Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors awarded Dark Sky Reserve status

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks have both been granted Dark Sky Reserve status.

The designation from the International Dark-Sky Association means they are protected areas known for their starry nights and nocturnal environments.

Combined, the two parks cover 3500 sq km of northern England, making the area one of the largest in Europe to be simultaneously designated.

Neil Heseltine, chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “Designation provides a fantastic opportunity to encourage tourism in the autumn and winter months, and to work with local authorities, businesses and communities to ensure our dark skies are protected.

“Those lucky enough to live in the Yorkshire Dales National Park know what it is to experience the wonder of some of the darkest skies in the country, and it’s thrilling that the Dales has received recognition for one of its most special qualities.”

Matt Gibson Stunning Milky Way over landscape of Norber Ridge and stone barn in Yorkshire Dales National Park, by Matt Gibson.

To become a Dark Sky Reserve, areas must meet the criterion for high-quality natural darkness as well as have a buffer area that supports the dark sky at the core.

The new designation does not mean there will be more restrictions on lighting, but it does mean more thought goes into selecting lighting based on design, colour temperature, location and brightness of lights.

Jim Bailey, chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “It’s a wonderful thing to see a meteorite streak across the night sky, or to look up and appreciate the brilliance of the Milky Way.

“This designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve is the culmination of immense dedication and teamwork, and it will continue as we encourage more people to think carefully about our night time environment.”

Both national parks are popular spots for hikers, fell runners and photographers, and between them see over 10 million visitors a year.

Amy Caris, 21, president of the Leeds University Union Hiking Club, told Yorkshire Voice: “I didn’t realise that Yorkshire was blessed with such stunning night skies until a recent night-time descent of the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

“Looking up and seeing the stars radiating so brilliantly was an amazing moment and it really makes you feel connected to the wonders of nature.”

Yorkshire Voice Milky Way over Ravenscar in North York Moors National Park, by Steve Bell

Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, said: “In addition to global recognition of the National Parks’ exceptional starscapes, designation also provides an opportunity to promote locations, events and businesses which provide outstanding opportunities to look up into the night sky.”

Based in Arizona, the International Dark-Sky Association is a leading organisation fighting light pollution worldwide and designates Dark Sky Reserves following a rigorous application process.

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks join the 16 other Dark-Sky Reserves worldwide including five already in the UK: the Brecon Beacons National Park, Cranborne Chase, Exmoor National Park, Moore’s Reserve in the South Downs National Park, and Snowdonia National Park.

What do you think?