Local News

International UNESCO Geoparks Conference

On September 27-30, IATNL / Cabox Aspiring Geopark Chairperson Paul Wylezol attended the 7th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks at Torquay, England, where he learned more about the UNESCO Global Geopark programme and gave a presentation on next year's 250th Anniversary of James Cook completing his surveys of Western Newfoundland and Eastern Canada.

International Geopark Conference Programme

Conference Programme (click to enlarge)


The conference began with an icebreaker reception at Torre Abbey's Spanish Barn, which held 397 prisoners from Spanish Armada ships wrecked off the coast of southern England in 1588.

Opening night icebreaker in the Spanish Barn


The Abbey was founded in 1196 and tells a story from life in a medieval monastery through Henry VIII, the Spanish Armada, Napoleonic Wars, to Georgian family life.  Its present incarnation is as a museum and art gallery.

View of Torre Abbey


During the conference, the Abbey played host to William Smith's geological map of England, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2015.

William Smith Geological Map of England


"From 1799 Smith embarked on a great journey carrying out works of engineering, survey and drainage throughout the country. He travelled only by mail coach, cart, horse, and on foot (as even the first passenger steam train did not run until 1825) and took every opportunity to sketch a section and record 'the stone-quarries, outcrops of the rocks, and other strata thereon'."

William Smith Geological Map


The conference itself was held at Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay


where Day Two began with the GeoOpera 'Earth Echoes', followed by an official welcome by Mayor Gordon Oliver and Conference Chairman Nick Powe.  Key note presentations were given by UK UNESCO Chair Beth Taylor, UNESCO Secretary of International Geoscience and Geoparks Patrick McKeever, Global Geoparks President Nickolas Zouros, and English Riviera Geopark Patron, BBC TV Presenter and Plymouth University Professor Iain Stewart.

English Riviera Geopark Patron Iain Stewart giving a presentation on Geo Travel


The afternoon of Day Two was dedicated to Session Two themed presentations, including one by Scotland's Andrew Barton on the EU Interreg funded Drifting Apart project, of which Western Newfoundland's Cabox Aspiring Geopark is a partner.


Between sessions attendees could relax on the beautiful grounds of the Conference Center


or stroll along nearby Torquay waterfront


which extends around the harbour to the marina.

Torquay waterfront

Torquay waterfront (click to enlarge)

Torquay Map

Map of Torquay within English Riviera Geopark (click to enlarge)


Day Three opened with a key note presentation on the relationship between natural environments and health and well-being, followed by a panel discussion on the subject.


This was followed by a full day of Session 5 & 6 themed presentations, including one by IATNL and Cabox Aspiring Geopark Chairperson Paul Wylezol who gave a presentation on the upcoming 250th anniversary of James Cook's exploits in Eastern Canada and around the world entitled James Cook 250 and Geo-Historical Linkages.


International Geopark Conference Wednesday

Themed Presentations of Session 5 (click to enlarge)


Paul Wylezol giving presentation on James Cook 250


Day Three also included poster presentations on a number of topics from Global Geoparks and Aspiring Geoparks around the world.


In the evening, an English Riviera Street Party was held near the Big Wheel at Princess Gardens on Torquay Seafront, 10 minute walk from the conference centre.


Day Four was dedicated to field trips, or in Paul's case, a self-guided walking tour of the English Riviera, beginning with the grounds of Torre Abbey and the red sandy beaches of Torquay and Paignton.

Red beach of Paignton

Red beach of Paignton (click to enlarge)


A signature feature of the beaches are the colorful little huts which are perched along the shore

Colorful huts of Paignton

Colourful huts of Paignton (click to enlarge)


along the way to the casino and arcades of Paignton Pier.


The evening of Day Four was reserved for the Gala Dinner at Riviera International Conference Center, and included various presentations such as the Best Practice Awards.


The final day of the conference was once again dedicated to themed presentations, including one by Paul Wylezol entitled Geopark Plus, which explored the possibility of combining two United Nations programmes - UNESCO Global Geoparks and REDD+ - to help establish ecologically and economically sustainable Global Geoparks in developing countries.


The final evening was dedicated to team photos and goodbyes

Photo of Team Canada.  Missing from photo is Gail Bremner and John Calder


one last walk along the waterfront and marina


and one last waterfront dinner!