The North West Highlands Geopark is one of the most the most beautiful landscapes in the world, one of only seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK and the birthplace of modern geology.
Across it’s 2000km² area, there are just 2400 adults on the electoral roll. This is one of the most sparsely populated landscapes in Europe, but our Vision is for the region to become: a thriving and sustainable rural economy capitalising on the assets and people of the Geopark in partnership with local government, relevant agencies, and local businesses.
Geopark stories are powerful
… evoke a sense of wonder amongst visitors, inspiring them to want to take care of the landscape.
… inspire young minds, and the not-so-young, to learn more about how the planet works and how this affects our daily lives and our culture.
… promote a better understanding of the Earth’s dynamic processes, so that citizens can make informed policy choices that will foster a more sustainable society.
… bring people together, with a shared sense of identity.
… even provide the basis for economic development where stories inspire crafts, products and services.
To help us continue telling these stories well, the Charity needs sound governance and the support and interest of the communities it serves.
This report contributes to that aim, communicating to you, our stakeholders, the activities of the past year and our intentions for the coming three.
Message from our Chair
This year has been transformational for the Geopark Charity. Amongst many highlights, we have helped deliver a new capital project at Clachtoll, published two books, extended our lease on the Rock Stop at Unapool and our financial reserves are higher than they have ever been. Through all of this, our team has grown, we have funding in place to deliver our ACT programme over the next few years and have plans for improvements at the Rock Stop. None of this would be possible without the efforts of our volunteers; our staff; our members, friends and supporters, and the communities in which we operate. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved. I hope you enjoy reading this report, we certainly enjoyed pulling it together for you.Dr Iain Young Chair North West Highlands Geopark Ltd
To celebrate, conserve and promote our unique, internationally recognised geological heritage in a manner consistent with our status as a Scottish Registered Charity and UNESCO accreditation. We are visibly embedded in our communities, both local and international, and work alongside trusted partners who share our values and aspirations. In so doing, we aspire to use this heritage to help maintain economically sustainable communities, being ever mindful of climate change and wider social issues..
Durness Gathering – an event that brought together well kent faces from across the country to celebrate traditions and hope for the future
We are geo-ethical
The North West Highlands is a unique, special, and sensitive environment. People exist as part of a wider earthsystem and we all have an obligation to act sustainably.
We are respectful
We respect each other within our own organisations and foster open communication, and a safe environment. We respect other businesses, visitors, our communities, and other stakeholders and listen to their concerns and feedback.
Professional, respectful, and ethical behaviour is expected from all associated with the Geopark. We reserve the right to challenge behaviour that does not meet these standards.
We are inclusive
We will be as transparent in our activities as possible. We will be open-minded and seek to understand and empathise with those different to ourselves. We will examine own biases and behaviours to avoid stereotyping. We will work collaboratively with others and build upon partnerships, sharing information and knowledge in the pursuit of achieving our vision for the North West Highlands Geopark
We are creative
We look for creative solutions to the challenges to achieving our vision for the North West Highlands Geopark and to building a strong organisation.
Our six strategic objectives
Promote the Geopark, in particular to partners, the local community, visitors and those seeking knowledge of the area’s geology
Conserve Conserve and enhance our geological heritage and promote and engage in the discussion of broader environmental issues
Engage Encourage awareness of, and educate about, the geodiversity, historical, cultural and economic importance of the area, and encourage further geological and related research
Work closely with businesses, educational groups, voluntary and statutory agencies to generate further employment and environmentally responsible and sustainable economic activity within the Geopark
Develop such systems, management structures and methodologies as are required to implement these strategic objectives
Secure and maintain a pipeline of future funding
The number of instances that the Geopark is mentioned by third parties in strategies, policies, publications, podcasts and press is steadily rising NWHG and Wester Ross Biosphere operational teams met in Ullapool for a workshop on developing our missions, values, and communications Walker’s Guide to Coigach and Assynt sold more than 50% of stock (1082 copies) within first year Launched new book “Mnathan na Coigach (The Women of Coigach”) by Lisa MacDonald contributing to the promotion of Gaelic language and culture The Visit Scotland UNESCO National Trail
Met with Highland Adapts to establish how a partnership could work Engaged with NatureScot on monitoring requirements for protected sites
Arranged for Highland Adapts to attend the UK UNESCO Global Geoparks workshop on climate action Participation in Natural Capital Audit as part of NorthWest 2045
“It’s a Land Thing” and “What does the land do for you?” – Events as part of the Highland Climate Festival with NorthWest 2045
What does the land do for you? Event
Built a network of 53 confident Geopark ambassadors and supporters
Delivered more than 20 events attended by over 1000 individuals
Grew our Friends network to almost 160 individuals
Developed an exhibition on ‘Soils as Bridges between the physical and living worlds’
Published a video and e-booklet “Identifying areas of fertile soil in Coigach & Assynt”
Completed an initial phase of Marine Heritage consultation and research
Delivered Geopark Source to Sea workshop for North West Sutherland schools Recorded Rock Route podcasts Built a new ranger hut at Clachtoll beach carpark
Graduate project placements with the University of Glasgow MSc programs in Earth Futures and Environmental Futures.
