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Could the Flow Country become Scotland’s next UNESCO World Heritage Site?

A far-reaching community consultation is underway which will help integrate the ideas of the people of Caithness and Sutherland into the application for the Flow Country to become a World Heritage site. 

The Flow Country sits in the far northern Highlands of Scotland, and encompasses much of the counties of Caithness and Sutherland. It is widely considered to be the largest area of blanket bog in the world. Together with associated areas of heath and open water it is of international importance as a habitat and for the diverse range of rare and unusual breeding birds it supports.

Blanket bog can only form in cool areas with lots of rainfall; in fact it relies entirely on rain and snow for water. The relatively few plant species that thrive in this habitat do not rot away after they die; rather, they build up and eventually form deep layers of peat. The blanket bog of The Flow Country has been accumulating since the last Ice Age – over 10,000 years ago – with the peat standing at 10 metres deep in places.

The Peatlands Partnership: The Flow Country from Cryptic on Vimeo.

At the end of 2006 the Peatlands Partnership was formed following the completion of the EU LIFE funded Peatlands Project with the aim of building on that project. Flows to the Future Project, a far reaching, ambitious project that aimed to significantly increase the level of conservation management and promotional activities being undertaken in the Flow Country followed and in Autumn 2017 a World Heritage Site Working Group was set up with the key purpose of developing and submitting a successful Technical Evaluation as an essential step in realising the Flow Country as a World Heritage Site.

Over the next year, the team will be putting together a technical evaluation which will argue the case for the Flow Country becoming a World Heritage Site. This technical evaluation will go to the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who will decide if the application can progress to the next stage.

If successful, a full application to UNESCO will be prepared who will ultimately decide whether or not the Flow Country becomes a World Heritage Site.

As part of this effort, a far-reaching community consultation is underway which will help integrate the ideas of the people of Caithness and Sutherland into the application. This consultation will run from May 2019 to July 2019 and includes a series of drop-in events such as the one held at Dunbeath Heritage Centre in mid-May. Following this, the Technical Evaluation will be submitted to DCMS by the end of September 2019.

To take part in the consultation, you can complete a feedback form – online or download the form and email or post it to the address below. If you have any trouble using the online consultation, please feel free to get in touch with Project Coordinator Joe Perry on: 07775411270 or via email on: Post: Joe Perry, Highland Council Offices, Drummuie, Golspie, KW10 6TA. Berriedale & Dunbeath Community Council has sent a letter in support of the application.

No two World Heritage Sites can be the same. The opportunities that come with World Heritage Site status are not uniform; indeed, the benefits of each site worldwide are unique and are shaped largely by how well local businesses and communities prepare for the opportunities that come with this status. With this in mind, it is impossible to say exactly what a World Heritage Site would bring to Caithness and Sutherland, but many similar sites around the world have taken advantage of the potential for branding, marketing and international recognition that comes with joining this prestigious club.

If successful, the Flow Country will join The Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef as one of the most important natural sites in the world.

For more information check out The Flow Country Website

View across Flow Country towards Ben Griam Beg, Sutherland