Cumbria has some of the darkest skies in the country, where people are still able to see the spectacular natural wonders of the stars above. That’s why Friends of the Lake District is leading work to gain internationally recognised ‘Dark Skies Reserve’ status for the Lake District National Park, to help protect this darkness.

Dark skies are not just important for stargazers and astronomers, but also for wildlife. Around 50% of animals are nocturnal – following the light of the moon and stars so light pollution can disrupt their feeding and breeding behaviour.  

It is sobering to think that an estimated 85% (some say higher) of the UK population has never seen the Milky Way due to the rapid rise of light pollution over the last 50 years. And globally, coverage of the earth’s surface in light pollution has been rising at a staggering rate of 2% every year for the last 4 years. (See our 'Tips on making your outdoor lighting Dark Skies friendly')

Dark skies are integral to the tranquillity and distinctiveness of the great landscapes of the Lake District and Cumbria. They are important to our well-being, and for the feeding, breeding and pollinating habit of nocturnal animals.

Our aim for achieving Dark Sky Reserve status for the Lake District National Park is two-fold: Firstly, to recognise, through accreditation from an international body, an important environmental feature of the Park’s unique landscape. Secondly, to help ensure it remains so (and even improves) for future generations. We are doing this by working with statutory, community and business stakeholders both within and outside the Park to fulfil the requirements of accreditation and delivering outreach activities that raise awareness of the issues and explore the wonders of a dark starry sky.

Campaigners for dark skies are at great pains to say this issue isn’t about ridding the landscape of all lighting. People need lighting at night for many reasons. But we can make it work so much better for ourselves and the environment. Thoughtful consideration to selection and installation of light fixtures, and use of energy efficient technologies can both reduce our carbon footprint and save money.

A good summary of the issues of lighting pollution can be found on the Campaign to Protect Rural England 2016 report called Night Blight: Mapping England’s light pollution and dark skies.

Please donate to help our work to secure 'Dark Skies' accreditation for the wonderful nocturnal skyscape of the Lake District.

Help save our nocturnal skyscapes by donating to our Dark Skies Appeal

For more information about our Dark Skies project, contact Dark Skies Officer Johanna Korndorfer, email  [email protected] or phone 01539 720788.

Dark Skies Roadshow
Johanna Korndorfer, our Dark Skies Project Officer is taking the message out to Parish Councils, Women's Institutes and community groups about importance of safeguarding our dark skies. 

Johanna will deliver a talk providing information on why dark skies are important and a demonstration about ways outdoor lighting, with a few simple adjustments, can protect our astronomical heritage, treat nocturnal wildlife better and safeguard our own health and well-being. 

If you'd like Johanna to visit your group or organisation and deliver a talk on 'Dark Skies' in Cumbria then do get in touch.You can contact Johanna on 01539 720788 or email her at [email protected] to discuss your event or meeting. She will be delighted to tailor the length of her talk to fit your programme.

For the latest Dark Skies Roadshow events see our Events page.

Sky Quality Meter Readings

Thank you to everyone who volunteered to take sky quality meter readings. We have given out meters to volunteers for March readings, the month which signals the end of the meter reading season until we start again in the autumn. 

In the meantime, we will plot the readings that have taken place on a map and find the areas which have been missed and still require readings. We will do a call out in the autumn for more volunteers when the meter reading season begins again to fill in those gaps.

Experiments in Scotobiology - the study of the biology of darkness

Many people are unaware that light pollution can have an adverse effect on the nocturnal activities of animals. Scientists are only now beginning to understand the negative effects artificial lighting can have on animal behaviour activities such as foraging, mating and pollination. Over June, MSc student, Elke Langenbucher, will be conducting several field experiments to ascertain nocturnal animal activity in some of Friends' land and ascertain what types of activity are found in dark and illuminated areas. On Friday 5 July, we are planning a field activity open to Friends members to look at these experiments, so if you are interested in attending, please email [email protected] for more details.

July Moth trapping event

Preserving our Dark Skies is important for lots of reasons. A big one is its importance to the habitat health of our wildlife. Moths form a big part of the night time world with their astonishing diversity and are an essential food source for birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and numerous invertebrates. Their nocturnal habits and populations have been severely disrupted by excessive light pollution and in recent times, the particularly harsh white blue spectrum of LED lighting.

On Saturday July 6, 9am at our land at Mike’s Wood, near Staveley, come and be amazed when we open up Guy’s moth traps which will be set up the night before. Bring your phone cameras and learn to id some of the moths we’ve caught. We will also compare the numbers of moths we find with our initial moth trapping experiment in June. Numbers are limited. Contact Johanna on [email protected] to RSVP and get the details for meeting up.

We are Stardust: Dark Skies at Lakes Alive

We have been working with the Lakes Alive Festival team on a project called ‘We are Stardust’ involving 180 children from primary schools in west Cumbria. Working with storyteller Ian Douglas, the children have created new constellations and stories, which Ian will feature in his performances at the Lakes Alive Festival (Friday 6 – Sunday 8 September). Our Dark Skies officer, Johanna, will also be making DIY constellation viewers with little budding astronomers each day of the festival weekend – just in time for the autumn-winter stargazing months.