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Kielder dark sky bid gets support from Forestry Commission chief

Other posts by  |  Steve Smith on Google+ |  August 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
Pam Warhurst in Kielder Observatory

Pam Warhurst in Kielder Observatory

Kielder’s ambitions to bid for Kielder dark sky status have been praised by the Chair of Forestry Commission, Pam Warhurst.

The Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park Authority and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society (KOAS) are preparing a bid to the Tucson-based International Dark Sky Association which if successful would help promote and preserve the biggest area of dark skies left anywhere in England and help minimise wasteful light pollution.**

Built high above Kielder village, the £450,000 observatory has proved a massive hit with the public since opening in 2008, attracting nearly 35,000 visitors.  It will soon be re-equipped with even more powerful telescopes.

If the Kielder dark sky bid is successful Kielder Water & Forest Park would become England’s first Dark Sky Park and Northumberland National Park would be Europe’s most extensive Dark Sky Reserve.  Reaction has been very positive, but consultations continue to refine the plans and boundaries.

Ms Warhurst praised the efforts after visiting Kielder Observatory to support a bid to create Europe’s largest area of protected night sky in Northumberland.

She  said: “The observatory is an inspiring place and a tremendous asset to the whole North East and Borders.  The night sky is a very precious resource which in many areas of England has become a pale shadow of its former starry self because of light pollution.  The bid to designate a dark sky area linking Kielder Water & Forest Park with the Northumberland National Park, while also engaging communities and visitors in explaining the wonders of the night sky, is truly exciting.  At Kielder the Forestry Commission has worked hard to create vibrant wildlife habitats and this project will enhance another vital aspect of our natural environment – the night sky.”

Gary Fildes, founding director of the Kielder Observatory and a member of the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, added: “It was a thrill to have Pam Warhurst at the observatory and she was impressed by what’s been achieved in this fabulous corner of England.  The facility – underpinned by the hard work of KOAS volunteers – has been the catalyst for much that has happened in terms of the dark sky bid.  If we are successful in gaining added protection for the area it will create a long-lasting legacy enabling future generations to enjoy the wonderful starry sky that inspired me and my fellow stargazers.”

Partners in the Kielder Dark Sky bid are working with councils, businesses and the public in the proposed dark sky areas, and consultations have taken place.

A funding package is now being finalised to undertake the required lighting audits, which will help identify where more dark sky friendly lighting could be installed.

To find out more about the Dark Skies bid visit www.visitkielder.com  or post your views at http://www.facebook.com/kielder/app_202980683107053.

**CPRE: Night Blight Report.  Go to www.cpre.org.uk

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