Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, gazing up at the stars will have brought comfort to many people on Exmoor during an extremely difficult time. It’s a different story for the rest of the UK – results from a recent UK survey by CPRE, the countryside charity, showed 61% of people are in areas with severe light pollution*.
This February more than 2,400 people across the country took part in the CRPE’s star counting survey. Respondents were required to count the number of stars visible in the constellation of Orion, helping build up a picture of the nation’s views of the night sky. In areas with severe light pollution they could count fewer than 10 stars but several Exmoor contributors counted 28 or more.
Crispin Truman, CPRE Chief Executive, said: “Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits, especially when many of us are forced to do so from within our homes at the moment. It is a shame that few of us can see the starry skies in all their glory, without the intrusion of light pollution.”
Light pollution can spread from towns and cities into the countryside, denying many people the chance to experience the wonder and tranquillity of seeing a sky full of stars and interfering with nocturnal wildlife. As an International Dark Sky Reserve, Exmoor National Park Authority works with communities both within the park and nearby to minimise light pollution and protect Exmoor’s dark skies.
Katrina Munro, events organiser for the annual Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, said: “We work hard to protect and celebrate our dark skies, which are so important for nocturnal wildlife and contribute significantly to Exmoor’s tranquillity and other special qualities. Stargazing here is amazing and something that can be enjoyed by all ages; for children, it’s a magical experience.”
The National Park is designated as a Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association. Every year in October a series of largely outdoor stargazing-themed events take place as part of the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, but stargazing is a popular activity all year round.
For more information and to download a free Dark Skies Pocket Guide to get you started, head to: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/stargazing
PHOTO: Burrow Farm Engine House by Keith Trueman.