Since the middle of last year a team of rangers and footpath workers have been busy working to realise Arran’s bid to become a UNESCO Global Geopark. The idea was formed in 2016 with some key personnel from the Lochranza Centre CiC, the National Trust, and the Arran Access Trust, along with several leading Scottish geologists. We spoke to the Geopark Project Coordinator Nial Moffat and asked some questions about the work currently being done on Arran. Here he reports on the progress that has been made over the year and what it will mean for Arran to have Geopark status.
1. What is the Arran Geopark?
The formal definition of a Geopark follows:
UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 127 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 35 countries.
On Arran our aim is to build a ‘world leading’ Geopark which:
• promotes, explains and protects Arran’s unique Geology.
• benefits the local economy.
• and is sustainable on a long term basis.
The Arran Geopark project at present will run until Dec 2019.
2. Where does it cover – the whole of Arran or just the North ?
Arran Geopark covers the whole of Arran. As you arrive on Arran you can see the spectacular mountains, the remnants of a massive magma intrusion, 65 million years old. Travel to the North where there is the famous Hutton’s Unconformity, and spectacularly folded Dalradian rocks. To the East, the Corrie shoreline offers the possibility of walking through 100 million years of time, and seeing evidence of the many environments Arran passed through on its journey over the surface of the earth. In the West we have the fantastic Drumadoon feature; a huge volcanic sill. And then finally in the South, one of Europes few Dyke swarms, and the many ancient reptile footprints.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
3. Who made the application for Arran to be a Geopark and why?
For many years Arran has attracted geologists from around the world. This includes many educational establishments who bring groups to Arran. The prime reason is the diverse and unique geology found on Arran, which in many ways, is ‘Scotland in miniature’.
In 2016 , Malcolm Whitmore (Arran Access Trust), Stuart Blake (Lochranza CiC) and Kate Sampson (National Trust Scotland), met with leading Scottish Geologists including Angus Miller ( Scottish Geodiversity Forum )and Dr Neil Clark (Glasgow University) and discussed the idea of Arran becoming a Geopark. The Arran Access Trust then bid successfully to the Coastal Communities Fund for funding support to achieve this, and in August 2017 the Arran Geopark team was formed. (Additional funding also came from the Arran Trust, North Ayrshire Council and the Arran Access Trust.)
The team consists of
Project Coordinator – Nial Moffat
Ranger – Aerona Moore (A new ranger is also being recruited at present.)
Footpath Supervisor – Scott Murdoch
Footpath Trainees – Trefor Goronwy and Elliott Morrison
4. What will Geopark status mean for Arran? What work is being done to make Arran a Geopark?
A considerable amount of work is ongoing to make Arran a Geopark. This includes the development of the following:
• 6 formal walks to areas of geological interest.
• 2 new interpretation centres (Lochranza and Brodick Castle Ranger Centre.)
• a unique geology app and website.
• support to the Heritage museum.
• weekly Guided walks.
• regular Geology Talks.
• an annual Geology festival.
(Of course underlying all of this is the spectacular geology which already exists.)
In addition Arran will benefit from:
• a total of nine new jobs to Arran.
• increased investment in the economy.
• continued improvement to the footpaths around Arran.
• increased protection of geological sites.
5. When is it expected to open?
The geology and many of the walks already exist. At present the first centre is just being finished. The aim will be to have an opening event mid-summer.