Making the most of the dark skies in Blackdown Hills AONB

 In Nature & wildlife

The dark, star-filled skies contrasting with the brightness of the surrounding towns is one of the qualities that make the Blackdown Hills AONB such a special place.

According to a recent study by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Blackdown Hills is the fifth darkest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England. As part of its Night Blight project, CPRE has produced interactive online maps using satellite images of the night sky. These allow us to see the areas of star-filled darkness and the light pollution hot-spots throughout England.

The Blackdown Hills AONB has very low levels of night-time brightness – 99% of its area has a radiance of less than 1 Nano Watt / cm2/ sr.  53.4% of the AONB is in the very darkest category (< 0.25 Nano Watts / cm2/ sr). Overall, the South West is the darkest English region, with the highest proportion of its area (67%) in the two darkest categories.

Why dark skies are important

More information is becoming available about the effect of light pollution on wildlife, interrupting natural rhythms including migration, reproduction and feeding patterns. Light spilling up into the night sky is also a waste of money and energy. It is sad fact that many children will grow up never seeing the Milky Way, our own galaxy.

How we protect the night skies

The AONB Partnership supports measures to conserve and enhance dark skies; for example, encouraging people to consider the impact of artificial light in their plans for development.

To help individuals and organisations minimise light emitting from their homes and premises, the Blackdown Hills AONB has published a series of information sheets.

Embrace the darkness

If you’d like to enjoy the delightfully dark skies the Blackdown Hills AONB has to offer, there are some great free events coming up under the stars this autumn!

A night with the stars 1

Saturday 22 October, 6.30pm – 8.30pm: Culmstock

A family fun evening with Jo Richardson (ESERO-UK Space Ambassador) and Space Detectives. Look at, and learn about, what we can see in the night sky. Space-related interactive activities for all ages. Booking essential.

A night with the stars 2

Saturday 29 October, 6.30pm – 9pm: Membury

A night sky event for adults. Join local astronomer Simon Ould for a guided stargazing walk under the dark skies of the south-eastern Blackdown hills. Booking essential.

Carols under the stars

Friday 2 December, 7.30 – 9pm: Wellington Monument

Experience the magic of the Blackdown Hills at night with Wellington Monument illuminated by torch-light. Members of the Blackdown Community Choir will lead the Christmas singing, with Smeatharpe Women’s Institute providing mince pies and mulled wine for sale. No need to book.

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