We're Already Marketing Walking, Water Sports and Horse-Riding. Why Not Add Geology into That Mix? Geopark Bid for Anglesey Pushes Tourism Industry towards the Rocks

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

We're Already Marketing Walking, Water Sports and Horse-Riding. Why Not Add Geology into That Mix? Geopark Bid for Anglesey Pushes Tourism Industry towards the Rocks


Byline: Rhodri Clark

AFTER decades when holiday rock was a stick of confectionery with a resort's name written through it, tourism operators are now pinning their hopes on real rocks attracting visitors.

Anglesey has applied to become Wales' second Geopark, a worldwide hallmark for areas of exceptional geological interest.

Officials believe the designation would attract more visitors to one of Wales' poorest areas.

But doubts have been cast on Geoparks' tourism benefits by some operators in the Brecon Beacons, where Fforest Fawr Geopark was declared in 2005.

James Price, of the National Showcaves Centre, near Ystradgynlais, said the Geopark had not affected visitor numbers. He said German Geoparks were better promoted than Fforest Fawr, which had suffered "a lack of marketing".

However Godfrey Rees, of the White House Country Inn at Sennybridge, near Brecon, said Fforest Fawr's new Geopark status, along with fine weather, had increased visitors by 20% in 2006 but wet weather hit last year's trade.

"We have quite a lot of people staying here who have stayed over the years.

"Although they're excited that the area has become a Geopark, it hasn't affected them because they've known about it all along.

"When people in London and the Midlands are looking on the web and see it's a Geopark, it does create a little bit of interest."

Ruth Nicholson, visitor services manager at the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said, "Since its designation in 2005, the Geopark has attracted ever-growing numbers of visitors to the area who stay for longer."

Visitors to the Geopark increased by 2% from2004 to 06 - while visitors to Powys as a whole dropped by 3%.

"In financial terms, in 2006 visitors to the Geopark put pounds 76.5m into the local economy," she added.

Geopark development officer Alan Bowring said, "The Geopark is not just about rocks and fossils.

Every aspect of the landscape has been shaped by the rocks beneath it."

But while the tourism benefits of the geological wonders of the Grand Canyon, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Niagara Falls, and Monument Valley are well-established, why would anyone be interested enough in the rocks beneath our feet to visit Wales?

Geraint Owen, a Swansea University geology lecturer, admits rocks may hold little appeal but says the geology of areas such as Fforest Fawr and Anglesey gives rise to fascinating features.

"It's always difficult to try to interest the public in the rocks themselves," said Dr Owen.

"However, the rocks tell a story about the Earth's history."

That story had been unravelled by generations of experts, and Anglesey's complex geology had played an important role in the history of geology as a science.

"The geology also takes in landscape. In the Brecon Beacons, the wonderful scenery and big escarpments are obviously related to the underlying rocks.

"That's one way to interest the public in what's beneath the surface."

He said man's use of the rocks had left interesting historical remains. …

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