You must have been living under a rock (or slate!) if you have failed to notice that the Slate Landscape of North West Wales gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status during the Summer this year.
Towns and villages such as Blaenau, Bethesda and Abergynolwyn now share a stage with places as varied and striking as the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids in Egypt, Latin America Baroque Cathedrals and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Cyngor Gwynedd led on the work of submitting the application to UNESCO with different services within the Economy and Community, Planning and IT departments playing a key part. At the time, the announcement had considerable attention in the local, national and international media and here, Hannah Joyce, Senior Strategic Regeneration Officer in the Economy and Community Department, shares her unique impressions on the whole process. Hannah and her colleagues, Roland Evans and Gwenan Pritchard, have been at the forefront in steering the project over the years.
The announcement was made by the World Heritage Committee far away in China, with Hannah and the rest watching over the internet at the Slate Museum in Llanberis. Hannah said: "The feeling of relief, pride and excitement was obvious when the announcement was made. Everyone had been very nervous in advance as we did not know what the decision would be. Discussions about other sites had not gone as expected. When it was our turn, the Committee was unanimous that the decision was to inscribe the Slate Landscape of North West Wales.
"After having time to consider, pride is the feeling that will remain in my memory - pride for the work that has gone into securing the status, the collaboration between partners, communities and businesses in Gwynedd to reach the goal."
The announcement is the pinnacle of 12 years of hard work, although the idea and will to secure the World Heritage status for the area has existed for 25 years. The team has faced challenges along the way with developing the nomination proving complicated at times, particularly when trying to satisfy the requirements of the British Government, UNESCO and advisory bodies.
Hannah explained: "Despite the challenges, the process has been worthwhile as we have nurtured good relationships with the communities and businesses of Gwynedd, and enabled them to be a part of the process of developing and submitting the nomination. Our main intention was to use the county's rich heritage for social and economic regeneration.
"We are eager for communities and businesses to make the most of the designation in their own way, and the trigger for this has been created through the LleCHI plan which has been running in the slate communities for three years. We want the designation to increase local understanding of the heritage and history of the slate valleys, to foster pride in those areas and create new economic opportunities for individuals and businesses.
"Developing the nomination has already attracted over £1 million in external investment in important projects which regenerate our communities economically and socially through heritage and culture and many projects are being developed for the future."
Although the work of developing the nomination has ended, this is not the end of the road according to Hannah.
She said: "The Site Management Plan has been submitted to UNESCO as a part of the application process, and this identifies priorities for managing the site for the next ten years. In practical terms, this means working to improve the interpretation and engagement with communities across the area, work to recover and regenerate some of the historical structures, buildings and landscapes.
"We will also continue to work with communities and businesses to make the most of the designation, seek to ensure funding to evolve the LleCHI plan in the future, and help partners, communities and landowners to take advantage of the opportunities that may derive from the designation."
If you wish to read more about the slate areas of North West Wales, click here: https://www.llechi.cymru