The Copper Coast Geopark is located on the South East coast of Ireland, in County Waterford. It extends between Tramore in the east, towards Dungarvan in the west, and comprises 6 local communities, each with their own featured attractions: Fenor (a bog and mini-farm), Dunhill (the ruins of a medieval castle and church), Annestown (lime kiln, promontory fort and spectacular beach), Boatstrand (harbour, and Iron Age promontory fort), Bunmahon (19th Century copper mines, geological garden and Geopark Centre) and Stradbally (European Entente Florale gold medal winner in 2003, geological sundial). These communities, with the support of the Geological Survey of Ireland, were involved with the Geopark from its inception as they were looking for ways to develop sustainable geotourism in this rural area.
The Copper Coast is an outdoor geology museum with a geological heritage that reflects the variety of environments under which the area has evolved over the last 460 million years. Sedimentary and volcanic rocks define a cross section through the core of an Ordovician age island arc volcanic system; closure of the Iapetus Ocean by the collision of 2 continents leading to the creation of Ireland – as part of a desert dissected by large rivers; and, finally, the effects of glaciation during the Ice Age. Cross-sections of these rocks are exposed along the spectacular cliffs and are interpreted for the public at various points. For a brief introduction to these rocks, a stroll around the Geological Garden in Bunmahon will prove instructive. Copper was mined extensively in the area during the 19th Century. The Geopark’s name is derived from this activity, and the Copper Coast icon is derived from the conserved remains of a mine complex on a high point of the cliffs. Panels there explain how the mine worked. There is also a rich cultural heritage – Neolithic dolmens, Iron Age forts, pre-Christian inscribed stones, ruined medieval churches and a spectacular castle owned by one community group.
The Geopark has, through participation in INTERREG funded projects, created a range of educational services and products over the last few years to raise awareness of the geological heritage of the Geopark, as well as geology in general. These include visits to primary schools, fieldtrips with secondary schools, a team of local guides trained by the Geopark for summer walks, geology courses, numerous publications, actively managed web site and a path through geological time in the geological garden. It offers a wide range of activities, including conservation and landscaping of Tankardstown 19th Century mining site; interpretation of the local geology, mining history and local features (panels and publications); organisation of workshops all year round (eco trade fair, flower arrangement, willow sculpture, basket making, seaweed seminar, seafood banquet with slow food movement, and more). The Geopark Centre provides information about Geopark activities and the European Geoparks Network. The village of Bunmahon in the Copper Coast Geopark is twinned with the villages of Strohn in Vulkaneifel Geopark-Germany and Gams in Eisenwurzen Geopark-Austria. Regular exchanges have been taking place since 2004.
The Copper Coast Geopark, with the assistance of INTERREG IIIC funding, designed flags and promotional leaflets for the European Geoparks Network, and funded an issue of the European Geoparks Magazine as its trans-national contribution to develop a strong brand identity between all European Geoparks.
Recently, the Geopark acquired a disused church building and will transform it into a new Geopark Centre which will serve not only as a community and visitor centre, but also offer a range of services and facilities, such as the bistro and educational facilities, and archive/genealogical services. It is intended that such services and facilities will contribute to the long term financial sustainability of the Geopark, and create sustainable employment opportunities.
For further information and contact: www.coppercoastgeopark.com