Exmoor National Park’s popular Dark Skies Festival is set to go ahead this October (16th-31st) as businesses across the region prepare to deliver a host of ‘Covid-friendly’ events in celebration of the region’s spectacular starry night skies.
With so many festivals and other occasions off the cards this year, it’s hoped the celebration – organised by Exmoor National Park Authority – will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy and a fresh way of enjoying the stunning beauty of the area at a traditionally less-busy time of year, and day.
Ranger-guided night walks, stargazing suppers, dusk safaris and expert astronomy talks are among the many events planned, along with some brand-new experiences such as Dark Sky Boat Adventures and Well-Being Retreats under the stars. All have been thoroughly risk-assessed to ensure they can be enjoyed safely, with advanced booking a requirement for all events due to limits on group sizes and makeup.
Katrina Munro, who coordinates the festival for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “The Festival celebrates our designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve and we’re proud to have by far some of the lowest levels of light pollution and darkest skies in the country. With the help of our dedicated National Park Rangers, staff and local businesses, we’ve done some re-thinking and careful planning, with all working hard to ensure every precautionary measure is in place for the Festival to run as safely as possible. For some this will mean a much more exclusive experience, shared only among select family and friends of your choosing, making it extra special for those lucky enough to get tickets.”
Jennie Wild from Exford-based business Wild about Exmoor has been running stargazing experiences for several years and has recently adapted her business model. “Recently we’ve started taking small groups out on the moor for private stargazing adventures and the response has been amazing. During such difficult times it’s incredible what a little time under a magical star-lit sky like Exmoor’s can do for the soul. From the response we’ve been getting its clear people so need that right now -an unforgettable experience for all ages.”
For those who would rather help celebrate the National Park’s dark skies from home, there will also be on-line events focused on stargazing, nocturnal wildlife and the importance of dark skies. Follow #ExmoorDSF on social media for updates or sign up to Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies newsletter on their website.
The Festival events programme and booking information can be found at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/darkskiesfestival, where there are also details of this year’s Festival competition themed on ‘Exmoor at Night Photography and Astrophotography’. The competition is supported by local businesses including Exmoor Magazine, Wicked Wold Gin and Miles Tea and Coffee, along with Astronomy Now magazine and Celestron telescopes. There are four categories, under 16 and 16+ age classes, with a range of fantastic astronomy-themed prizes on offer, including the chance to see your photos featured in several of the region’s glossy magazines.
Photo credit: Richard Presley, Dark Skies Over Dunkery Beacon.