After submitting its final stage of the application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) last year, the Black Country Geopark project group has been waiting with bated breath to hear whether it would be successful.
And today, more than ten years on since the project was first conceived and discussed it has become a reality.
The Executive Board of UNESCO has confirmed that the Black Country has been welcomed into the network of Global Geoparks as a place with internationally important geology, because of its cultural heritage and the active partnerships committed to conserving, managing and promoting it.
This means the Black Country is now on a par with UNESCO Global Geoparks in countries stretching from Brazil to Canada and Iceland to Tanzania.
“With geology stretching back 428 million years, and a landscape and heritage that shaped the modern world during the industrial revolution, it is right that the Black Country is given this prestigious UN status. Today’s announcement ensures that this remarkable site will continue to inspire the million people who call the landscape home, as well as local and international visitors in the years to come. Congratulations to all.”
Ambassador Matthew Lodge, UK Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
“Today is a landmark achievement which recognises the internationally rich geology and cultural heritage of the Black Country. The move will benefit the environment and boost tourism, as well as providing more people with the opportunity to connect with the natural world. We will continue to play our part in making the most of the opportunities that this new Geopark brings, through conserving, recovering and championing the natural environment for the benefit of people and Nature alike, for generations to come.”
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England
“They have dug into their ancient past to build a vibrant future. The Black Country Geopark takes us on a time machine far back, millions of years, into the ancient climates of Western Europe revealing a land of shifting environments from tropical shallow seas, to cool swampy lowlands and much later frigid Arctic tracts where Mammoths roamed. Such diversity of conditions provides a ready springboard to consider our role in our planet’s immediate future as the climate warms alarmingly. The Geopark has harnessed these features, recognised internationally of high relevance by UNESCO, to re-vitalise its countryside and community.”
Professor David Drewry, Non-Executive Director for Natural Sciences, UK National Commission for UNESCO
“This is a very exciting time for the Black Country and I would like to congratulate everyone who has worked incredibly hard to get us to this point. We are only the third UNESCO Geopark to be declared in England. This project has demonstrated how well organisations have come together to get the recognition the Black Country deserves. Although we’re celebrating today, we can’t forget the challenging times we face due to the pandemic. One positive to come out of the current situation is that we are seeing more people use our open spaces within the geopark, than ever before. We’re not going to rest on our laurels from here, we’re really proud to have got this far, we’re going to continue working together and make our Geopark a success. It’s the very least it deserves.”
Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council
“This is fantastic news for the whole Black Country and for all the partners who have worked so hard to achieve this UNESCO status. We’ve long known that the Black Country is home to world-class sites of geological importance, sites that have played a key role in shaping our area both in terms of the places and the people. This news comes at a difficult time in the Black Country’s history and beckons great times ahead, we look forward to working together to share and celebrate our Geopark with both the people of the Black Country but also the people we hope it will encourage to visit.”
Chris Handy, deputy chair and place lead for Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership
“At such a difficult time for all of us, it’s great to be able to share some good news. We’re rightly proud of the fantastic greenspaces and rich heritage across the borough of Walsall and being just the third UNESCO Geopark to be declared in England is really special. One positive to come out of the challenging times we’re in is that we’re seeing more people use our open spaces within the Geopark than ever before. I would like to thank and congratulate our greenspaces officers, both present and past, for their hard work and dedication in getting this fantastic achievement over the line. This project has also highlighted some excellent partnership working across the Black Country to ensure our four boroughs get the recognition they deserve.
Councillor Stephen Craddock, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing at Walsall Council
“We are absolutely delighted to be a part of the UNESCO Global Geopark and get Wolverhampton and its hidden gems on the international map. We have six geosites across the city, both man-made and natural wonders to explore, and with the UNESCO status, our city’s geosites will be worldwide attractions for all to enjoy.”
Councillor Stephen Simkins, City of Wolverhampton Cabinet Member for City Economy
Key information to remember:
- Black Country becomes UNESCO Geopark
- Recognised for its important natural and cultural features, for example, the significant part it played in the industrial revolution
- More than forty geosites have been selected so far within the Black Country geopark
- Third geopark declared in England
- The move will benefit the environment, boost tourism, and provide more people with the opportunity to connect with the natural world
Geopark status recognises the many world-class natural and important cultural features in the Black Country and how they come to tell the story of the landscape and the people that live within it.
In the case of the Black Country, the significant part it played in the industrial revolution has been at the heart of the bid. More than forty varied geosites have been selected so far within the geopark that tell its story as a special landscape but more will be added as the Geopark develops.
Geosites include Dudley and Wolverhampton Museums, Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve, Sandwell Valley, Red House Glass Cone, Bantock Park and Walsall Arboretum.