North York Moors takes Milky Way with first English ‘Dark Skies’ village
A North Yorkshire village is dimming its lights to become the country's first designated "Dark Skies" residential area to allow stargazers to better see the Milky Way.
The village of Hawnby in the North York Moors is currently undergoing an overhaul of all its exterior lighting and switching to "dark-skies friendly" streetlights to give a better view of the night sky.
The project will see more than 100 lights on 30 properties changed, while the local pub and the village hall will also have new lights installed.
North York Moors National Park says this will mean it is the first English village to have all streetlights and lights on properties converted, as well as all lights in public spaces.
The nearby Yorkshire Dales National Park will also see funding go to three businesses to make the switch, including a hotel and the Station Inn, near the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct, which secured funding to install 19 new directional LED lights.
Hannah Kay, Dark Skies project manager for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, said that there were many benefits to switching to the new lights, such as aiding wildlife that need true darkness, as well as residents’ wellbeing.
Claire Hobbs, the landlord of the Station Inn pub, said that the switch had led to an increase in visitors during the off season, and said it now ran regular stargazing evenings throughout the week.
The North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales have become key spots for stargazers in recent times, with both areas securing Dark Sky Status in 2020. This status means that these areas provide “unique natural darkness” and “exceptional views of starry nights”.
To secure this status, areas have to go through a rigorous application process, with only 21 other areas across the globe to have secured this status. The two national parks also run an annual Dark Skies Festival.
Mike Hawtin, the Dark Skies officer for the North York Moors National Park, said: “There are a few other places in Wales and Scotland which have converted street lights to become dark sky friendly towns or villages, but we think Hawnby will be the first village to go even further by converting both street and external building lighting when the project completes later this year.
“We’re definitely not anti-light as it is needed for many different reasons, whether simply for unlocking your front door or operating machinery at night.
“The steps needed to prevent light nuisance can be as simple as altering the angle of a floodlight to ensure no rays are wasted by casting a harsh glare down an otherwise dark valley.”