THE Black Country has officially been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark, following ten years of preparations.

The region gained the world-famous status after the Executive Board of UNESCO confirmed that the Black Country has been welcomed into its network of Global Geoparks.

It means the Black Country has joined a prestigious group of important geological sites around the world, in recognition of the region's world-class natural features and cultural heritage.

The Black Country's role in shaping the Industrial Revolution was a key aspect of the bid.

The announcement was hailed as a "momentous occasion" by the leader of Dudley Council, after the Black Country Geopark project group submitted its final stage of the application to UNESCO last year.

Councillor Patrick Harley said: "We did it! This is a truly a momentous occasion for the Black Country. I couldn’t be prouder of what has been achieved and I am delighted the announcement has been made during Black Country Month.

"Our region is renowned for being a driving force during the industrial revolution and this status recognises the importance our geological heritage played at the time and how it defined this area. It also marks the start of an exciting new chapter.

"Becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark really puts us on the world map and gives us the opportunity to tell our story to the world and celebrate the many sites and features that we are so fortunate to have.

"We hope this new UNESCO badge will encourage visitors from all over Great Britain and from around the world and bring in new funding to help us to further develop the Geopark.

Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve in Dudley and Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley are among the first 40 geosites to be included, with more to be added as the geopark develops.

Ambassador Matthew Lodge, UK Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: "I am delighted that the Black Country has become the UK's eighth UNESCO Global Geopark, joining the UK's exceptional network of UNESCO designations.

"With geology stretching back 428 million years, and a landscape and heritage that shaped the modern world during the industrial revolution, it is right that the Black Country is given this prestigious UN status.

"Today's announcement ensures that this remarkable site will continue to inspire the million people who call the landscape home, as well as local and international visitors in the years to come. Congratulations to all."

Organisations involved in the bid include Dudley Council, Natural England, the Canal and River Trust, the Wildlife Trust For Birmingham and the Black Country, the Black Country Consortium and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.