. And even coming up to that,
there were times when I felt, what's the point of staying?
There were so many instances, it just started off in a small way,
and then there were buses being hijacked, and then there were buildings bombed.
And then the murders happened.
And there was also some claymore mines left at the back gate.
-On your farm?
-Yes, well, it's just outside the back gate,
and it was just going into the hedge.
I really felt that was a very sinister act.
-Buses were being hijacked, set on fire...
On one occasion, the fireman reversed back here
with the bus still on fire.
And then the terrorists started to fire, you know.
And the bullets were whizzing past as well, so it was really quite a frightening time.
-And yet you still stayed here?
-My husband hadn't any intention of leaving,
and I certainly wasn't going to leave him here on his own.
He was like a lot of Irish men, he just said he wasn't going to move.
Mrs Bullock, now a widow, still runs the farm with her sons.
One of them has begun to repair the long-empty house of his murdered relatives, and intends to live there.
It's part of a new, positive mood along the border.
The road checks are still there. Precautions are still taken.
It's too early to talk of things returning to the way they were before the Troubles.
But the fact that Protestant farmers who fled now do want to come home
is welcomed by all sections of the community here.
Well, it'll be seen as the beginning
of a rebuilding of relationships.
You have to understand that the families who left here did so
at the height of the Troubles,
when there was a great deal of fear and tension in this community.
That was during the 1970s and part of the 1980s.
So, there is a feeling that it is time now
that the conflict has ended, to begin the work of reconciliation.
But there are long memories around here, aren't there?
Yes, and reconciliation is something that is going to take a long time.
Before the Troubles, relations in the community were very good.
And I have no doubt that we can get back to that situation.
For John McClure, if the talks starting tomorrow
do bring permanent peace, the years of waiting to go home will be over,
as they will for William Long.
My father and my wife's people were both farming people.
And it was terrible to have to leave it, and do something that you really didn't want to do.
It would be great to be able to come back, and that there was peace in the country. I would love it.
'12 years have passed since that report was made.
'And although things are more peaceful,
'none of the farmers featured have moved back into the area.
'But Joan Bullock still lives here,
'and I've come to find out from her how things have changed.'
So, Joan, how does it feel seeing that archive piece, when we were here last, 12 years ago?
Oh, well, it's much more peaceful now, and we're much more at ease.
And with the opening of the road here,
in 2000, it's made a big change as well.
It opened up the whole countryside, and there's more coming and going.
How have things been for you, and for the community, in the 12 years
-since we were last here?
-Oh, there's been a big improvement.
You know, there was years of plenty, and now we're more in years of famine!
But things were going very well.
But the last few years it hasn't been so good on the farming scene.
We saw how the farmers left the area and potentially wanted to come back. Did they do that?
Well, some of the farmers who, erm, had to leave because of the Troubles, they haven't come back.
But some of the other ones,
I think their sons have maybe taken over the farm,
because they would be pensioners now.
The renovation of Joan's son's house is now complete.
But a general downturn has meant that he can no longer rely on a good income from farming.
What other changes has the area seen?
Well, just, erm, when the road opened here in 2000,
four or five years before that, the canal opened.
And they built new lock gates, and it's navigable now from Enniskillen right on.
I think you can nearly go to Limerick, but it opened up
a whole new tourist potential for the area.
So have you seen more people using that and coming through the area?
Yes, especially the first two years it was open,
it was a wonderful summer.
And everyone was interested in it, not only foreign people,
but also people from the Republic, from Dublin,
roundabout there. And they were all very keen.
And we had some of the narrowboats over from England as well.
It was really a lovely time.
And more and more people are choosing to holiday in Britain,
so potentially see some homespun tourists as well?
Well, we haven't just the same infrastructure as you have round your canals in England.
But it's beautiful countryside, and people really like it.
It sounds very appealing to me, I'd certainly enjoy that.
Tourism may be the future.
But traditionally, the land surrounding the border has been mainly used for agriculture.
Just a few miles from Joan's house is Lough Erne,
the home of some local pigs.
Go on, on you go!
So, Pat, which island are we heading out to?