Met with a range of partners to discuss and further Vision for the region
Wrote to Scottish Government to ask for Policy Support and Core Funding for Geoparks
‘Young Voices’ survey to gather views on future work from school age children
Responded to several Scottish Government Consultations on behalf of the Geopark Charity
Highland Council created a NorthWest2045 Regional Land Use Partnership as a result of our promotion of the Geopark as the area of the North West 2045 vision
Attended Reay Forest estate careers open day
Geopark Ambassador training
Plans for 2022 - 2023
Global Geopark revalidation
Our UNESCO Global Geopark status is due to be revalidated in 2023. Our team continue their work to address the recommendations from the 2019 revalidation mission by UNESCO.
Over the past year we have:
Held a team day at the Rock Stop to discuss initial plans Submitted one-page summary to UNESCO ahead of revalidation in 2023 Shared revalidation key performance indicators with public sector contacts and agreed a plan to work together Conducted a boundary review and presented this to the Governance working group
find out more about UNESCO Global Geoparks and the Global Geopark Network, visit these links:
Our team 2021 - 2022
The BoardDr Iain Young Chair and Projects and Fundraising Director
I’m a lifelong devotee of the North West Highlands and believe the Geopark can make a difference to the appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of the area and so contribute to our local communitiesAnn MacLeod Vice Chair and Community Director for Coigach
The rocks remain for us all to enjoy ! I fell in love with the place at 18 years of age. I see the NWHG UNESCO status as an invaluable asset to the sustainability of the communities living and working in the Geopark
Crawford Hunt Treasurer
I first discovered the North West Highlands whilst at University and have been back a number of times to visit and walk the hills, especially Suilven. The chance to help out the Geopark is something I am really looking forward to and gives me another excuse to visit
Community Director for Lochbroom
I see the Geopark as an innovative driver of sustainability in Lochbroom and our neighbouring areas, I am excited to be able to contribute this forward thinking, collaborative organisation!
Dr Malcolm Bangor-Jones
Community Director for Assynt
Malcolm leaves the Board this year after two and a half years of service.
We thank Malcolm for his contribution to the governance of the Geopark Charity, and wish him well in the future.Murdo MacPherson
Community Director for Kinlochbervie and Communications Director
As a former geography and history teacher in KLB High School, I have never ceased to be captivated by the communities and environment of our area and wish to help develop the Geopark as a means of giving back to the place where I have been privileged to live for the last 25 years
Our team 2021 - 2022
The BoardDon Campbell Community Director for Durness
I have served 22 years in the corp of Royal Engineers and worked in local government and for civil engineering consultants in the construction industry. I currently work with the Capewrath range and on my family croft. I see the Geopark as a unique opportunity to show off the diverse geology that we have in the area and I have faith in its potential for community development
Community Director for Melness, Tongue and Skerray
I have lived in North West Sutherland for over 25 years having worked as the local GP in Tongue until my retirement. I fully support the Geopark’s vision of sustainable development of this wonderful area,Jean MacKay
I believe the Geopark can help our communities have a voice and be sustainable without having to be subjected to over tourism.
Staff and Operational Volunteers
Having already served the geopark at various times as a director, company secretary, treasurer, business manager and administrator I can see the developing potential of the geopark organisation to contribute to life in the NW Highlands. I now look forward to providing a service concentrating on my skills as a geologist and Geotour leaderDr Laura Hamlet
I have a great passion for the Geopark as a driver for sustainable community development. The political capital of UNESCO status, the incredible landscape and the determination of the people who live here is a powerful combination and force for change. It is a privilege to live and work in the North West Highlands.Alison MacPherson
I grew up in the North West Highlands and always find myself returning here. The unique landscape and natural heritage never ceases to inspire. The Geopark is a way to give the living landscape and it’s remote communities another voice, and I am excited and honoured to be a part of the Geopark team
As a regular visitor for the last 25 years I have come to appreciate this unique landscape. Recent involvement in activities offered by the Geopark sparked my interest further and prompted me to become more involved. As a volunteer I’m pleased to be able to contribute to the promotion of the Geopark and its community projects
Jonathan Archer Geopark Projects Officer
As a lifelong visitor and now resident of the north west highlands I am privileged to be part of the Geopark’s team.
Working on behalf of local communities is the dominant theme as we strive to prudently enhance the region’s features, activities and opportunities
Dr Tom Bradwell
North West Highlands Geopark representative to the European Geoparks Coordination Committee
Tom is a lecturer at the University of Stirling and specialist in Quaternary geology in the North West Highlands. He leads and inspires young earth scientists at the Inchnadamph Field Centre each year.
Matthew was with the Charity until July 2022 as a freelance fundraising specialist.
We would like to thank Matthew for his herculean efforts in securing project and programme funding for the Charity over the past two years!