Our designation as a Geopark is based upon the international importance of 32 geosites covering a story of 3 geological time periods, all found within a compact area.
Please note that due to scientific significance or difficult access not all sites are open to the public. The majority of the sites can still viewed whilst enjoying a Geopark Cruise. The information provided here is intended to act as an informational resource only.
Click the links in the menu to find out more about the individual sites and their designations.
Details about the best places and ways to explore the Geopark can be found on the Explore the Geopark page.
Please remember the geology of Torbay is special, and all sites are protected by law.
Table key - A: Interpretation, B:Education, C: Geotourism, D: No Geotourism
How do we know our sites are internationally important?
The geology of the English Riviera Geopark is fully recognised as of international importance through the Global Geosites programme. This is the only internationally recognised and objective system for listing sites of global geological importance as detailed within Geosites - an IUGS Initiative: Science supported by Conservation, Wimbledon et al. In the early 1990s the Global Indicative List of Geological Sites, or GILGES, was established as a collaboration between the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), UNESCO, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP) to compile a list of geological sites of global importance, largely to inform World Heritage listing. In 1996 this scheme evolved into the more comprehensive ‘Global Geosites' project as more rigorous criteria and procedures were developed.
In Britain, the British Institution for Geological Conservation (BIGC) has coordinated the compilation of this list in collaboration with ProGEO - the European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage. As an inventory of key geological sites had already been carried out by the Geological Conservation Review (GCR), BIGC produced a list of selection frameworks representing aspects of the UK's geology considered to be of international importance. Many geological sites in the English Riviera Geopark are relevant to these frameworks, which therefore provide an independent assessment of the international significance of the geology of the Torbay district.
Within the English Riviera Geopark a total of 15 GCR sites are recognised within 4 Global Geosite Framework categories (see table 1)
Devon (marine) carbonates and clastics
Permian-Triassic red-bed sequence (Devon coast)
Late Pleistocene interglacial/glacial, cave/beach sediments (Saalian- Weichselian)
Late Pleistocene Interglacial (OIS7, 5e) raised beaches (southern England, Cornwall, South Wales)
Although not recognised within the current Global Geosite Framework a further two categories are noteworthy in an international context
Caves Fauna - Kents Cavern and Brixham Caves have revealed internationally significant palaeontological, stratigraphical and archaeologicali information elucidating the environmental and faunal changes during the Quaternary. Both the findings and excavations are relevant to the history of science.
Mineralogy - mineral deposits found at Hopes Nose are so unique they are virtually unknown elsewhere hence the English Riviera Geopark's 16th GCR designation (No.1752: Hopes Nose)
However, it must be noted that due to the nature of the process of the GCR site selection in the 1970's, a review in the early 1990's revealed that some sites of international importance had been omitted from the original GCR list. Subsequently these sites have been recognised and designated as County Geological Sites known as Regionally Important Geological sites in other parts of the country) even though they are of international importance. The English Riviera Geopark's GCR sites are listed within Table 1 however more information is held online www.jncc.gov.uk/page-2949 and within the Geological Conservation Review Series.