The National Enterprise Town Awards: Copper Coast

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at the Copper Coast in Waterford.

Waterford’s Copper Coast Geopark is a UNESCO designated area of outstanding natural beauty and significant international geological importance.

It stretches for some 20km from Kilfarrasy Beach in the east near Tramore to Stradbally in the west. In 2001, it was the first site in the state to receive the Geopark status and pursued this in order to aid and promote environmental sustainability, but also to boost the profile of the area as a tourism destination.

Ireland has a long history of copper mining, and the copper mines at Ross Island in Co Kerry and Mount Gabriel in Co Cork are some of the oldest in north-west Europe, dating back thousands of years to the Early Bronze Age. The rugged coastline that stretches between Tramore and Dungarvan is known as The Copper Coast, due to the extensive copper mining industry that thrived in the nineteenth century.

The focus of the mining industry along the Copper Coast, was centred around Knockmahon from the 1820s to 1850s. By 1840, Knockmahon was regarded as being one of the most important mining districts in the entire British Empire. The nearby village of Bunmahon swelled with large numbers of workers, some of whom were experienced miners from the copper mines of Cornwall.

The main communities which comprise the Geopark are Bunmahon (where the Geopark Visitor Centre is based), Stradbally, Kill, Dunhill, Fenor, Boatstrand and Annestown. The Geopark is bordered on the northern side by the N25, the Comeragh Mountains and the new Waterford Greenway and, on the south, by the Atlantic Ocean.

The Geopark has a varied array of natural features, heritage assets and community endeavours. Pristine beaches and sand dunes, impressive cliffs and towering sea stacks, Tidy Town award winning villages, unique history, wildlife and geology.

But these assets are now being pulled together for the purposes of community and rural development and regeneration, and with a commitment by all communities and all relevant agencies to develop the Copper Coast as a planning and development unit. Critical to this will be the development of an agreed overall strategic plan, but with this being accompanied by on-going development of the individual communities.

The Copper Coast is a place where nature and heritage have bestowed great beauty and pride. It is also a place where there is a growing sense of common purpose and ambition to make this a highly sustainable economic and social unit.

Allied to this sense of community endeavour is an increase in focus in the area by government agencies and with associated private sector investment. Waterford’s Copper Coast is a place where nature, community, innovation and inclusivity are gradually coming together to make a vibrant community that is winning the battle against former ills such as rural depopulation and unemployment.

By Stephen Larkin

Image: Twitter @GoToIreland

Published: 5 November, 2019