Exmoor to play starring role with new initiative
AN initiative called The Big Dipper Campaign is being launched on Exmoor next week and it has nothing to do with fairground rides or giant black and white river birds.
As part of the Big Dipper campaign, property owners are being urged to consider how much outside lighting they use and ensure where possible that lamps are dipped downwards.
Exmoor National Park is supporting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of light pollution and help conserve our dark night skies, set to play a starring role in the region’s Dark Skies Festival starting next week (October 17 – November 4).
The ‘Big Dipper’ campaign is the brainchild of the Dark Sky Alliance, a national group made up of conservationists, astronomers and tourist operators, including a number of national parks.
Pamela Morris, senior landscape officer for Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA), says: “Simple steps, like dipping outdoor lighting and limiting the use of more powerful security lights, can have a big impact on our view of the stars. The night time environment is a crucial natural resource for people, wildlife and also astro-tourism, and we look forward to celebrating its many wonders at this year’s Dark Skies Festival.
With the nights drawing in, and more than 40 festival events poised to get underway, it’s a timely reminder of the need to limit excess light pollution to ensure Exmoor’s starry night skies can continue to be experienced to their full.
Exmoor is one of only a handful of internationally accredited Dark Sky Reserves, making it one of the best places in the country for stargazing. It means that the amount of light pollution within and around the national park is tightly controlled, meaning shooting stars, constellations, planets and the Milky Way are all easily visible with the naked eye or just a pair of binoculars.
ENPA’s Katrina Munro, who is coordinating the festival, said: “Exmoor is one of the few places in Britain where you can see our night skies in all their stellar glory, but to get the best out of the experience it helps to be guided by an expert.
“From astro-themed family party nights at Wimbleball Lake and a touring pop-up planetarium, to wild swims, night runs and moonlit hill- top walks, this year’s festival has something for everyone, from the adventurous to the curious.”
She added: “Last year many events sold out, so we would urge people to ”book without delay on the Exmoor National Park website or our National Park Centres.”
Commenting on the Big Dipper campaign the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, said: “It’s important that efforts are sustained to cut light pollution further so we can all marvel at the night sky wherever we may live. This campaign deserves wide support.”
Many outside lights, especially LED floodlights and security lights, can be too bright and installed in such a way that much of the light is directed up into the night sky. This contributes to the orangey-white sky glow above our towns and cities, which spreads out into the countryside spoiling the night-time view.
The Big Dipper campaign is asking people to ensure lights point down and are fully shielded, to only illuminate areas which are absolutely with the aid of timers or motion sensors, to use lighting that is no brighter than necessary and, if possible, not to use LEDs emitting bright white or blue light, but to purchase the models with warmer colours.
Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies Festival starts next week