The English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark hosted the United Kingdom Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks earlier this month (4-6 June 2024). 

The Committee brings together the UK’s nine UNESCO Global Geoparks and representatives of national agencies including the British Geological Survey, UNESCO UK, Natural England, Nature Scot, Natural Resources Wales and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Its purpose is to oversee the operation of UNESCO’s Global Geopark Programme in the UK and is the gateway to becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp).

Representatives travelled from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England for the annual convention with some 50 delegates experiencing the visibility of the English Riviera UGGp and visiting Geopark partners.  

Melanie Border, English Riviera UGGp coordinator and meeting convener, said: “For many of my colleagues on the UKUGGp Committee this was their first visit to the English Riviera but others were returning after attending the International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks we organised at the Riviera International Conference Centre in 2016.  They could see the progress we’ve made, particularly in making the Geopark more visible, and the introduction of new Geopark Discovery Experiences with our Geopark partners. We’ve been operating a successful Geopark since 2007 and hosting the UK Geoparks Committee in Torquay, the second time in fact, was again a great privilege.  It’s always great to demonstrate what we’ve been doing to retain the prestigious UNESCO status.''

Charlie Kennedy, Accreditation, Policy and Operations Manager, UNESCO UK, said: “This was my first time to the English Riviera and what a pleasure to visit this exceptional UNESCO Global Geopark. The UK Committee for UGGp is a proactive group and I was delighted to hear about the aspiring territories, looking to join this proactive network. Invited to attend the second part of the meeting were the Isle of Arran (Scotland), Jersey (Channel Islands), Charnwood Forest (Leicestershire), Antrim (Northern Ireland) and the unique Cross-Channel Geopark project.  This is an exciting Anglo-French initiative that would see much of Kent and the Pas de Calais area in Northern France, including the Channel waters and tunnel, become UNESCO’s first trans-national Geopark separated by sea.  The UK already has a trans-national Geopark, the Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark, crossing from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland into County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland and the EU.”

Kirstin Lemon, Chair of the UK Committee for UNESCO Global Geoparks, and British Geological Survey, said “It was great being back in Torquay having attended the 2016 International conference but without the 700 other delegates from over 50 countries this time.  I’ve evaluated Geoparks in many countries around the World and I’ve seen some exceptional geology, and the geological features here would certainly rival many of those extraordinary places.  The English Riviera is a prime example of what a UGGp should be and provides visitors and residents with the opportunities to get up close to this astonishing geological heritage and other connected natural and cultural heritage, in a way that is fun, informative and accessible to a wide audience. That is what UNESCO expects from its 213 Global Geoparks and the English Riviera UGGp team, along with their amazing partners, excel in doing this.”

Nick Powe, chair of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark said: “The aspiring UGGps are an important element of the Committee's work. They attend to learn about being a Global Geopark and to present their state of readiness for the intensive application process.  The role of the Committee is to support and advise these territories on working towards their UNESCO status goal. Some of us on the Committee are international UNESCO Geopark evaluators, and we volunteer our time to mentor.  I’ve visited Arran and the Cross-Channel Project.

“Having the Committee in Torbay gives an immediate boost to business hospitality, but it impacts on the future visitor economy of the resort from national and international exposure. Torbay Council generously provided excellent meeting space and my thanks to John Ford at Fun Fish Trips for an excellent boat trip.  The staff at Torre Abbey ran an informative tour for the delegates and offered the use of the Spanish Barn for an evening of local food and Sea Shanties with the amazing Out of Tunas from Maidencombe.”

Carolyn Custerson, Chief Executive of the English Riviera BID Company and director of Visit Devon said: “The UNESCO designation is an important strategic asset for our destination marketing initiatives. It’s what sets the English Riviera apart from every other resort in England, a vibrant resort, open all year round, offering a stunning natural environment where the geology and wildlife are recognised by UNESCO.  I was delighted to join the Committee on the evening boat cruise and to chat with delegates. They were clearly impressed with what’s on offer here on the English Riviera.”

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