It has been a long and eventful weekend spent roaming the Mourne Mountains.

It was the first overnight experience for our Silver Award group and their first experience of walking with heavy rucksacks, it was not a pleasant experience at times. There were moments of beautiful weather, gaps between the hail showers when the sun would shine down and we could pretend to feel warm. Then as we began to set up camp the rain came down and the wind grew stronger. Occasional gusts were strong enough to cause a little imbalance.

The night was cold, not an encouraging first night camping. In the morning the wind was strong and very cold. It was fine if you are walking in expensive clothes which are the latest in fabric technology, but not if you are dressed as a Silver Award pupil. We cancelled the cross mountain walk for their day after camping and detoured through sheltered forests. We changed pick-up points and finished early enough to grab a cup of coffee in Newcastle.

The weather began to brighten and calm down as the pupils moaned with tiredness and hauled themselves onto buses. As they drove off towards warm homes the mountain adventure was not over for some of us. Now was the time for me to visit the local police and show them this:


An hour and a half, and lots of phone calls, later the lovely Sharon and I were ready to head back into the hills, this time with a police escort. We rode in their land rover as close as we could get and then began the 1 hour trek to the old unexploded World War II shell. When we got near everyone but me sat down for a rest and a chat. I headed off with a GPS and a compass feeling very under pressure to find a rust coloured object on a vast rust coloured moor.

When another instructor and myself discovered the bomb we thought about marking it but then we realised the danger of attracting attention to it so we settled for using the instructor’s GPS to get a 10 figure grid reference. The GPS only connected to 3 satellites, so to make sure we also took sighting bearings off three mountain peaks. As I tried to relocate the explosive needle in a haystack I began to be glad that we took those bearings when the GPS started to take me into an area away from what looked right. Again the pressure was mounting. I switched it off and put it in my pocket, it was time to go old school. Time to trust geometry and the ancient device that can be relied upon. Always trust the compass. It had been many years since I had done this, but I did have some experience. I began to triangulate the bearings. After another 20 minutes it began to feel right, I recognised this. Then it began to feel wrong again and I thought of how embarrassing it would be to not be able to find it. All I had left was to find the point where the bearings crossed. I stopped at that point and put my bag down, it did not look right. I checked the bearings again, it did not look right. I turned slowly and scanned the ground; there was the bomb 15 meters away.

I waved my arms to draw them over. They were not even watching, just chatting and relaxing. Another minute of arm waving and I began to fly someone saw me and they began to head towards me. I had time to see what the GPS said; it marked it to be 200 meters away. Apparently you need 5 or 6 satellite connections to get good accuracy.

It was shortly after that I had one of those surreal moments that sticks in the mind. We still had to get down off the mountains, we still had to get home and do our weekly Tesco shopping. The sun was blazing low and a cold wind had blown the clouds from the sky to leave a clear deep blue. The lovely Sharon and I stood with the police around a bomb and I casually said, “who’s going to kick it first?” To my disappointment, no-one laughed.