Local businesses looking to conserve and enhance the Yorkshire Dales’ largely unpolluted dark sky at night have become the first to sign pledges of support for a bid to make the area an International Dark Sky Reserve.
On the eve of the fifth annual Dark Skies Festival, beginning this Friday (14 Feb), the Tennants Arms in Craven and the Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Richmondshire have spoken of the wonder of the Dales’ dark sky as well as of the commercial potential of ‘astro tourism’.
One of the Tennants Arms’ dark sky-inspired events – a full moon trail ride in partnership with Kilnsey Trekking and Riding Centre – sold out so quickly, within two hours, that repeat events have been swiftly organised.
It’s hoped that a bid for International Dark Sky Reserve status can be submitted by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority later this year.
As well as proving that the Yorkshire Dales meets minimum criteria on ‘sky quality and natural darkness’, the bid must provide evidence that local communities support dark sky conservation efforts.
The Head of Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg, Terry Hailwood, explained why he was supporting the bid: “The vast majority of visitors to Low Mill come from an urban area and it’s been a long standing tradition for groups on their first evening to go on a local night walk. The abiding memory for many young visitors is how different the night sky is to their view at home.
“I am a passionate believer that if we want future generations to care for and protect the environment, then they need to experience it. The dark sky above is another layer of the special environment in the Dales. Low Mill Outdoor Education Centre is in full support of the International Dark Sky Reserve bid.”
General Manager of The Tennants Arms Hotel in Kilnsey, Liz Smailes, said: “The Dark Skies Festival events have attracted guests from London, Manchester, Liverpool, as well as Korean and Arabic visitors that most likely wouldn’t have stayed with us had we not offered this unique way to experience the Dales.
“Becoming a Dark Sky Reserve would help the local economy, bringing additional visitors in the low season months. We’re extremely popular in summer but in winter we can go off the radar; we need to make it known that the Yorkshire Dales is not just a summer destination but a winter destination, too.
“Visitors may not think the sky is part of the Dales attraction, but once they get here, they’re often struck by how big and dark the night sky is – and just how far into space they can see.”
Member Champion for Promoting Understanding at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Judith Donovan, added: “We have done a great deal of work already towards becoming an International Dark Sky Reserve. We’re now asking residents, and people who work and visit the area, to back our bid by signing the Dark Sky pledge of support – it takes only a minute.
“A dark night sky can boost wellbeing, benefit nocturnal wildlife and provide opportunities for education and tourism. In the Yorkshire Dales, residents and visitors can often see thousands of stars at night, the Milky Way, and sometimes the northern lights. Designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve will help people looking to conserve and enhance the exceptional night sky in the Yorkshire Dales.”
Obtaining Dark Sky Reserve status is objective A2 of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan 2019-24.