- cape wrath
- the geopark
What has NW Highlands Geopark achieved?
In the beginning!
A successful application for Geopark status was mounted by the local Geopark Steering Group led by Gordon Todd of Highland Council and Maarten Krabbendam of British Geological Survey and accepted by the European Geopark Network in October of that year.
It is very, very unusual to get an application for Geopark status approved the first time you apply! Funding of £55,500 was secured to create a part-time post for three years from Leader+, Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise and The Highland Council.
Jobs, Funding, Action!
Issie MacPhail was appointed as the part-time Geopark Officer in May 2005.
By midsummer a Geopark office and a dedicated phone line had been established in Lochinver and £14,000 of project funding secured to produce marketing materials about the Geopark, create a launch event and run a further ‘shoulder months’ events programme. The funding was secured from Leader +, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Highland Council. This funding allowed the creation of a leaflet, banners and display material as well as a basic website.
Geopark Launch & Roadshow
The Geopark was launched in September 2005 and officially set on it’s way by Aubrey Manning. The Geopark ran a series of events for Scottish Geology Festival followed by a Roadshow. In advance of the Roadshow every household and business in the Geopark received a copy of the new Geopark leaflet (now called the Core leaflet), a letter inviting them to attend the forthcoming Launch, Events and Roadshow and a questionnaire inviting thoughts and comments about how to develop the Geopark. This mailing went to 1,150 households.
The Launch was attended by 250 people, of whom 120 were local school children. Schools on the borders of the Geopark were also represented – Ullapool and Farr High Schools. Among the adult attendees were many local people, representatives of a wide range of public agencies and MSPs. A message of support was received from First Minister, Jack McConnell. Local produce was served to visitors as a buffet in order to showcase what we have here. UNESCO requested Launch pictures of the young musicians for their website.
The Roadshow events programme included an event in every village hall (of which there were seven) in the Geopark and six other events which were a mixture of guided walks, family open days and illustrated talks. A total of 228 people attended these events. Of these, 161 were attending Roadshow events aimed at Strategy Development although access to this process was provided at all other events except guided walks for both school age children and adults. Throughout the events programme The Geopark ‘Postbox’ was in action allowing everyone to send one of the new Geopark postcards to friends and relatives. [PIC] You can download a summary of the results of the community consultation during this year from the Geopark Communities’ Forum section of the website.
The Launch attracted a lot of media attention and this continued during 2006. In December Lindsay Cannon from BBC Landward interviewed the Geopark Officer Issie MacPhail at Knockan Crag for Landward and Radio Scotland. Andy Summers took Lindsay for a guided walk up to the Bone Caves. By this point we were determined to host the 2007 EGN Conference and so Lindsay was able to flag up this forthcoming attraction in the material she recorded.
More Project Money!
In the autumn a further £100,000 of project money was secured for activities over the coming two to three years. This funding was provided by The Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise.
Marketing Our Geopark
Work began on the creation of boundary signs, more marketing materials and an appropriate approach to all of this.
A Focus Group of local business representatives met with Phil Tomalin to discuss what the local business community felt to be the key priorities. They said ‘profile for the area’. Consultants from The Moffat Centre – the Tourism Research Centre at Caledonian University led by Professor John Lennon – were retained to develop a Geopark Marketing Plan to ensure that we had a logical, evidence based approach to the task.
Year of Culture finally arrives and it was very busy one in the Geopark. To help out with the increasing workload a part-time temporary Administrative post was established in the spring. Julie Edwards from Inverpolly was appointed to this post.
Julie took on the task of organising two spring seminars aimed at extending participation and business input into local Geopark development. In March The Land & Economy Seminar was held at Rhiconich Hotel. Richard Watson from Marble Arch European Geopark in Northern Ireland explained the economic impacts and interactions with agriculture which had been achieved in County Fermanagh. A range of local speakers explained current action in the north west focused on land based issues and challenges.
In May Chris Woodley Stewart from North Pennines AONB European Geopark discussed developments in North Pennines. Again a range of local speakers discussed the tourism sector in the north west. You can read the full reports of these seminars by downloading them in the Geopark Communities’ Forum section of the website.