We're heading out to Inishcorkish Island
It's a trip approximately half a mile long.
And it'll take us probably half an hour, you know, er...
And it's very good grazing, isn't it? The food is good.
Well, the food really is natural. You've got natural herbs.
Why should human beings tell a pig what to eat?
How long have farmers been bringing pigs out to the islands to graze?
We're right on the M1 here, of Lough Erne, it was the M1 of Fermanagh, hundreds of years ago.
This was a thriving community of, you know,
pigs coming out to islands, and other animals going out to islands.
So, basically, you are doing what has been done in these parts for centuries?
We're going back to understand about food,
and we're bringing it into the future, to create a better food.
How many pigs will you have on the island?
Well, this is the first batch.
We normally bring them over in dozens or twenties at a time.
And it'll probably go up to 200 pigs, 250...
-And how long will you graze them?
-10 to 11 months,
-whenever they're ready for the next phase of their life.
-How old are the pigs?
-They're roughly about 12 weeks old, when they come onto the island, you know?
And really, at the end of the day, they find that they will live 90% of their life here.
Do you think because you graze them in this way, in such a natural way, that the meat tastes better?
All the herbs they eat out here and various other thingies that they get
will really create a bacon that we will be proud of, you know.
So it's a signature of Fermanagh, really, it's fantastic.
They were tucking into the nettles down there, so will they eat anything?
-Well, have you ever tried nettle soup?
-I think you should!
Pat comes every evening for the first couple of weeks to feed the herd.
They're then left to fend for themselves.
We've only been here a couple of minutes and already
the pigs have disappeared. There's no sight of them at all.
Well, you know, here, it's very, very easy to lose yourself.
Most of the pigs arrive here, that's them, they're away.
I suppose like children arriving in a playground.
-That's how you can describe it.
-There's no housing here for them.
Where do they sleep at night?
At night, pigs generally will go into the undergrowth.
They organise themselves head to toe,
so one would have his head this way, another head is at their toes.
They organise themselves in a long line.
It's absolutely fantastic.
So they have this life but then, ultimately,
they're going to be bacon.
To me, it's a love-hate relationship.
Really, you get very attached to the animals, particularly out here.
They do live a very nice lifestyle but eventually,
you know, the Fermanagh Black Bacon has to survive.
Some of your bacon is unique, isn't it, it doesn't contain any nitrates, any additives?
Why adulter perfect food?
We want flavours and tastes that are natural
and we want our customers to be healthy.
If there are around 200 pigs on the island here,
how do you round them all up?
Well, we've the biggest party you ever did see.
First of all, you have to round up all the children from around Enniskillen.
You bring them out here and they go through the island and at the end, when you get all pigs on,
we've the greatest autumn party you ever did see.
It's absolutely fantastic fun and they love it and the pigs love it!
I started my Irish border journey deep in the caves at Corralea,
before heading east to Aghalane.
Now I've come to Benburb and the remains of the Ulster Canal.
Back in 1841, the canal was built to link the Shannon-Erne Waterway with Lough Neagh.
But its success was short-lived.
Today, it is all but invisible in places,
but enthusiast Brian Castles has an ambitious dream
to reopen the waterway as a pleasure ground for tourists.
So, Brian, why is it important to open up this stretch of the canal?
Well, the canal isn't all about boats.
This will become the tourist icon for the future.
This is the project that hopefully will rival
the Giant's Causeway for visitor attractions in Northern Ireland.
There were seven locks originally in this section of the Ulster Canal.
And here you can actually see what remains of those seven locks.
-Some of them have disappeared completely.
-You can see how narrow the lock itself was.
You can see the wall,
covered with lichen, covered with moss.
It looks like something out of Lord Of The Rings.
Nature's taken over, hasn't it?
Nature has taken over. Some of them have disappeared completely.
-In fact, there's one or two which it's questionable where they are.
They're buried literally under earth
that has been piled up on top of them.
My idea is, rather than reinstate the locks themselves,
to have a continuous boat lift from the bottom of the valley up to the top,
-where the boat actually sails into a cradle.
And the cradle is taken along the gorge section, along the valley,
right up to the mill at the top.
