Save Lochaber Geopark

My old PhD supervisor, Ian Parsons, asked me to draw attention to the Lochaber Geopark project:

Lochaber Geopark, based in Fort William, is a not-for-profit organization, run mainly by volunteers.

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Lochaber District covers 4648 km2, includes Britain’s highest mountain and has a wild western coastline of exceptional beauty. Our objective is to tell the story of Lochaber’s exceptionally varied geology and geomorphology to some of the million+ visitors who come here every summer, and to its 20,000 inhabitants. It is a story that has played a pivotal role in the evolution of Geology as a science.

Lochaber is built of three terranes. The Grampian terrane, South of the Great Glen, is composed of the varied Dalradian Supergroup, dramatically folded during the Grampian orogeny. In the Northern Highland terrane, the less varied Moine Supergroup experienced both the Grampian and Scandian orogenies, and in places the earlier Knoydartian. The two terranes were brought into place by at least 500 km of NE – SW movement along the Great Glen Fault. In the undeformed Hebridean terrane of the Small Isles a Torridonian sequence forms the north of Rùm.

For igneous petrologists the names of our star attractions ring out like the great battles of history: Ardnamurchan, Eigg, Rùm! To the east, Glen Coe (the first ancient caldera recognized anywhere), Ben Nevis, the Ballachulish complex, Strontian and the unusual rocks of Kentallen.

Small outcrops of Phanerozoic sedimentary rocks, some with fossils, occur along the Sound of Mull and in the Small Isles. Every geological Period from the Devonian to the Palaeocene is represented. These small outcrops of sedimentary rocks tell the story of Scotland’s post-Caledonian northward drift.

Fort William was under a small ice-sheet only 11,500 years ago, during the Loch Lomond Stadial. At that time one the world’s most celebrated Geomorphological features, the ‘Parallel Roads’ of Glen Roy, were forming. The story of Charles Darwin’s ‘gigantic blunder’ is told in our small visitor centre and café in Roy Bridge.

Since April 2014 we have received funding from the Scottish government on a declining scale with the understanding that we would become financially self-sufficient in 2019. We have made great strides towards self-sufficiency, mainly through retail sales in our two visitor centres, but the winters are long and cold, and rents are high.

To keep going we have launched a Crowdfunding campaign at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-lochaber-geopark

and a Membership and field-trips (Geotours) scheme on our website at www.lochabergeopark.org.uk.

Please help us survive, through Crowdfunding and/or our Membership scheme. A large number of modest donations could save us from extinction!

Please pass this on to your students.

Ian Parsons (Geopark Vice-chair and Edinburgh University)
Isla Mackay
(Staff geologist)

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Sunset over the corries of the Glen Coe caldera: Photo – Neil Slinger