After all that - at the end of the year funding was secured to replace the temporary part-time posts with two new full-time jobs – a very important breakthrough for the north west.
European Geopark Week and Scottish Geology Festival
An annual shoulder months events programme was established. In late May a series of guided walks and illustrated talks led by the Highland Council Countryside Rangers and British Geological Survey were promoted as our Geopark’s contribution to the annual Europe wide European Geopark Week.
This is when all the Geoparks celebrate what they have and what the ‘Network’ is all about – celebrating earth heritage and developments based on that like education, wildlife, arts and green tourism. 330 people attended these events in our Geopark.
The Autumn programme, scheduled to coincide with the annual Scottish Geology Festival, featured more walks and illustrated talks but also provided performances by The Kenspeckle Puppet Theatre of the play ‘Out of the Frying Pan; Into the Fire.’ This was performed in Coigach, Kinlochbervie and Durness Village Halls and attended by all the Geopark Primary Schools. It is puppet theatre which explains basic geology and how Scotland was formed. 184 children and 9 adults attended the puppet theatre and 175 people attended walks and talks. PIC
Developments in arts and crafts: Artists’ Exchange in Crete
An opportunity arose to send an artist to one of the Greek Geoparks to participate in a collaborative project.
NW Highlands Geopark artists were invited to apply and Meg Telfer, a visual artist from Skerray, was selected to attend on behalf of our Geopark. Meg already had a track record of involvement with the Geopark through providing a range of children’s art activities at the Launch and Roadshow events during the previous year. Here’s Meg’s story about the visit to Psiloritis Geopark, Gergeri, Heraklion, Crete in 2006.
‘Six visual artists with links to Geoparks in their countries, plus three local artists, were lucky enough to be invited, through the European Geopark Network, to Gergeri a village in the Psiloritis Geopark. We were to paint murals on walls in the village, inspired by the local environment and cultural traditions. What courage! Imagine if a group of unknown artists descended on your village to paint on your houses, cafes and walls. We were there for 10 days and many of these were taken up by the amazing hospitality of our hosts. However we did paint our murals, under the gaze of ancient women in black, men with handlebar moustaches, eager to help children and blazing sunshine. We did manage to finish our work and our hosts seemed pleased. This was a unique opportunity to meet with other artists in an exciting environment. An enormous thank-you is due to our hosts, and the Geopark Network for making the experience possible. I returned to the area this year on holiday, renewed friendships, and opened a dialogue for an artists’ exchange and to import dried herbs from the region to sell in our local community shop.’
Meg Telfer, visual artist, Skerray
Mapping and Making Mountains
Clare Bond a geologist at Glasgow University describes her motivation for creating the ‘Mapping Mountains’ project:
‘2007 marks an important centenary for the Geopark. In 1907 the Geological Survey published their Memoir on The Geological Structure of the North-West Highlands of Scotland. It rapidly became a cornerstone for understanding tectonics and mountain building internationally. Geologists from around the world, together with generations of British students, have been visiting the area ever since. The original work of the geologists is archived in Edinburgh at the British Geological Survey and consists of detailed maps, sketches and observational notes. The North West Highlands designation as a European Geopark in October 2004 is based on this cultural heritage.
In creating this project we outlined the importance of the British Geological Survey resource and charted this evolution from an initial idea to “Mapping Mountains” - a final exhibition of reproductions of the 1880s maps. The exhibition spawned development of associated outreach activities in schools within the Geopark to combine Earth Science and art “Making Mountains”. Celebrations of the 1880s work in the scientific community were focused on an international conference in May 2007 held in the Geopark gateway village of Ullapool and an artist joined the geologists in the field to capture their relationship with the landscape and each other. By sharing venues, activities and experiences, the aim was to integrate historical and cutting-edge science with other expressions of landscape and community. Both exhibitions were also on display during the EGN Conference in Ullapool in September ‘07’
Clare Bond, University of Glasgow
Celebrating Highland Year of Culture 2007
During 2006 discussion began concerning the possibility of our Geopark hosting the European Geopark Network Conference in 2007 as part of Year of Highland Culture celebrations.
