As part of the USAC (Unesco Sites Across the Channel) project funded by the EU Interreg France-Channel-England programme, the French Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale and the English Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), in partnership with the Conservatoire des Espaces Naturels Hauts-de-France are applying for “UNESCO Global Geopark” status.
What is a Geopark ?
Geopark status is awarded by UNESCO to mark international recognition of the exceptional geological significance of a geographical area. The connection between Man and the Land is especially significant.
To acquire this status, regions undertake to promote to the public at large their history, local expertise and the geological heritage which have shaped their landscapes. It is this heritage that makes a region what it is today and what it could be tomorrow.
But first we have to be able to interpret this history! The geology of a region does not simply amount to the fossils that can be found there. It is reflected in the landscapes and helps us to understand how they were formed and how they have shaped our everyday environment (regarding building materials or nearby rivers or hills, for example).
In other words, it involves finding out what lies under our feet in order to understand what we see before us.
The four main objectives of the “UNESCO Global Geopark”:
- Promote and preserve our geological heritage through the development of sustainable tourism.
- Raise awareness, inform, and educate
- Involve local players and the local population
- Improve scientific knowledge of our geological heritage
DID YOU KNOW ?
That regions wishing to obtain “UNESCO Global Geopark” status have to demonstrate that they have actively carried out the above four missions and have been operating as a Geopark for at least one year before submitting its official application.
Why a Cross-Channel Geopark ?
The geology of the Caps et Marais d’Opale
Between the deposition of limestone in the Devonian period and the opening of the strait of Calais in the Quaternary period, a mountain chain had risen up and then completely eroded, followed by the creation of the chalk sea, the formation of the Alps, the arrival in the region of ammonites, dinosaurs, mammoths and finally man - making the Caps et Marais d’Opale a region of exceptional geological diversity. 400 million years of history just waiting to be told !
What next ?
Having UNESCO Global Geopark status boosts economic development and tourism in a region, by promoting those geological features that can be seen there: landscapes and hidden geological gems, past and present uses of the resources found in the soil and underlying rock, and other legacies (material or immaterial, cultural, etc.). The Geopark will give the local population and tourists a new perspective on the landscape.
Having Geopark status does not imply any regulatory control or taxation in the region. It will have no legal effect on planning, conservation or the protection of the land and its resources.
In fact, it will be of benefit to people living in or visiting the region, schools, universities, and businesses, through various media :
- Discovery trails
- Information boards
- Information in comic-book format
- Volunteer projects
- Ideas sharing
Watch out for future events and activities.
Geopark or Geoparc ?
Both spellings are used !
UNESCO has designated Geoparks all over the world. The English version tends to be more widely used, but French-speaking regions receiving this status may choose between the title “Géoparc Mondial UNESCO” and/or “UNESCO Global Geopark”.
In our case, it seems obvious to write Geopark with a k since the area extends beyond our French border !
The tools to discover the Cross-Channel Geopark
Several educational tools for the general public allow you to discover the Cross-Channel Geopark :
- An exhibition "the Cross-Channel Geopark: a journey through time" to introduce the general public to the geological history of our territory, which is closely linked to that of Kent in England. The exhibition is free and can be viewed at the Maison du site des Deux Caps in Audinghen.
- A photographic gallery at the Caps et Marais d'Opale Regional Natural Park house and the Cross-Channel Geopark house in Le Wast to introduce the general public to the natural, cultural, industrial and geological heritage of our territory
- An educational bag which aims to be used by nature guides and animators. It is a bag containing educational elements allowing its user to accompany his speech and to share knowledge on the geology of the territory with the general public.
- 6 short educational and fun films on different themes related to geology
Musette pédagogique Geopark
Some Geopark movies
The Geopark network
The Geopark network was created in the 2000s. It encompasses all those regions having Geopark status and which share a common goal: to promote and protect the environment and our heritage, especially our geological heritage. Thanks to this network, Geoparks can cooperate together and share information.
There are Geoparks all over the world :
- 117 in total (in 46 different countries)
- 94 in Europe
- 7 in France
In short !
Our Geopark will :
- Relate the story of our geological heritage, which has both national and international significance.
- Tell people about Man’s relationship with the underlying rock of our region, whose particular charm owes a lot to the building materials used there.
- Preserve and promote our natural and cultural heritage.
- Boost the economic activity of the whole region.
- Help us to understand climate change.
DID YOU KNOW ?
That the Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 2013. Becoming a Geopark will be its second UNESCO distinction.
Visit the Cross-Channel Geopark in the Kent Downs