If you want to get some better views of the night sky then Northumberland could well be the place to be. There is currently an initiative to try and secure ’dark sky’ status for an area of the county covering 400 square miles. The location is supposed to around the Kieder Forest area and it is hoped that the classification will even boost tourism.
Dark Sky status allows controls to be put in place to help prevent the spread of light pollution which affects the viewing experience at night. There are some consultations to be completed initially though particularly with local residents, parish councils and local businesses. If successful then an application will be made to the International Dark Sky Association. There have already been some research that points to the county having some of the darkest skies in the UK.
The intiative is not a simplistic -’make everyone switch their lights off’ approach but rather to create and utilise better and more efficient lighting. In a tourist area though promoting the night sky as an asset has to positive, it’s something that can be done to bring in more visitors in an entirely eco friendly type manner.
The benefits spread beyond tourism though, energy costs being reduced is obviously a major incentive. Nature lovers will also be please of the benefits to nocturnal wildlife that reducing poor and unnecessary lighting brings with it. There are other areas in the UK that have already benefited from this classification, just recently several areas where classified in the Isle of Man and the Island of Sark has benefited from the classification for some time. Both have seen a boost to tourism, especially when the Northern Lights are potentially visible from these Northerly locations.
There’s quite a lot of information on the Dark Sky site and also you can watch some great photos and videos of the areas on the BBC Iplayer application. For people outside the UK you may need to find a proxy to change your IP address to a British one – see here, although this is quite simple nowadays and doesn’t take too long to do. The technology is simple to use and there’s no significant effect on speed – http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/a-fake-uk-ip-address/.