Newest Geopark hosts UK Committee for Global Geoparks
With the ink only just drying on the paperwork awarding full UNESCO Global Geopark status to Mourne-Gullion-Strangford, the UK’s newest Geopark is playing host to representatives from across England, Wales and Scotland at this year’s UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks meeting.
The Committee is a dynamic network where members work together to share examples of best practices and join in common projects. With the addition of Mourne-Gullion-Strangford, there are now nine geoparks in the UK stretching from the English Riviera to Shetland in Scotland, and representatives from them all have gathered in Newry Mourne and Down District to discover and explore some of our most dramatic scenery and to meet some of the amazing residents and businesses who are making the best of their landscape through conservation, education and sustainable development. The group even undertook an exciting e-bike safari in the Mournes, sampling a new and growing sustainable and regenerative tourism business with the Geopark at its heart.
Later, the Committee met in Kileavy Castle Hotel in the Ring of Gullion to taste the products of the land with a menu that was proudly locally sourced, focussing on the “Geofoods” that are key to the development of sustainable Geotourism.
While geology may be their foundation, UNESCO Global Geoparks build upon this by bringing together other heritage aspects such as archaeology, history, culture and biodiversity. All this is achieved in collaboration with local people to make Geoparks better places to work, live and visit. The speakers at the Forum reflected this variety in a series of fascinating talks introduced by the Chairperson of Newry Mourne and Down District Council.
Councillor Valerie Harte said, “Through our journey to becoming a member of the UNESCO Global Geopark network, I have discovered much about my own place, how geology can influence not just the shape of our land, but its soils, its biodiversity and its culture. Our area, telling a “Tale of Two Oceans” across 400 million years, is a unique place to visit and a wonderful place to live and work, and I am proud to be able to show it off to the Geopark Committee during their meeting.”