Seven UK sites being considered for World Heritage status – list

UNESCO World Heritage status is for areas that are “outstanding universal value to humanity” and should be “protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy”. For any sites that are in immediate danger, the World Heritage mission aims to provide emergency assistance. While the UK has 33 sites currently, seven new sites have submitted details to be included on the list. 

Five out of the seven have been added to the government’s ‘Tentative List’, a document published every decade that sets out the locations with the best chance of getting UNESCO World Heritage status. The other two sites submitted full nominations to UNESCO at the beginning of the list and remain on the government’s Tentative List.

1. York

“Perfectly placed halfway between London and Edinburgh”, York is a walled city founded by the ancient Romans. 

It boasts a 13th-century Goth cathedral, York Minster, which has stained glass and two functioning bell towers. 

Tourists love to explore the city along the Walls which form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse. 

There are also 30 “world-class museums” to explore, “the best racecourse in the country” and a thriving cultural scene. 

2. Birkenhead Park in Merseyside

Also known as the People’s Garden, Birkenhead Park is a much-loved space by the local community. 

For nearly 200 years, it has been a major landmark on the Wirral and boasts 140 acres of historic parkland. 

There are bridges, a boat house, beautiful woodlands, a large lake to walk around, and a playground for children to scramble, and it is a popular running route for locals too. 

Open in 1847, Birkenhead Park was a pioneering project to bring greenery to urban environments, and it went on to inspire the development and creation of parks across the world including New York’s Central Park. 

3. The Zenith of Iron Age Shetland

A combination of three ancient sites in Shetland, Scotland: Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof is called “outstanding” for their “original construction” and ability to “survive the ravages of time”. 

The Zenith of Iron Age is said to “provide some of the most significant examples of the European Iron Age in an area outside the Roman Empire”.

Old Scatness and Jarlshof are situated within a mile of one another, and Mousa is located on the first island to the north on the west coast. Each spot displays different and distinctive facets of Iron Age architecture. 

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4. The East Atlantic Flyway

The East Atlantic Flyway is a migration route used by about 90 million birds each year, they pass from their breeding areas in the United States, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and northern Europe to wintering areas in western Europe, then onto southern Africa. 

It is also one of the eight major flyways used by waders and shorebirds. 

In terms of where the route goes across the UK, birds fly above Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent. 

5. The Little Cayman Marine Parks and Protected Areas

The Cayman Islands is one of five UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, about 200 miles northwest of Jamaica and 150 miles south of Cuba. 

It is made up of three islands; Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with a combined area of 102 square miles. 

The Cayman Islands has a population of around 66,000 with a strong financial and tourism sector supporting the national economy.

But it has worked hard to protect its environment; around 48 percent of the Cayman Islands’ shelf waters are designated as no-take zones. 

No-take zones are areas set aside by the government where not extractive activity is allowed, so no removal, extraction or resources are to be taken. This includes fishing, hunting, logging, mining, drilling and shell collecting or archaeological digging. 

6. The Flow Country

The Flow Country is said to be the “most intact and extensive blanket bog system in the world”. 

A blanket bog is a “rare type of peatland which forms only in cool places with plenty of rain and covers the landscape like a blanket”.

There are interlinking pool systems and “microfeatures” that host flora and fauna as well as play a “vital role in the defence against the effects of climate change”. 

The Flow Country has been suggested should be nominated for World Heritage status since 1988 based on the environment and the species that live within it.  

7. Gracehill Moravian Church Settlement in Ballymena, Northern Ireland

Founded by the Moravians in 1759, Gracehill Moravian Church Settlement is a “picturesque village, located on the rural outskirts of Ballymena”. 

In 1975, it was designated as Northern Ireland’s first conservation area. 

Should it be successful at winning a UNESCO World Heritage status, it will be the first Cultural World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. 

Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay commented on the seven sites and said: “All the locations being put forward would be worthy recipients of this accolade – and we will give them our full backing so they can benefit from the international recognition it can bring.”

Laura Davies, HM Ambassador to UNESCO, said the five new sites added to the list “brilliantly reflect the diversity and beauty of the UK and its overseas territories’ natural and cultural heritage”.

The DCMS said it will work with local authorities and devolved administrations to develop their bids.

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