And you can think of what this could be.
This could be the Falkirk Wheel of Ireland.
It could be the Anderton Boat Lift for this area.
People are going to come and see this attraction.
It will be quite spectacular in itself.
People will sail here especially to use it, I should think.
I would have thought so. Everybody will want to go and come and sail
and see this section and experience the thrill
of being part of a boat lift.
One reason for the canal's failure was that it was originally
built too narrow, a major problem when it comes to bridges and locks.
Brian has a solution.
So the plan is to retain the original structure,
remove the towpath.
That will give us adequate width.
It will give us an extra five feet,
making the navigation about 17 foot wide.
When we come to the locks, it's a matter of moving the lock walls just that little bit further apart.
The locks will have to be dismantled, stones numbered and put back
in the same position as they were originally.
But the lock walls, further apart.
All the original stones will be used?
All the original stones will be used.
And luckily, that means this bridge will be able to stay?
That means this bridge and the majority of the bridges along the canal will survive,
because fortunately, most of the heritage structures are still in existence.
'Even previously unused areas could fit into Brian's new plans.'
Wow, this is beautiful here.
Well, this is the quarry area,
part of the gorge again. This is where the stones were quarried,
the stones for the bridges, the stones for the locks,
the stones for all the infrastructure along the canal.
It's a little bit overgrown. What are the plans for this quarry?
Well, this could be a marina.
What an iconic place for that, with floating berths
around the old quarry itself.
And boats being able to overnight here, to moor here.
Brian's cross-border project has the support of the Inland Waterways Association Of Ireland,
but the cost will be an estimated 120 million euros.
It's a huge amount of work, the plan and the vision
and driving the whole thing forward, getting the money together.
What do you get out of it?
Well, dare I say, Ellie, old men dream dreams.
-It's a vision of mine.
I've been lobbying for the reopening of the Ulster Canal
for virtually 25 years.
I would hasten to add that perhaps at the start of that,
folk would laugh at you, at the idea of re-opening such a canal.
But today, they take the dream seriously.
Because already the Republic's government have committed 34 million
towards the first section of the canal being reopened,
that from Loch Erne through to Clones. So suddenly,
the vision is becoming a reality.
And when will that work begin, the very start?
That work will begin, diggers in the ground,
hopefully by the end of next year.
And by 2013, again we will see boats sailing on the Ulster Canal.
So I can just see you in the marina somewhere there,
having a cappuccino on your boat.
-Or a latte.
-Or a latte, exactly.
If Brian's plan comes to fruition,
the canal will once again run into Lough Neagh,
the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland.
For centuries, local communities have survived on eel fishing,
but back in 2005, low level stocks were threatening their future.
Eels spawn in the Caribbean waters of the Sargasso Sea,
then the babies return to North America and Europe.
Lough Neagh is famous for its eels which have provided a livelihood for generations of fishermen.
It takes a year and a half for the eels just to get here
to Lough Neagh, and if you want to catch them,
well, you have to be up pretty early.
It's five o'clock in the morning and we've been here for hours.
There were once 250 boats on this water.
In the 1980s, the number of eels across Europe suddenly crashed.
Though efforts have been made to replenish the lough,
there are now just 53 boats
and the future for Martin and his son, James, is far from certain.
So, how many years have you been doing this?
Well, I've been fishing from 12 years of age.
I'm 40 now, almost 30 years.
So why do you do it?
I'm actually a fourth generation of the Donnelly family
fishing eels on Lough Neagh.
I love the outdoor life. Fresh air.
So what's changed then, in the 30 years you've been on this water?
The stock of eels has changed, drastically.
It's nearly completely extinct in Lough Neagh, the eel.
The Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative runs eel fishing
but the Donnellys and some other eelmen have reformed their trade union
because they're unhappy with the way the co-op's managing the fishery.
It's a disaster at the moment.
Active fishermen have reported that this is the worse year so far.
This was once a very lucrative business.
So it's very, very worrying at the moment.
Where do you think, then, the co-op has been going wrong
and what needs to happen now?
