Kielder set to be Europe’s biggest Dark Sky Park

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Dark Sky Park bidders in Kielder Forest are aiming for the stars. For the team now hope that the whole area they have applied for will become a dark sky park, making it the largest in Europe.

Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park, and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society were bidding to have some of the 400 square-mile area approved as a reserve, and for the rest to gain full Dark Sky Park status. But Dark Skies Working Group chairperson, Elisabeth Rowark, said: “A significant part of the (Northumberland) National Park has been discovered to be just as dark as the forest and that means we have raised our sights and will most likely go for one Dark Sky Park designation for the entire area.”

Previously, the group was seeking reserve status for the park from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and for Kielder Water & Forest Park to become a Dark Sky Park.

But said Elisabeth: “We have taken hundreds of light meter readings and worked hard behind the scenes to audit external lighting in the combined area. It is clear that we have what is probably England’s largest expanse of remaining truly dark and starry skies.”

If Kielder is successful, it would knock the Borders’ other neighbour, Galloway, which currently holds the Europe’s largest Dark Sky Park title, into second spot.

“Creating such a large park in Europe is breaking new ground and we are working with the IDA to refine our proposal before seeking their ultimate adjudication, hopefully by the end of the year,” said Elisabeth.

If the bid succeeds Kielder would become one of the largest such parks in the world, joining the likes of Death Valley, California, and Big Bend National Park, Texas, in the USA. For more information on stargazing at Kielder visit www.kielderobservatory.org