Even for well established Geoparks with large numbers of staff this is an onerous undertaking so it was an idea which took some thinking through. The Global Geopark Network Conference, a bi-annual event, was held in Belfast in 2006 and hosted by Marble Arch Geopark. In addition to the two official NWH Geopark EGN representatives (Issie MacPhail and Maarten Krabbendam) attending, our Chairperson, Iain Muir, and Steering Group member for Kinlochbervie, Murdo MacPherson, also attended. This gave both a great insight into the benefits Geopark status had brought in other places and a chance to meet people from across the European Network. Murdo was able to make the crucial first contacts for developing what was then just the idea of a Youth Project with other Geoparks in the Network. Earlier in the year the Senior Ranger, Andy Summers, attended an EGN Meeting in North Pennines AONB European Geopark, an experience which also deepened Andy’s ideas on what the Geopark might deliver in the future for the North West.
EGN week, education and improving our profile
At the end of May 2007 the Geopark enjoyed another successful programme of guided walks and illustrated talks. ‘Friends of the Geopark’ was launched – postcards providing the opportunity for locals and visitors to contribute comments and join a distribution list for information about future events programmes.
These postcards were distributed amongst businesses and accommodation providers. Geopark window stickers were also distributed and started appearing in all manner of places, not just cars, chalets and shop windows! A new set of four leaflets about things to do, see, enjoy and appreciate in and around the Geopark was produced and a matching set of mobile displays for use at events ‘home and away’. Impressive boundary signs were built on the main roads into the Geopark helping everyone get a grip on where the Geopark actually is. Work began on two further sets of leaflets in a range of European languages and Gaelic.
British Geological Survey finished their CD ROM focusing on Geopark glacial features and distributed it to every school in Scotland. Plans for the Conference included involvement of schools as part of the emerging youth initiative. A new primary schools arts and geology project – Geoprint - led by the Highland Council Arts Officer, Roxana Meechan and the Highland Council Countryside Rangers was developed and launched at the Conference in the autumn. And Wikipedia featured the Geopark website as it’s ‘website of the day’!
Three years of Geopark status – and time for revalidation
At 2,000 square kilometres our Geopark is geographically very large but very, very small in terms of staff and resources. Every three years each Geopark is reviewed to check if it is doing enough to retain that status and delivering appropriate quality in terms of its activities.
This revalidation process is onerous and requires preparation of a wide range of information, analysis and documents for perusal by the inspectors. The inspection was due a fortnight before we hosted the EGN Co-ordination Committee meeting and the EGN Conference so things were rather hectic.
Over the summer it was also necessary to create a plan and funding applications for the next two to three years. In order to review progress to date and consider potential future directions Seabridge Consultants were retained to carry out a review and recommend future steps. Part of that process involved thinking through what had been done and discussing what sort of vision a range of representatives had for the future – stimulating and interesting stuff.
Our Geopark was recommended for a green card but received a yellow card in the end. This recommendation is high praise for such a small and new endeavour and a great compliment to the many people who have worked so hard to gain and develop Geopark status. During the year Lochaber also gained Geopark status giving Scotland two Geoparks! Not bad for such a small country.
European Geopark Network Open Conference
The Geopark actually attracted two conferences in 2007. The first was about plate tectonics and was held in The Macphail Centre in Ullapool in May with fieldtrips across the Geopark. This event attracted 180 geologists from across the globe.
The second was the European Geopark Network Open Conference in September which attracted some 200 people to the area from across Europe and beyond. The Minister for the Environment, Mike Russell MSP, addressed the Conference in person. There was also a Fringe Events programme including community events like music nights, the astronomy events provided by the Royal Observatory and The Geopark Marketplace featuring arts and crafts from across the Geopark. In advance of the Geopark Conference we hosted the EGN Co-ordination meeting which was based at Inchnadamph Lodge and brought 65 people into the Geopark for two or three nights. Conference fieldtrips hosted and arranged by local community groups took delegates into every area generating spend and new acquaintances. The spend generated by each conference including accommodation and fieldtrips is in the region of £160,000 with a further spend by the delegates of c £48,500. That means around £400,000 into the local economy.