Following a successful inaugural Dark Skies Festival, Exmoor National Park Authority is launching a suite of new initiatives to further celebrate Exmoor’s status as Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.
Over 2,000 people enjoyed 35+ events during the first ever Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, sponsored by Airband, held over half term. Despite cloud cover during many events, the festival was a resounding success with the vast majority of events being fully booked in advance and visitors drawn from across the UK and beyond.
Exmoor became the very first International Dark Sky Reserve to be designated in Europe in 2011. The festival sought to celebrate the opportunities this provides as well as to give a boost to tourism outside of the peak season. Highlights included dusk safaris, stargazing adventures, wild glow-stick swimming, an Astro Party and a giant mobile planetarium. Over 200 schoolchildren took part in a night-time adventure at Wimbleball as part of the festival and a new short film was premiered. The film incorporates stunning imagery of Exmoor’s dark skies and introductions to some of the wonders that can be explored. The film will be available in the Lynmouth and Dunster National Park Centres as well as via the Exmoor National Park YouTube channel.
Now the Exmoor National Park Authority is looking to build on this success.
150,000 Euros has been secured from the European Regional Development Fund (via the Interreg Atlantic area programme) to boost Astro Tourism in the area further. The AtlanticNetSky project will see Exmoor working with partners across the Atlantic area in places such as the Canary Islands, Spain, Ireland and Portugal to develop a network of astro-tourism destinations. There will be opportunities to share learning from across Europe and to develop a shared marketing programme. Locally there will be support for Exmoor businesses to develop new astronomy related tourism products, provision of a Dark Sky Discovery hub and training opportunities.
The National Park Authority is also hosting a family stargazing weekend at their Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning from 16 to 18 March 2018. The weekend, in the heart of the Dark Sky Reserve, will provide families and groups with an interest in astronomy the opportunity to discover together through the expertise of astronomer and author Seb Jay.
“Our status as Europe’s first International Dark Sky reserve is of immense value to Exmoor. It recognises the fact that we have some of the darkest skies in the country and that we’re proactively working to conserve them,” said Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park. “More than that, it provides a great opportunity to encourage more people to visit and stay longer outside of the peak season. We are really pleased with how the festival has gone – not only did we attract new visitors to the area, we also engaged with many local communities and several businesses put on their own events within the festival programme. We are grateful to all those that were involved in supporting the festival from our sponsor, Airband, to those that volunteered to help events run smoothly.
“Looking ahead we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with some of Europe’s leading astro-tourism destinations to share learning and experiences and support our businesses to further utilise this unique asset.”
For further details visit www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing