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Modern-day Noah is building an ark in a Northern Ireland field

By Rebecca Black

Published 21/07/2015

Stephen Gore at the ark
Stephen Gore at the ark
Ark builder Stephen Gore inside his creation at Ark Farm in Newtownards
How the ark looks from the nearby road

Slowly rising from the north Down countryside amid the incessant rain of late has been a sight that has baffled and intrigued motorists.

Visible over the tree line from the A21 Newtownards to Bangor dual carriageway is the distinctive outline of an ark.

The recent torrential rain has made the sight eerily reminiscent for some of long-ago Sunday School classes and the famous story of Noah and his Ark defying a devastating flood, rescuing only two of each species.

But fear not, it is not a second flood, but instead an imaginative part of an animal charity's celebration plans for its 25th anniversary.

The Ark Open Farm has been introducing children and adults to cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, goats, donkeys, alpacas and ponies since 1990.

On August 10 it will celebrate its founding with a special family fun day, of which the new ark will be the centrepiece, paying homage to its name.

And in the same way that the story of Noah and the Ark in Genesis was to ensure the survival of every species of animal from the flood, the aim of Stewart and Lorraine Donaldson at the Ark Open Farm has always been the preservation of rare and endangered species of domestic animals.

Set in 40 acres of unspoiled countryside, it is home to approximately 200 animals of all kinds, and is an extremely popular visitor attraction, especially for young children.

It is unique, as the only farm of its kind specialising in a number of rare farm animals no longer commonly seen in Northern Ireland's fields.

Noah was instructed to build his ark of cypress wood, and 30 cubits high - which in a measurement more recognisable to us several thousand years later works out as around 13 metres. The Co Down version will be more modest, but still impressive.

Workers started building the ark around six weeks ago and already it has risen to several metres in height.

Stephen Gore, who designed the ark and is leading the construction with a cheerful smile despite the rain, said it has proved to be a challenging project.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that one of the most tricky parts of the construction was judging how much weight the wooden planks could bear.

None of the animals from the farm has yet set foot in the ark as the careful construction work continues.

It is due to be finished and opened for the public to enjoy on August 10.

Meanwhile, Christians in Williamstown, in Kentucky in the US are building a full-size replica of the biblical ark which they hope will become an even more popular visitor attraction than Disneyland.

The Christian group Answers in Genesis has raised $26m of the $29m they need to build it, and construction of the colossal 510ft structure is already well under way.

How to build an Ark

Genesis 5:32-10:1 records the specific instructions that God gave Noah (below) on how to make his ark

"So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch

inside and out. This is how you are

to build it: the ark is to be three

hundred cubits long, fifty cubits

wide and thirty cubits high.

Make a roof for it, leaving

below the roof an opening one

cubit high all around. Put a door

in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks."

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