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Protecting the North York Moors National Park International Dark Sky Reserve

Logo: North York Moors National Park

Now the North York Moors National Park has achieved international recognition for its Dark Skies, we not only need to celebrate them (more about that later), we also need to work hard to protect them.

A key obligation in protecting Dark Skies is to ensure that we not only prevent the spread of additional light pollution through planning guidance but also reduce existing levels. This doesn’t mean asking residents and businesses to turn off all lighting but it does mean encouraging everybody to use light sympathetically and not to waste it.

To help deliver the improvements, we’ve set up a lighting improvement scheme to offer grants in targeted areas to help reduce light pollution. The focus will be on helping clusters of residential properties, pubs, accommodation providers, campsites, visitor centres, farms etc. to become exemplar sites for Dark Skies friendly lighting.

This scheme is being funded by section 106 payments from the Woodsmith development to compensate and mitigate for the negative impacts of the mine development. We’re working on a number of demonstration projects to help property owners understand more about sensitive and efficient use of artificial light at night. Two of these projects have already been delivered, with a number of others underway.

Lighting demo project - Rawcliffe House Farm and Holiday Cottages

Lighting on a barn Before (NYMNPA)
Before (NYMNPA)
Lighting on the same barn After (NYMNPA)
After (NYMNPA)

Changing lights on outbuildings from bulkheads and floodlights to downlights provides ample light for access but doesn’t create unnecessary upward light spill. Note the lack of light hitting the tree in the second image.

Lighting demo project - Forest Holidays Cropton

Lighting before (NYMNPA)
Before (NYMNPA)
Lighting after (NYMNPA)
After (NYMNPA)

Changing floodlights or angling them down provides enough light for operational purposes (in this case loading) whilst at the same time reducing glare and unnecessary upward light spill.

We’ve even had requests from the Institute of Lighting Professionals and other protected areas across the UK to use images of our demonstration projects to help spread the message.

We’ve also set up a new volunteer role called Dark Sky Monitor and it’s really exciting to announce that the first recruits to this role have attended a live online training session so they are ready to go when restrictions allow. During the session they learnt about why Dark Skies are important, how we can protect them and how to use a tiny box of tricks to take readings which will be added not just to our records but also to an international database, helping to keep an eye on the quality of the night skies above the National Park.

If you’re reading this and wondering how to do your bit by converting or adjusting your outside lighting, whether it be for reducing energy usage (and cost), stargazing, wildlife or your own health and wellbeing, there are some easy steps to follow:

Light only what you need

  • First consider if the light is needed? Is it purely or partially decorative or does it serve a specific purpose?
  • Can I prevent upward light by angling floodlights down, shielding them or changing to downlighting?
  • Is light projecting beyond my boundary and causing a nuisance for others?
  • Can my light(s) be seen from a great distance? This gives a good idea of how they are positioned.

Light only when you need it

  • Are my lights on a timer or a sensor? Consider fixtures where the sensor can be angled independently of the light for maximum adjustment
  • What time do they come on and go off? Ideally 10pm is a good curfew or use of a proximity sensor is even better.

Light only at a level suitable for the situation

  • How bright are my lights? Unless for operational purposes, one or two lights at a maximum of 500 lumens are usually enough for most residential properties.
  • Am I using warm white light? To help protect wildlife and human health, all lights should be no more than 3000k and preferably 2700k.

We’ve created a Dark Skies Friendly lighting page with a link to a property lighting audit to help guide you through the process. We’d love to see some before and after images if you decide to make some changes!

Our Dark Skies Festival goes virtual (12-28 February 2021)

Logo: Dark Skies Festival

It was only in December 2020 when the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks were designated International Dark Sky Reserves, joining an exclusive global family of Dark Sky Places, confirming that we’re home to some of the country’s darkest skies.

Here in Yorkshire, we’re not one to let lockdown stop us from celebrating this, as our popular annual Festival instead turns to the power of webinars and zoom meet-ups. The wonders of the night sky will be brought into your living room courtesy of a virtual Dark Skies Festival programme created by the two National Parks together with Go Stargazing.

The Festival is themed around Nature at Night and will highlight why darkness is so important to the nation’s wildlife. Whether it’s discovering how bats use echoes to find their prey; tuning into wildlife artist Robert Fuller’s live webcam footage of owls and stoats, or posing questions to an astronomer while watching live pictures of the moon, it’s a bumper programme of discovery and entertainment for people of all ages.

And we’re keen to use our virtual festival to help open people’s eyes to the wonders of experiencing awe-inspiring night skies, both on their own doorstep and, once lockdown restrictions are eased, back in the National Park. There’s something very special about spending time under our night skies and where a walk or run becomes a thrilling adventure when you venture out into a beautiful landscape after twilight.

For more information and the full Festival programme, go to www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk

Authors:

Mike Hawtin, Head of Polyhalite Projects

Catriona McLees, Head of Marketing & Communications

North York Moors National Park Authority

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