Charity urges public to help North West Highlands Geopark

A CONSERVATION charity is appealing for support to safeguard an important Highland location which brings geologists, students, rock climbers, hillwalkers and other visitors from all over the world.

North of Ullapool, part of the North West Highland Geopark. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL

The John Muir Trust is calling on its members, supporters and the wider public to help secure the future of the North West Highland Geopark, a major UNESCO site.

The geopark brings in tourism revenue and project funding directly into scattered local communities who live in the area.

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The Geopark has plans to upgrade its visitor centre and continue its programme of weekly guided walks.

It also aims to deepen its scientific research into soil fertility in partnership with Stirling University and Ullapool High School, organise a major geo-heritage festival as part of its annual October Climbing Festival and Earth Science Week, and develop self-guided trails – ‘Pebble Routes’ – for motorists and cyclists.

But with temporary core funding from the Scottish Government now ended, the Geopark urgently needs public financial support to continue its work.

With UNESCO scheduled to carry out its four-year evaluation in 2019, the designation could be in jeopardy if funding for staff and facilities fails to materialise.

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The John Muir Trust, which looks after two properties in the area – the dramatic three-peak mountain, Quinag, and the spectacular Sandwood Bay – has awarded the Geopark a conservation grant of £1500.

George Farlow, chair of the North West Highlands Geopark, said: “This grant will help strengthen our UNESCO Global Geopark.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with the John Muir Trust.

“We support the work they do with the Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape and will continue to work with them in delivering a sound management plan for their Sandwood and Quinag estates within the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark.”

Dr Laura Hamlet, Geopark officer, said: “The grant awarded by the John Muir Trust has come at a really critical time for our UNESCO Global Geopark and represents a real boost to our crowdfunding appeal.”

Mike Daniels, Head of Land Management for the John Muir Trust said: “The North West Highlands is an area of outstanding natural beauty, steeped in natural and human history.

“Its landscape and rock formations attract visitors from all over the world and its well-deserved status as a UNESCO Global Geopark must be protected for the benefit of the people of this area and in the interests of science and education.

“We would urge people who care about this landscape and the people who live there to visit the crowdfunding website and support this vital appeal for funds to retain the staff and maintain the designation.”

UNESCO Global Geoparks are designated areas of international geological importance, with the potential to attract visitors, act as an educational and scientific resource and support local communities. The UNESCO badge is a major tourism draw.

There are two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Scotland – North West Highlands and Shetland – with a further five in England Wales and Northern Ireland. The seven UK Geoparks are estimated to bring £8.7 million annually into local communities.

The North West Highlands have been a focus for geological research for centuries, deepening global understanding of how mountain landscapes are formed.

The North West Highlands Global Geopark includes 27 different rock formations which among them cover two thirds of the Earth’s history.

A total of 50 universities from across the UK offer field trips to the Geopark. The Geopark is directly involved with projects which have generated £97,000 of research funding and has engaged with 94 per cent of local school pupils

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