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Forestry Commission England’s work to protect and improve England’s largest man-made forest in Kielder, Northumberland, has resulted in two thirds of the forest being included in the country’s first official Dark Sky Park.
43,500 hectares (435 square kilometres) of Kielder Forest has been included in Northumberland Dark Sky Park, announced today (Monday 9 December 2013) as having achieved official Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).
The award means that the area has been deemed England’s darkest and best location for stargazing. The award will provide opportunities to boost wildlife and develop sustainable stargazing tourism, whilst protecting the area for the future.
Northumberland Dark Sky Park is made up of the combined areas of Kielder Forest, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park and covers nearly 1,500 square kilometres between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish border. The bid was led by the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, which includes Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission England, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council.
Ian Gambles, Director, Forestry Commission England, commented:
“It is fantastic news that our great forest at Kielder is now part of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park.
“The fact that this huge area of England has been recognised for its work to preserve the natural night skies will greatly benefit Forestry Commission England’s ongoing conservation work.
“Many woodland species such as birds, bats, moths and insects benefit greatly from reduced light pollution and will continue to thrive here.”
Forestry Commission England’s work to reduce light pollution and encourage the forest’s nocturnal wildlife has included installing new, energy efficient LED downward-facing lighting at the management large depot that serves Kielder Forest. Benefits have included reduced carbon, cost and energy use at the depot and a lower impact of this lighting on nearby residents and natural surroundings.
Over 300 light meter readings have been taken over a two year period by National Park volunteers, amateur astronomers and Forestry Commission rangers, confirming Northumberland retains England's largest extent of starry skies due to low levels of light pollution.
An audit of external lighting was also undertaken to identify lights which need replacing or adjusting to comply with and exceed IDA guidelines. A new Lighting Management Plan will guide planning authorities in ensuring new developments take account of the pristine night sky. The park's darkest areas, which are mostly uninhabited, will remain light-free.
The Kielder Observatory (www.kielderobservatory.org), located within the forest, runs over 100 events per year at the award winning Kielder Observatory to help beginners and serious stargazers study the skies.
Visit Forestry Commission England’s web page for tips for stargazing at Kielder and in forest locations around the country – www.forestry.gov.uk/england-darkskies.
Notes to editors:
1. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england
2. The IDA was founded in 1988 to highlight the hazards of light pollution and help protect the world's starry skies. Based in Tucson it has members world-wide. Its mission is to preserve and protect the night-time environment and our dark sky heritage through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. The Northumberland Dark sky Park has been created as part of the IDA's Dark Places Program, which protects night skies across the globe. The program comprises three types of areas: communities, parks, and reserves. The IDA's Dark Sky Parks and Reserves are home to some of the darkest and most pristine skies in the world where residents and authorities work together to protect their night-scape. To find out more visit http://www.darksky.org/
3. Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working to develop the Park as an inspirational place. It aims to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability, provide public recreation and leisure facilities, facilitate education in all aspects of the natural environment and advance art and architecture in the Park. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities. Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.
4. Media resources and web links
Northumberland Dark Sky Park videos and picture gallery (you are free to download for publication, or link). Please credit where stated. www.visitnorthumberland.com/Dark-Skies (high res gallery) www.youtube.com/user/NorthumberlandNP/videos
Visit Northumberland http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/darkskies/experiences
Northumberland National Park http://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/visiting/thingstodo/stargazing
Kielder Water & Forest Park http://www.visitkielder.com/play/discover/dark-skies
Forestry Commission www.forestry.gov.uk/england-darkskies
5. Media contact: Katrina Podlewska, Forestry Commission, on Katrina.firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 9066030