Next month’s Dark Skies Festival will see the first public screening in the UK of a thought provoking documentary highlighting the enormous impact of light pollution on the world’s population, wildlife and the environment.
Saving the Dark was first released in America in 2018 and will be shown at five exclusive screenings in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks during the 17-day Dark Skies Festival (15 February-3 March). After each screening visitors will be treated to a stargazing session.
The documentary which is backed by the International Dark Sky Association has been credited with drawing attention to the impact of excessive and improper lighting which not only robs people of the night skies but disrupts sleep patterns and endangers nocturnal habitats. According to the film maker, 80% of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way.
The film will complement the many other new events happening at this year’s Festival at venues right across both National Parks and the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Alongside Professor Tim O’Brien’s talk at Castle Howard, visitors intrigued by space research can also listen to Henrique Araujo, Professor of Physics at Imperial College, one of the world’s leading experts on dark matter. He will be speaking at Whitby Museum on 15 February on the Search for Dark Matter.
For the first time the National Trust will help host a stargazing evening on the cliff tops at Ravenscar. Other new stargazing evenings will be held at Forest Holidays in Cropton and Cober Hill in the North York Moors while over in the Yorkshire Dales astronomers will lead visitors on a star safari at Dalesbridge near Austwick and a Super Moon evening at Simonstone Hall in Hawes.
New star parties will also be held at Stump Cross Caverns near Pateley Bridge and Brymor near Jervaulx where visitors can tuck into a specially-created Dark Skies Galaxy Delight ice cream. Meanwhile planetariums will be popping up at new locations such as Kirkby Lonsdale, Leyburn and Ripon Cathedral taking visitors on a virtual tour of the cosmos.
Activity seekers can enjoy moonlit and starry skies by canoeing or cycling at Scar House Reservoir near Pateley Bridge, trail running at Dalby Forest or competing in an off-road bike race in Swaledale with three different routes to suit everybody from youngsters through to Lunar Lunatics.
Guided walking specialist Large Outdoors will be opening people’s eyes to the delights of striding out at night with walks from Sutton Bank, Chop Gate, Lastingham and Robin Hood’s Bay. Over at Grimwith Reservoir, local guides and an amateur astronomer are combining their skills with a guided walk around the shores of the water.
Meanwhile over in Whitby, guests can enjoy an evening dining on-board The Endeavour Experience while learning more about how astronomy was important during Captain Cook’s voyage including the importance of plotting the Transit of Venus. Expert astronomer Richard Darn will also be on-hand for a spot of stargazing from the deck of the HM Bark Endeavour replica.
Alongside the many space-themed crafting sessions youngsters will also be well catered for with Forest School events being held for the first time at Semerwater; a woodland lantern procession at Freeholders’ Wood, Aysgarth; a pizza planet party in Hawes or a moonrock geocaching session at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby.
Budding photographers can hone night-time skills at stunning locations such as a waterfall at West Burton, Scar House Reservoir and Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale and Castle Howard in the Howardian Hills.
Each National Park has three Dark Sky Discovery locations where skies are sufficiently dark to potentially view the Milky Way with the naked eye. The North York Moors sites are at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.
The Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Discovery locations are at Hawes, Malham and Buckden while Nidderdale AONB has four at Scar House, Thruscross and Fewston Reservoirs and Toft Gate Lime Kiln.
Programme information and booking details can be found on www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk. A number of events will be free while others will have a small charge attached.