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Three-year funding success for the North West Highlands Geopark

Wednesday August 17th 2022

A three-year programme of activities to inspire and help people to Access, Connect and Take part in the heritage of the North West Highlands Geopark is set to go ahead after securing £234,405 in funding.

Community led charity North West Highlands Geopark Ltd has announced the two funding awards to support their ACT Geopark project. The organisation has secured £174,243 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. They have also been awarded £61,162 from the SSE Renewables Sustainable Development Fund. The grants will support an exciting heritage programme, ACT Geopark, in West Sutherland and northern Wester Ross. The programme will give more people the opportunity to connect with the landscape through art, storytelling, and citizen science. Beginning in July 2022, the programme will run for three years until Summer 2025.

The full range of activities can now take place thanks also to support committed earlier by the Highland Coastal Communities Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund ‘Together for Our Planet’, EB Scotland, and Foundation Scotland through The David Doig and The Essentia Foundations. In total, these organisations, have committed more than £315,000 between them.

Activities will begin with the recruitment of a full time Education and Engagement Officer for three years, funded by the SSE Renewables Sustainable Development Fund grant, The National Lottery Community Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players. This will allow the Charity to work more closely with schools, supporting the curriculum and embedding local examples into history, art, geography, and science teaching.  It will also develop an out of school ‘Young Geologists Club’, engaging and upskilling young people in their world-class landscape.

Using the support committed by the Highland Coastal Communities Fund grant, the Geopark Charity will work with local people to share Marine Heritage stories and bring communities together that were traditionally connected by the sea. Following consultation over the past year, The Charity intends these activities to be primarily for local people, and not with a strong tourism focus. Instead concentrating on enhancing wellbeing and health benefits.

The Charity will also develop a Pilgrim’s Trail, Sense of Place toolkits, Artist-in-Residencies, and community path development planning.  There will be many opportunities over the next three years for local people to join events, contribute knowledge and learn new skills.  The Artist-in-Residencies will bring a new perspective to landscape interpretation, combining with geoscientists and local people to express why the Geopark is a special place. In addition, there will be training opportunities for Geopark Ambassadors, staff and volunteers in marine heritage, place-names, and climate action planning.

Commenting on the award, Geopark Chair Dr Iain Young said: “We are thrilled to have received this support from all of our funders. This is a great vote of confidence in our plans which has only been made possible by all of the people who have supported the Geopark over many years.”

Geopark Manager, Dr Laura Hamlet said: “We are of course thrilled that the programme we’ve been developing together for quite a long time has attracted so much support from funders. It’s quite humbling in fact, and now comes the hard work in delivering it all, but I’m really looking forward to getting involved in Sense of Place events and seeing the Young Geologist’s Club get up and running!”

Caroline Clark, National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “ACT Geopark imaginatively brings together a programme that will engage both the local community and visitors in learning about, exploring, enjoying and protecting the heritage of this rugged yet fragile environment. The North West Highland Geopark is very much an initiative driven by local people and it is thanks to National Lottery players that we are able to support the communities’ ambitions for the place they live.”

Lindsay Dougan, Investment Manager and SSE Renewables, said: “SSE Renewables is delighted to support this excellent project which uses the local landscape to enhance young people’s STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) attainment. This project will help young people have the skills and experience for the jobs of the future.”

Above; Geopark team members Iain Young (Chair), Jean MacKay (director), Natasha Hutchison (Lochbroom community director), Pete Harrison (Geopark Geologist), Chris McNeil (Voluntary IT manager), Jonathan Archer (Project officer), Ann Macleod (Coigach community director), and Laura Hamlet (Geopark Manager).


About the North West Highlands Geopark

North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is the Charity that manages UNESCO status for the North West Highlands. Directors and staff are rooted in the local community. They are a group of local people who are involved in the Charity because they care passionately about the area and want to see it thrive—economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally. The North West Highlands Geopark is one of only two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Scotland. The landscapes, underpinned by an incredible variety of rock types, hold the memory of the earth and the future of people.  The rocks tell us how the planet works and help us understand our place within it.

Its vision is for the North West Highlands 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.

It’s mission is: “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 societal issues.”

The Charity:

  • Manages UNESCO Global Geopark designation
  • Develops and delivers projects and programmes, usually with a range of partners
  • Has a focus on: geo-heritage conservation; promoting the area as a responsible tourism destination, with the emphasis on geoheritage; environmental education; and telling the story of the landscape and its people.
  • Builds networks locally, nationally and internationally to support heritage-led sustainable development in the North West Highlands

You can follow @nwhgeopark on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and use the hashtag #ACTGeopark


About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.

Photos: Visit Scotland/Airborne Lens