UNESCO geopark gets green light at Mourne Gullion Strangford

A second area in Northern Ireland has been formally designated as a UNESCO global geopark.

Mourne Gullion Strangford encompasses three areas of outstanding natural beauty, Mourne, Ring of Gullion, and Strangford Lough and Lecale.

The application by Newry Mourne and Down District Council for the coveted status was ratified by the UNESCO’s executive board in Paris on Wednesday.

The council bid was one of 10 approved by UNESCO in December 2022.

A geopark is a single unified geographical area, where landscapes of geological significance are managed holistically for the protection of its geology, the education of its people and visitors, and the sustainable development of its businesses.

Branded “A Tale of Two Oceans”, the new geopark spans 400m years of geological history.

The team behind the Mourne Gullion Strangford bid said no other UNESCO geopark had the same range of geological characteristics.

“One of the fundamental geopark principles is geological risk mitigation,” said council chairperson Michael Savage.

“One distinctive Mourne Gullion Strangford geopark project is the fantastic dune restoration project at Tyrella Beach near Downpatrick.

“This tourist hotspot was at serious risk of erosion due to the loss of its dunes until local volunteers and geopark staff got together with homegrown charity True Harvest Seeds to gather, grow and plant native dune grasses to capture the blowing sand.

“Within just a month of starting this project, there is already visible dune regrowth, protecting not only the lovely smooth tourist beach of Tyrella itself but the low-lying land behind it too.”

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