This Saturday (July 10) marks our first anniversary as a UNESCO Global Geopark.
It is with great fondness I remember the days where we waited with bated breath for the news to be announced. When that day came it was a moment of pure joy for the Black Country at a time when we all really needed it.
The Black Country was finally on the global stage and featured in headlines locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. How proud we were!
Lots of people worked very hard on making the region’s UNESCO status a reality but no one could have imagined it would have been achieved in the midst of a global pandemic.
So what should have followed, a huge celebration bringing people together from across the Black Country and beyond to celebrate our newfound status, couldn’t happen.
And sadly, 12 months on we still aren’t able to celebrate as we had hoped but we can celebrate reaching our first milestone and reflect on the last 12 months.
What have we been up to?
Coronavirus hasn’t got the better of us. Lots has been happening on the ground as we start to embed UNESCO global geopark status in everything we do.
One of the most significant achievements for the geopark was seeing another of the Geosites (Saltwells Nature Reserve in Dudley borough) receive the accolade of National Nature Reserve status, the second in Dudley borough.
The reserve is prized for its unique geology and mining heritage and it was wonderful to see it elevate to national status by our colleagues at Natural England.
The geological exposures are the best of their kind and date from 420m million years ago to 307 million years ago, when the area was covered by warm tropical seas and later equatorial swamps filled with giant insects, now long extinct. Looks a bit different now but definitely worth a visit.
On the ground we’ve also been carrying out some practical on-site conservation of geological sites and preparing new on-site interpretation to help people understand the environment around them.
We’re also developing learning opportunities within our community, which has seen us create a walking project with adult learners in Dudley and develop projects to provide skills to younger people.
Finally, one of the greatest things we’ve seen in the last 12 months is a real growth in how much people have come to appreciate the green open spaces on their doorstep, many of which are Geosites. We want to harness this enthusiasm and encourage local people to be part of the geopark’s exciting journey going forward.
We hope one day we can bring people together to celebrate our success in true Black Country style! It’ll be bostin!
Geopark lead and keeper of geology for Dudley Council