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7th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks

In September 2016, the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark hosted the 7th International Conference of the Global Geopark Network.

This meeting of the Network was, for the first time held under the patronage of UNESCO as – following a UNESCO decision in November 2015 – the Global Geoparks are now ‘UNESCO Global Geoparks’. This week-long conference attracted 695 delegates from 63 countries, including large groups from China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, writes Malcolm Hart

ljhLeft: Some conference delegates investigating the Middle Devonian limestones on Hope’s Nose, immediately below the famous raised beach.

The conference began with an ‘icebreaker’ in the Tithe Barn of Torre Abbey, with delegates able to visit the Abbey and see the William Smith geological map. The formal opening of the conference was a spectacular performance of ‘Earth Echoes – the GeoOpera’, followed by the official welcomes by Gordon Oliver (Mayor of Torbay) and Nick Powe (Chairman, English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark) and four keynote speeches by Dr Beth Taylor (UK National Committee for UNESCO), Prof. Iain Stewart (Plymouth University and Patron of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark), Prof. Patrick McKeever (Secretary of the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme Chief of Section, UNESCO) and Prof. Nickolas Zouros (President – Global Geoparks Network). On the Tuesday afternoon the conference presentations began in 12 parallel sessions, which continued on Wednesday and again on Friday morning. There was a large ‘Geofair’, that was open to the general public and local schools, as well as a large number of posters.

On the Thursday of the conference delegates participated in a number of excursions, some of which were more cultural in nature, allowing participants to see local museums, Torre Abbey, Cockington Village and Kents Cavern, while also giving some the time for a boat cruise in Tor Bay. There were four geological excursions, led by geologists from Plymouth University, ably supported by a team of student volunteers. Though rather damp and misty at 08.30, by 0930 the sun was out and the geology of the area, including the Devonian mudstones and fossiliferous limestones, Permian red beds and the Pleistocene raised beach of Hope’s Nose, were demonstrated to the enthusiastic visitors. A visit to Kents Cavern was included in the non-stop day of geology.


During the week there was a social programme for those accompanying the delegates while, in the evenings, there was a barn dance at Occombe Farm, a street party in Torquay and a major conference dinner (with an Agatha Christie play as backdrop).

Right: Staff and students from Plymouth University (outside the English Riviera International Conference Centre) who were involved in the geological field excursions on the 29th September.

The closing ceremony, on Friday 30th September, included the announcement of the location for the 2018 conference. This will be held in the Adamello-Brenta UNESCO Global Geopark in Trentino, Italy, during September 2018.

 jklhLeft: Dr Matthew Watkinson (Plymouth University) explaining the depositional history of the fossil-rich Devonian limestones of Hope’s Nose to delegates in his field trip group.