Northumberland Dark Sky Reserve could be third largest in the world

A plan to create the world's third largest area of protected dark sky in Northumberland could create a 400 square-mile mecca for stargazers.

Northumberland National Park Authority and Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust are consulting on securing dark sky status from the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), based in Tucson, USA.

England’s first Dark Sky Park would be Europe’s largest and would be committed to reducing light pollution and getting the public interested in dark skies.

Worldwide there are only 12 such preserves, including the two largest in Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Mount Megantic in Quebec, Canada.

Director of the Kielder Water and Development Trust Elisabeth Rowark said: "Northumberland is a magical place both by night and day. Dark Sky status would allow us to protect, cherish and promote our natural nightscapes."

"It's crucial to understand that Dark Sky status does not mean turning lights off. Rather it is about working with people and Northumberland County Council to create better and less wasteful lighting and promoting the night sky as an asset for the region."

Northumberland has more dark skies than anywhere else in England, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England. But it lost 30 per cent of its dark skies between 1993 and 2000. It is estimated that only 15 per cent of the UK population has ever seen a truly dark sky.

Duncan Wise, who is leading the Dark Sky Reserve Project for the Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "Dark Sky status will help us protect the quality of the night sky. It will be a spur to sustainable tourism, help cut energy costs and benefit nocturnal wildlife."

Project bosses are now consulting local people and councils on the plans.

Rowark said that the county already drew dark sky tourism to the £450,000 Kielder Observatory which has had 30,000 visitors since opening in 2008. Star camps also attract hundreds of observers every year.



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