Star turn over Kielder

Star trails over Kielder
Star trails over Kielder

NEIGHBOURING Kielder Park has put in a bid to become Europe’s largest dark sky park with a global organisation that campaigns for dark skies.

Campaigners hope to designate nearly 1,500 square km of Northumberland as England’s first Dark Sky Park and have submitted their plan to the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), based in Tucson, USA.

Kielder Observatory founder director and lead astronomer, Gary Fildes said: “Winning Dark Sky park status will only serve to enhance the visitor experience and ensure that we maintain the dark skies for future generations to look out into the universe and wonder about our place in it.

“So much of the UK is blighted by light pollution which makes places like the Kielder Observatory so very special.”

Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park Authority and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society have been working on the bold plan for two years.

And the group says it has the support of residents, local councils, businesses, tourism agencies, wildlife campaigners and scientific organisations, including Jodrell Bank and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

More than 300 light meter readings have been taken which show Northumberland has the largest expanse of truly dark night skies remaining in England, say campaigners.And they point to local businesses working to develop new astro-tourism activities, with some already running stargazing packages.

And more Dark Sky Discovery locations are planned for the park, where people can enjoy stargazing, say the group.

Northumberland National Park Authority visitor development officer, Duncan Wise said: “This is a very ambitious bid which would create one of the world’s largest areas of protected night sky. But this is about more than just admiring the breath-taking beauty of the heavens. It’s also about retaining the tranquil rural character of Northumberland and supporting local businesses to tap into the growing public appetite for stargazing.”

A decision is expected before Christmas.