UK & World News

  • 9 December 2013, 9:52

Northumberland Wins Dark Sky Park Protection

A swathe of Northumberland's night sky has been granted special protection in a move set to boost tourism from stargazing visitors in the remote part of England.

In recognition of the quality of its spectacular cosmic vista, around 580 square miles of the North East countryside has secured dark sky status, making it the largest such area in Europe.

The US-based International Dark Skies Association (IDA) has granted Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status to the combined areas of Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park, between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish border.

The special designation means the spread of light pollution will be halted, with people encouraged to fit more sophisticated outdoor lighting to homes.

The new zone - which will be called the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park - is the first of its kind in England and one of the largest in the world, joining the likes of Death Valley and Big Bend Dark Sky Parks in America.

Gold tier designation is the highest accolade that the IDA can bestow.

It is set to prove popular among astronomers seeking to escape the glare of the city.

The bid for protected status has taken two years, and has been spearheaded by Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society.

TV impressionist Jon Culshaw, an amateur astronomer, said: "It's a sad thought that such genuinely dark sky sites are becoming increasingly rare.

"We must value them, preserve them and ensure they can be enjoyed by as many visitors as possible who may take in the majesty of a spectacularly non-light polluted night sky."

Elisabeth Rowark, chair of the Northumberland Dark Skies Working Group and director of the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: "We do not want to turn off the lights, but rather encourage better lighting using the latest technology."

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal for England, said: "It is important to ensure that there will be somewhere in England where young people can fully enjoy a cosmic panorama."

Councillor John Riddle, chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "This move will reclaim the night and protect this rich legacy for future generations."

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