Joe Mahon has a husky voice that oozes friendliness and curiosity. He’s been on UTV visiting places  for so long, he’s almost part of the scenery himself. Last week on ULSTER GIANTS (UTV) he was checking out the A6, which for those who don’t know is the new road to Derry (Indeed, Virginia – it is  about bloody time).

 Joe naturally sides with the little guy -or little village. What becomes of small villages and towns like Moneynick if the A6 is by-passing them? That’s easy : they build a series of fly-overs, so all the small by-passed places still have their road and their links with each other.

 And it’s not just people in villages that have to be remembered – it’s swans too. If you’ve ever driven that road past Toome on your way to Derry, at particular times of the year you’ll have seen the fields on your right full of what look like geese, only then you look again and see they’re swans. So would all these new road-works not have a damaging effect on our feathered friends?

 Not according to the man Joe talked to. Between September and March, apparently, the new road builders withdraw from the area and get on with other work, leaving the swans to do whatever it is that swans do. It’s a good example of how, with a bit of flexibility, progress can be reconciled with the natural world.

 The other thing that caught Joe’s attention was the explosion. The road-builders put in place lots of buried explosives, arrange for them to go off at millisecond intervals, and withdraw to a safe distance to watch as road-making rocks are blasted out  (actually they blast sideways) from a cliff face. Even when you’re expecting it ,as  Joe says, it’s still an impressive sight, the power of explosions that bring down a full cliff-side. Then the bigger stones are fed into vast machines and smashed into smaller, more manageable pieces that go to create the road.

 But maybe the happiest surprise provided by the motorway is the sudden and wonderful view provided of Lough Neagh as you drive towards Derry.  It wasn’t planned this way – it was just a fortuitous side-effect of building the new road. You come to the top of a hill and then swoop down towards the distant lough as though you were one of those swans. Glorious.

 That road’s been a long time coming: if it weren’t for the Good Friday Agreement, my bet is Derry would still be waiting for a proper link to Belfast.  Joe, being the polite, husky-voiced man he is, glided past that thorny point like a smooth-moving swan.

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