The Yorkshire Dales is home to some of the darkest skies in the country. We’re proud to have large areas of unpolluted night sky where it’s possible to see the Milky Way, planets, meteors and even the Northern Lights.
This is one of the special qualities of the Yorkshire Dales, and why we’re thrilled to have gained international recognition as an official Dark Sky Reserve, which will help raise awareness, conserve and celebrate this special quality.
Dark Sky Reserve Status
An International Dark Sky Reserve is a designated area of public/private land possessing exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Dark Sky Reserves are designated by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA)
A Reserve consists of a core area which, on designation, must meet the criteria for natural darkness and be of a high quality as well as a peripheral (buffer) area that supports the dark sky in the core. The whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been designated a Dark Sky Reserve, the largest in the UK, with the core area comprising a large arc of land around (but not including) Hawes.
It covers the upper ends of Swaledale, Rawthey valley, Garsdale, Littondale and Wharfedale (30% of the National Park). Within the core area, residential lighting is already 90% dark sky friendly, so the majority of existing lighting is IDA-compliant, with the level of compliance higher than many of the Dark Skies Reserves already designated in the UK.
Other National Parks and AONB’s including the South Downs, Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons, and Exmoor, are already Dark Sky Reserves, but our night skies are generally much darker because there is less light pollution.
This accolade provides a great opportunity to celebrate our exceptional dark skies, promoting locations, events and businesses which provide opportunities to look up into the night sky. As well as enhancing habitats for our wildlife, improving our health and wellbeing and bringing increased economic benefit to our tourist industry.
It also gives opportunity to enhance our dark skies by giving increased importance to appropriate lighting – sensitive to the impact on its surroundings. An additional benefit being to reduce unnecessary consumption of electricity thereby minimising carbon footprint and energy costs for properties.
Our Dark Sky Reserve Application
At the time of application a set criteria has to be met to gain the status this includes:
- Light meter readings to show the area is of sufficient quality and to identify the darkest ‘core area’ of the proposed Reserve.
- At least 67% of properties have to have ‘dark sky friendly’ lighting at the time of application – we already have 90% of residential properties meeting this criterion.
- Support shown from at least 80% of the area and population – we currently have 71 Parishes expressing support, this is 84% by population and 81% by area.
What happens now we’ve succeeded
What happens now we have become a Dark Sky Reserve? Will it mean more restrictions? Dark Sky Reserve status doesn’t mean less lighting, it means thinking about good lighting!
No change – The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has asked for details of lighting schemes as part of planning applications since 2006. Our Dark Skies are already recognised as a special quality of the National Park and National Planning Policy works to protect them.
We are working with the district and county councils to ensure when street lights are replaced they replace with 3000K not 4000K colour lighting (ie warm white not cool white)
The traditional nature of our buildings and associated lighting means most lighting in the National Park is already ‘good’ lighting for dark skies. However, when replacing lighting we want people to think about what they are choosing:
- We have produced a simple leaflet to give tips on choosing good lighting and a good lighting advice page on our website.
- If we achieve Dark Sky Reserve status we will be offering grants to help pay for changes to existing non-residential properties. It should reduce running costs too.
- We will be producing further guidance to help, so watch this space.
Tourism and appreciation of our Night Sky
Since 2016, we have worked with businesses and ran an annual Dark Sky festival during February half-term. This has grown year on year and obtaining international Dark Sky Reserve status will help it develop further – encouraging staying visitors out of season.
Our visitor survey and comments we have received show how much our visitors, really appreciate our dark skies and the lack of light pollution – in complete contrast to the urban areas where they live. Something we want to celebrate and not take for granted.
Find out more
Find out more about how to make your lighting dark sky friendly by downloading our Good Lighting Advice leaflet.
Find out how you can become a dark sky friendly business.
Find out why our dark sky needs protecting
Each year we host a Dark Sky Festival. The next one will be from 14 to 28 February 2021.
How can you enjoy the dark sky more? We’ve got more on what you can do to enjoy the stars.
This image below, which you can download, shows the level of night light shining up into the night sky. These have been categorised into colour bands to distinguish between different light levels. The percentage of pixels that fall within each band is shown as percentage in the chart.