EXMOOR DARK SKIES FESTIVAL – BIGGER AND BETTER

A family astro-party, night mountain-biking, nocturnal wildlife walks and stargazing with delicious food are all on the agenda for Exmoor National Park’s annual Dark Skies Festival. Now in its third year, the Festival is going from strength to strength, with this year’s programme extended over three weeks instead of two.

From 14 October to 3 November, Exmoor National Park Authority will be teaming up with local businesses and groups to put on an array of events in celebration of the region’s spectacular dark skies, now one of 13 International Dark Sky Reserves.

Katrina Munro from Exmoor National Park Authority said: “We’re delighted to have extended the festival to three weeks to ensure there are plenty of activities for all and that the half-term break is covered for both Devon and Somerset schools.

“We aim to introduce people near and far to Exmoor’s incredible starry skies and are very grateful for the support once again of our festival sponsors, rural broadband providers Airband UK. With the return of old favourites like our mobile planetarium and guided Orionid meteor walks, plus the introduction of our very first Dark Skies Big Adventure with the National Trust, there’ll be plenty to delight space enthusiasts of all ages.”

Exmoor National Park was designated as Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association in 2011. The National Park Authority continues to work with developers to help limit light pollution, providing unrivalled views of the celestial landscape while also preserving it for nocturnal wildlife.

Astronomer David Pearson, who volunteers for the National Park Authority as a Dark Skies Ambassador, said: “Even with the naked eye there’s so much people can see and all the family can enjoy spotting constellations and shooting stars. Through our research over the last few months, we have found some great secluded stargazing spots for keen astronomers, which are away from the glare of artificial lighting. In the darkest skies directly overhead we can see hundreds of objects, including the star clouds of our Milky Way, glowing clouds of dust and gas, satellites and spacecraft.”

Details of all the festival events can be found at exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival and a full printed programme will be available from National Park Centres in Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton from August.

Photo: Keith Trueman ©, Burrow Farm Engine House in Exmoor National Park. Built in 1860 to help mine the Brendon Hills iron field, it is the last remaining example of a ‘Cornish’ type engine house in Somerset. More info: www.exmoorher.co.uk/Monument/MSO8859