Well, the first thing is that we feel there needs to be
more silver eel escapement,
that is that the mother eel be allowed to escape to spawn,
because that will then be natural recovery.
But in the meantime, what the co-op and the government need to do
is to fund the recruitment of elver eels, of baby eels.
The co-op points out it has introduced restrictions on fishing
and research shows that substantial numbers of silver eels do escape.
It's not just Lough Neagh that has suffered a decline
in elver recruitment.
That is European-wide and probably worldwide.
The difference is that in Europe, they didn't buy any elvers to replenish stocks,
they just left it until it got into a state of total crisis.
We here have bought 70 million.
To say that we have recruited millions of elvers
sounds adequate, sounds big, but it's clearly not enough.
The co-op now wants government help.
Scientists say this local problem needs an international solution, so what caused it?
The simple reason is we don't know.
The very fact that it happened all over Europe at the same time
in the 1980s would suggest very strongly
that something's happened in the oceanic phase of the life cycle.
What we do unilaterally on Lough Neagh
doesn't really make a huge difference on its own.
It's what's done over Europe as a whole that makes a difference.
We need to restore the entire European spawning stock
and many of the lost habitats and everything else on a European basis.
So we're talking about a very long-term programme.
It's local fishermen who are feeling the pain.
Martin can keep less than half of the morning's catch.
The rest he has to throw back because they're still too small.
He claims 90% of them will die, as they're too damaged by hooks to feed.
As to the future, he's not optimistic.
There'll be a drastic finish to the livelihoods of a lot of people.
And the youth, the children coming up, there's going to be nothing there for them.
It's the end of a tradition if it keeps going the way it's going.
By the evening, the eels will be in London or Amsterdam.
Jellied or smoked, wild Lough Neagh eels are a delicacy,
but an increasingly rare one.
Over the past decade, catches have fallen by 50%
and no-one's too confident about what will happen over the next decade.
The latest figures show that restocking still continues in this heavily managed fishery
and the Chief Fisheries Officer tells us that he doesn't think
eel stocks have dwindled since 2005.
My journey so far has taken me from
beneath the border in the Fermanagh and Cavan caves at Corralea,
then to Aghalane before following the route of the Ulster Canal.
Now I've arrived at the majestic Mourne mountains,
which have a striking man-made feature, the Mourne Wall.
At 22 miles in length, the wall took 18 years to complete
between 1904 and 1922.
Built by the Belfast Water Commission
to enclose the water catchment in the Mournes,
some argue that it's quite useless as it fences off about 9,000 acres
of barren and desolate mountain.
However, it brought welcome employment to those who toiled over its construction.
I'm getting quite out of breath just walking up here in my backpack,
so I can only imagine how tough it was for the poor souls that had to come up here,
right to the top, to build the impressive Mourne Wall.
You can walk the entire length of the Mourne Wall in one day, which is quite a challenge.
But I'm told it's THE walk of the Mourne mountains
and one of the finest in Northern Ireland.
However far you decide to walk, the Mournes are easily
the most picturesque mountain district in Northern Ireland.
The views from any one of the 12 peaks are breathtaking.
From up here, it's hard to imagine that Ireland's border has ever been anything other than peaceful.
To symbolise the long and twisting path to peace,
this maze has been constructed in Castlewellan Forest Park
from 6,000 young yew trees.
And the design is based on ideas from children all over Northern Ireland.
My design is basically the difficult part at the start,
kind of like a chicane that goes up and down.
And it shows the ups and downs to peace and how hard and difficult
it actually is, and how all the different ways there is to go.
# All we are saying
# Is give peace a chance... #
Well, this pathway divides the two halves of the maze.
And a lot of children in their entries said
they wanted a divide because the people of Northern Ireland
would have to cross a divide if peace is going to be permanent.
And Mellissa, your winning entry isn't here yet, is it?
-No, it's not.
-What's it going to be?
Well, it's going to be a water fountain symbolising how
Catholics and Protestants drink from the same water and the same source.
# All we are saying
# Is give peace a chance. #
And what is your fountain going to look like?
Well, we're going to have little peace doves and hands clasped, sort of like that,
to symbolise that the two religions are one and they can hold hands and be peaceful.
And are you disappointed that your fountain isn't here yet?
Well, peace takes a long time and the maze continues to grow every day
so I'm sure it will be added soon.
Well, this bell right at the end of the maze was your idea, wasn't it? Why a bell?
So that it will encourage people when they hear the bell,
to keep trying when they're lost.
Me and Aaron thought of this together
and when people get to the end, they could ring it
to let people know that they've got to the finish of the maze.
Well, give it a ring then.
This is trying to convert ideas which are very raw
into something which is very workable.
And it has made something which is completely unique, I think.
The hedge won't be more than 5ft high
because we want people to be able to see across the top
and not get this claustrophobic feeling
that quite a lot of people do experience in mazes.
And also, that they can get eye contact and shout across.
We want people to shout, you know,
we want people to actually engage with it in a very sort of vocal way.
And why yew trees?
Well, it has to be yew trees really. They're evergreen.
I mean, we couldn't have a deciduous hedge here. We want evergreen peace.
We don't want six months on and six months off!
You'll notice that there are tall, thin ones and short, fat ones,
that's because they are not horticulturally cloned
but they're raised from seed,
which means that they're all genetically individual.
They, in themselves, symbolise a population of people,
if you like, boys and girls growing together, forming that hedge.
Here, we've got the rocky road in the peace maze. What do you think this means?
You have to take your time as you go through it
and sometimes you might stumble, but you have to get up and try again.
The road to peace isn't an easy one.
Try not to fall off the rocks.
It shows you that you have to go through different ways
and sometimes you'll go the wrong way and come to a dead end and have to go back,
but it's like there is always a path to get there if you try.
It may seem strange, but this maze is one of Northern Ireland's best-kept secrets.
And the reason is that it was officially opened last year
on September 12th, when the attention of the world was not on peace,
but on a terrorist outrage many thousands of miles from here.
It has taken time for news to filter out that it's actually here.
I think once we go for the world record,
-there will be a lot of mileage in that.
-The biggest maze?
The biggest maze in the world.
It's 1.1 hectares, which is 2.7 acres.
3.5km of hedge, 3.5km of path,
the biggest in the world that we know about.
A lot of people, particularly children, tend to come in here
and treat the whole thing as a race, who can get there first.
You see a lot of adults coming in
and they are studying which way to go, this way or that.
But it's a great leveller,
because it doesn't matter if you are a highly qualified person
or simply a child,
finding your way can be a large element of faith and luck.
And when you finally do get to the centre of the maze, you don't have to go all the way out again, do you?
No, you have a straight way out, straight over the bridge.
It was one of the things that we found very anti-climactic,
that having found your way into mazes,
you then had to find your way out again.
The idea of the bridge came straight from the schools' design competition.
Once you've achieved peace, it's a straight road ahead.
Seven years on and the 6,000 yew trees have matured nicely
and the peace maze is now officially recognised
as the largest permanent hedge maze in the world.
For the final leg of my journey,
I'm still in the Mourne mountains just a stone's throw from the maze.
The Mournes may be one of the most beautiful areas in Northern Ireland
but they can also be one of the most dangerous.
Tonight, I've been invited to join the local mountain rescue team
to see how they train.
if you can do casualty this evening.
The exercise is a basic search...
Tonight's exercise will be a sweep search.
One of the team will play the part of the victim and then it's up to the rest to find him
and bring him safely off the mountain.
So as he disappears into the hills,
I've got a chance to chat to the team's chairman, Ed Kilgore.
What kind of area do you cover?
Basically, we tend to treat just the Mournes as our main area.
We will go anywhere in Ireland.
We have been on call. We were on call for 9/11, so we'll go international.
We link with the teams in Scotland, England and Wales and they with us.
We're all sort of in the mountain rescue council, so we all kind of link across.
So we're available anywhere. But mainly we call the Mournes our patch.
But they're an area which has to be treated.
Even though they're reasonably small in height, the weather can change.
Even today, you can go from this to mist and fog in half an hour or so.
And if you haven't plotted where you are, you're in trouble.
Even some of our own guys have not been sure where they were.
