Lochaber hopes to se­cure new global geop­ark sta­tus

The Oban Times - - Outdoors - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­times.co.uk

LOCHABER Geop­ark has ‘great po­ten­tial’ to be­come a UNESCO site of world­wide im­por­tance in ge­ol­ogy, but it still needs core fund­ing from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

A geop­ark, as de­fined by Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage, is ‘an area of out­stand­ing in­ter­est for its rocks and land forms, and where greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing of that ge­o­log­i­cal her­itage can ben­e­fit lo­cal peo­ple and busi­nesses through tourism and ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives’.

In 2015, the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO) cre­ated a new sta­tus of UNESCO Global Geop­ark to give geop­arks the same level of recog­ni­tion as World Her­itage Sites.

So far the staus has been granted to two in Scot­land – North West High­lands Geop­ark and Geop­ark Shet­land – while a third, Lochaber Geop­ark, also ap­plied for UNESCO sta­tus.

Lochaber, ac­cord­ing to the geop­ark’s web­site, boasts some of the best ge­ol­ogy in the world, ‘ with the UK’s high­est moun­tains, deep­est lochs and stun­ning nat­u­ral scenery’.

‘In the east,’ it ex­plains, ‘mag­mas formed by melt­ing be­neath the Cale­do­nian range dur­ing the process of sub­duc­tion, giv- ing rise to the fa­mous caldera vol­ca­noes of Glen Coe and Ben Ne­vis.

‘In the west, rift­ing apart of plates, trig­gered by the up­rise of a hot “plume” from Earth’s man­tle, pro­duc­ing the in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous vol­canic cen­tres of Rum and Ard­na­mur­chan and the lavas of Eigg and Morvern.

‘The rocks of Lochaber give us a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the past cli­mates that Scot­land has ex­pe­ri­enced on its long jour­ney from the south­ern hemi­sphere to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion.’

Last June, two UNESCO eval­u­a­tors from China and Crete ar­rived to as­sess the Lochaber Geop­ark As­so­ci­a­tion’s ap­pli­ca­tion, and re­cently an­nounced the area has an ‘ex­cep­tional ge­o­log­i­cal her­itage’ as well as a ‘mas­sive value for the his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment of the Earth sci­ences’. They con­cluded that Lochaber has ‘ great po­ten­tial’ to be ‘ a very good UNESCO Global Geop­ark’.

How­ever, the Lochaber Geop­ark ex­plained, the Global Geop­arks Com­mit­tee ‘have, how­ever, de­ferred award of UNESCO sta­tus un­til we have ad­dressed a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions, the most im­por­tant of which is to se­cure long-term core fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

‘It was de­cided to de­fer our ap­pli­ca­tion for two years as it was felt we needed to se­cure a higher bud­get to sup­port all fu­ture geop­ark ac­tiv­i­ties. Nat­u­rally, this de­fer­ment was rather dis­ap­point­ing, but we in­tend to sol­dier on as best we can.’

In the mean­time, Lochaber Geop­ark is in­volved in a ma­jor three-year project with a num­ber of other geop­arks. The project is called Drift­ing Apart, and is de­signed to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of new and aspir­ing Global Geop­arks across the north­ern pe­riph­ery and Arc­tic pro­gramme area.

The project part­ners in­clude geop­arks in Canada, Ice­land, Nor­way, Rus­sia and Ire­land – as well as the two other Scot­tish geop­arks in Shet­land and the North West High­lands. The project in­volves the use of new vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy and film­ing, which took place in Lochaber at two dif­fer­ent sites in May.

As well as Dar­win’s Rest – a cof­fee shop in Roy­bridge where you can learn about the fa­mous Par­al­lel Roads in nearby Glen Roy – the geop­ark now has a vis­i­tor cen­tre on Fort Wil­liam High Street.

Later this year it in­tends to pro­duce a fur­ther in­for­ma­tion book­let on Glen Roy and the Par­al­lel Roads. The geop­ark has also re­cently pro­duced a ge­o­log­i­cal map and ex­cur­sion guide to Ben Ne­vis and Glen Ne­vis.

Lochaber has out­stand­ing ge­ol­ogy, such as this folded moine at Am Muidhe near Glen­finnan, also show­ing a rock pave­ment formed by glacial move­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.