Last night, Dale Head Hall hosted a wonderful stargazing event with the help and expertise of Mr. Robert Ince, astronomer and Lake District Dark Skies advocate from GoStargazing. Friends of the Lake District joined us for the two hours of celestial celebration; where we hoped to count the stars in Orion, to aid ‘Campaign to Protect Rural England’ in their quest to map the dark skies in and around the Lake District national park.
Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, so we were unable to see the stars. Despite this, we settled in for an evening of star education, plenty of champagne and great food.
Dale Head Hall is nestled in a valley between horseshoes of high fells on all sides, making it the perfect spot for Lake District dark skies.
Why are dark skies so important?
If you live in a city, you’ll be used to the ambient light blocking your view of the night sky, much more than you may realise. It has been estimated that at least 85% of the UK’s population have never even seen the Milky Way.
Dark skies are not just important for us humans though. Wildlife in the UK is extremely affected by light pollution. Around 50% of animals are nocturnal, so light pollution can disrupt feeding and breeding, and have massive impact on their behavior.
What can I do to help reduce light pollution in my area?
- Reduce the use of outdoor decorative lighting
- Invest in downward-facing bulbs for your outdoor lighting
- Minimise the use of outdoor lights by switching them onto sensors
- Close your curtains or turn all excess lights of at night
What are ‘Campaign to Protect Rural England’ and ‘Friends of the Lake District’ doing in Cumbria?
Campaign to Protect Rural England hope to re-engage the public with the night sky. Their goal is to protect the UK’s dark skies; reduce light pollution, and also create a map of the darkest places in the UK to see the stars.
Friends of the Lake District are supporting CPRE in this, as well as aiming to have the Lake District National Park named as a ‘Dark Skies Reserve’. Taking part in the star count can help Friends of the Lakes achieve their goal.
Where can I stargaze in the Lake District?
Most of the Lake District is dark enough to see some fantastic stellar displays, but some of the more favoured sites are:
- Grizedale Park
- Whinlatter park near Keswick
- Thirlmere reservoir near Keswick
- Allen Bank in Grasmere (Dark sky status)
When is the best time to go stargazing?
The best time to go stargazing tends to be in the Winter months, when the nights are longer and the skies clear and crisp. Going when the moon is at its least full also means that the skies are darker, and more stars are visible.
What to take stargazing:
- Warm clothing
- A flask of hot beverage
- Binoculars or a telescope
- A headtorch (preferably red light to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark)