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Lochaber celebrates gaining geopark status Published:Jul 25,2007

TO celebrate the granting to Lochaber of European Geopark status, a local launch event was held in Corpach.

Lochaber Geopark has achieved this prestigious accolade, which is recognised by UNESCO, and it also admits Lochaber to the exclusive Global Geoparks Network.

And, at the Kilmallie Stone Circle in Corpach, the award was marked with a short presentation by MP Charles Kennedy, with the launch ceremony performed by Davd Sedgwick, consultant surgeon at Belford Hospital.

A direct descendant of eminent geologist, Adam Sedgwick - who taught Charles Darwin at Cambridge University in the 1830s - Mr Sedgwick, who lives at Badabrie, Banavie, unveiled an interpretive plaque.

Several fellow organisations staged displays on the day, while SNH and the British Geological Survey previewed a new booklet "Ben Nevis and Glencoe" in their "Landscape Fashioned by Geology" series.

A short guided walk took place prior to the launch, from the Geopark Wall at Caol Shopping Centre, to Kilmallie Hall.

The hope is that the Geopark recognition will bring real benefits to Lochaber through geotourism.

This process uses visitor-related activities which support the geological character of an area and its environment, culture and heritage, and is recognised as a sustainable method of promotion.

Lochaber, whose geological history and lanscape stretches back more than 1000 million years, is the second area in Scotland to be awarded Geopark status after the North West Highlands in 2004.

Lochaber Geopark Association is a community based company set up in 2006 which aims to raise awareness of the area's outstanding geology.

Commenting on the new award, chairman Noel Williams said: "This accolade of European Geopark status means that Lochaber's exceptional earth heritage has been recognised and we are delighted with this acknowledgement.

"The hard work over recent years has all been worthwhile and we now have to build on this success by ensuring that Lochaber's fascinating earth history is promoted in a way that benefits the local community."

And Alison Austin, a director with Lochaber Geopark, said: "The award of European Geopark status is extremely exciting and is a real reward for all those involved in the project."

"The value of being recognised across Europe as an area which has such special interest brings home the fact that Lochaber’s geology and landscape - and now Geopark status - literally underpin the local tourism industry. It is important that we now highlight the geology of this spectacular area by making geotourism another of the many attractions for visitors."

The main funder of work to ensure the area's status as a Geopark is Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which has provided £75,000 towards the ambitious scheme.

A spokesman said: "SNH is delighted to have played a part in this innovative and worthwhile initiative which has resulted in this well deserved accolade for the area."

"The rocks of Lochaber are of major importance in informing us what went on aeons ago and their history and the area’s stunning landscape deserve to be highlighted on the world’s stage."

Stretching from Rannoch Moor in the south to Knoydart in the north, and from the Small Isles in the west to Glen Spean in the east, Lochaber encompasses a wealth of earth heritage.

The area has a complex geology, but is unique among European Geoparks in having a record number, including plate collisions and plate rifting.

The Caledonian mountain chain is globally one of the most intensively studied mountain belts, and the area is famous for the caldera collapse structures identified in the Caledonian igneous rocks of Glen Coe and Ben Nevis.