Definition of a ‘Dark Sky Reserve’: a public or private land possessing an 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 mission of a large peripheral area. The International Dark Sky Reserve consists of a core area meeting the minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky values in the core and receives benefits from them as well. The International Dark Sky Reserve is formed through a partnership of multiple landowners and / or administrators that have recognized the value of the starry night through regulation and/or formal agreement and/or long term planning.”
Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world.
In announcing the good news to Exmoor National Park, Rowena Davis from the International Dark-Sky Association said: “I am very happy to inform you that
the IDA board has approved Exmoor as the world’s second International Dark Sky Reserve! Congratulations on all your work and outstanding outreach to teach
Exmoor’s residents and visitors how to appreciate and conserve this outstanding resource.”
Exmoor National Park has been working towards the award for more than two years and has had support and encouragement from many local organisations including tourism providers who are anticipating an increase in visitors keen to experience the thrill of dark skies full of stars.
Dr Nigel Stone, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority said: “We are delighted that the importance of dark skies, one of Exmoor National Park’s special qualities has received this international recognition and we would like to thank all those who have helped in achieving this International Dark Sky Reserve award. We look forward to welcoming many more visitors in the future to enjoy the starlit skies at night as well as the spectacular scenery Exmoor has to offer during the day.”
The British Astronomical Association and the Royal Astronomical Society have both supported the bid with funding and local astronomy groups have also provided their support and knowledge. UK astronomer Steve Owens, chair of the IDA’s Dark Sky Places Development Committee who has advised Exmoor National Park throughout the development process said:
“I’m over the moon that the IDA saw fit to recognize the amazing night-sky preservation work done within Exmoor National Park by designating them Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. Exmoor National Park now joins a select group of places around the world – including Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in Scotland and the Channel Island of Sark, a Dark Sky Community – which have stunning night skies, and now have lighting controls in place to make sure that man-made light doesn’t spoil that view in future. The designation will hopefully attract stargazers from around the world, and astrotourism will become another staple attraction to Exmoor.”
The National Park Authority will be running a programme of activities for community groups in and around the National Park as part of a nationwide Dark Sky programme this winter.