Ex­moor to play star­ring role with new ini­tia­tive

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - PHILIP BOWERN news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

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.

Pic­ture: Keith True­man

Ex­moor Na­tional Park’s Dark Skies Fes­ti­val starts next week

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