With the volunteer victim well out of sight on the hillside,
it's time for the rescue team to mobilise.
So you've got no idea how far away the victim could be?
No. In a search situation, the victim could really be anywhere.
What you have to do is try to prioritise
where you think they may well be and work towards that.
So it could be anywhere within this mountain range.
You could be out here for a long time, you really don't know where the casualty is?
No, we do prioritise the areas where we are searching.
This particular area, we have identified
or narrowed it down to this area before we commit the resources that we have done for a sweep search.
Because as you can see, it's slow,
it's very manpower consuming and can take a lot of time.
You need to be confident that your casualty may well be in that area
before you commit those resources.
So tonight is a practice run. What kind of real call-outs do you get?
We get everything.
When you're called, that's one of the challenges of mountain rescues,
you never know what you're going to be faced with when your pager goes.
-We've had from the very serious
right down through to the very silly,
someone's batteries dying in their head torch or somebody's tent flooding during the night,
or something as simple as someone's just disorientated
and can't find their way back to their car in the middle of a Forest Park.
So it does go from the very simple
right through to the very extreme and more serious incidents.
Of course, the weather conditions tonight
make this search relatively straightforward.
But it's vital that the team hone their skills
for when the serious calls come in.
Today, I've been on a journey across the borderland
between Northern Ireland and Eire.
I began underground in the caves near Corralea.
I travelled to Aghalane and then followed the border,
hugging the Ulster Canal before reaching my final destination,
the Mourne Mountains near Hilltown.
I've been taking part in a mountain-rescue training exercise
and now I've returned to the car park
to see how new technology is helping to revolutionise mountain rescue techniques.
Ed, it's really hi-tech in here, what's it all for?
Basically, I'm tracking the guys out on the hill.
Each circle is an individual.
I mean, I can go as far as putting their names on
so I know who each person is.
And as they move, you can actually see them working across the hill,
this is the search pattern.
As they move forward, you can see them moving on the actual map.
This is showing where the actual people are walking.
So what is it that the guys have got on them to send a signal?
Basically, their radio microphone has a GPS transceiver.
Their little radio simply picks up GPS and when they send a radio signal back to me, I get that information.
The computer gives me a circle and just joins up the dots as they walk.
-And it's as easy as that.
-How does the technology help you do your job?
Basically what it does, it cuts down a lot of radio traffic
and a lot of people on the ground having to stop
and constantly check and tell me where they are.
I can see exactly where they are and as the search goes on,
I can, on occasion, see areas that may have been missed.
In the past, we wouldn't have known that.
So it can speed up the search, but also in the dark of night,
it means that we are watching them and keeping them safe.
This is really what this is about,
it's us looking after our own people as much as the casualty.
Once I find a casualty or they find a casualty,
I have a grid reference to where they are straightaway.
I can pass that to helicopters or other agencies,
or to the other teams and tell them exactly where to head to.
Out on a hillside, it looks like one of the team has spotted something.
And that shows up immediately on Ed's computer.
There's a bit of a change there, so I would say roundabout this stage
I'd be suspicious that there's a find been made.
-Cos the formation has changed?
-The formation has changed and that...
Because they've broken into their search groups, I'd say there has been a find made at that place.
There you are, they have all moved in.
Everybody's in now and they're into the first aid stage.
So a good outcome. Thanks to the hard work, dedication
and expertise of the mountain rescue team, and help from their new technology,
our volunteer casualty is carried off the mountain safe and sound.
My journey has woven a path along the border
between Northern Ireland and Eire,
and I've been absolutely wowed by its natural beauty,
from the calcite formations deep underground in the west
to the windy mountains high in the east.
And from a troubled past, I've been really struck by a very positive outlook for the future.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Ellie Harrison takes a journey that weaves a line across the border between Northern Ireland and Eire.
She begins deep underground in the Fermanagh and Cavan Caves, and ends high up in the Mourne Mountains on an exercise with the local Mountain Rescue team.
On the way, she discovers how the Northern Ireland Troubles have shaped rural life, and gives an update on the peace maze set in Castlewellan Forest Park.