Sandwell is part of a consortium of the four Black Country authorities (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton) that has submitted an application to become a UNESCO Global Geopark. And the bid has received international backing.
A Geopark is an area with outstanding geological heritage and where there is considerable effort to conserve it and increase the public understanding and enjoyment of it. The significant part the Black Country played in the industrial revolution is at the heart of its bid.
There are only two other European and Global Geoparks in England – the North Pennines and the English Riviera. The Black Country Geopark would link our many different heritage sites and features across the area to tell the story of the landscape.
If the bid is successful it will provide the opportunity to show the world the Black Country’s incredible geological and cultural heritage, including how this mineral-rich landscape helped to shape the industrial revolution.
As a Global Geopark the Black Country would gain international recognition, alongside the likes of Lesvos fossil forest in Greece, Katla volcanic landscape in Iceland, and Marble Arch caves in Ireland among many others.
Becoming a Geopark would provide the region with many benefits, including putting it in a strong position to attract investment in the future. It would also help the Black Country to be seen globally as tourism destination and to boost the local visitor economy.
The application to become part of the UNESCO Global Geopark family was first submitted back in 2016 with the backing of the UNESCO National Commission. In 2017 the UNESCO Global Geoparks Committee (UGGC) made a number of positive recommendations and gave the project a further two years to address its recommendations before resubmitting a final application.
This year UGGC announced that it has recommended the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark bid be endorsed by the Executive Board of UNESCO when it meets in the spring. While the recommendation isn’t a guarantee of success it is definitely a positive step towards securing this international status.
The final decision should be announced by spring 2020 so watch this space for further updates and how you can get involved in supporting the bid for the Black Country to become a Global Geopark.