Momentous day as the Black Country becomes world-recognised UNESCO geopark
The Black Country has officially become a 'world-famous' UNESCO Global Geopark – with local leaders calling it a "momentous" occasion.
After submitting its final stage of the application to UNESCO last year, the Black Country Geopark project group has been waiting to hear whether it would be successful – and today, more than 10 years since the project was first discussed it has become a reality.
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.
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.
WATCH: Find out more on the award
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 40 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.
Key partners involved in the geopark include Natural England, the Canal and River Trust, the Wildlife Trust For Birmingham and the Black Country, the Black Country Consortium and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: "We did it! This is a truly a momentous occasion for the Black Country. I couldn’t be prouder of what has been achieved and I am delighted the announcement has been made during Black Country Month.
"Our region is renowned for being a driving force during the industrial revolution and this status recognises the importance our geological heritage played at the time and how it defined this area. It also marks the start of an exciting new chapter.
"Becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark really puts us on the world map and gives us the opportunity to tell our story to the world and celebrate the many sites and features that we are so fortunate to have."
Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, said: "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."
And Chris Handy, deputy chairman and place lead for Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, added: "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."
To find out more about the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark, go to www.blackcountrygeopark.org.uk