Dark Skies Cumbria

Saving Our Night Skies

Cumbria's dark skies allow us to see the natural wonder of the stars, but are also critical for the health wildlife and our own natural well-being. Sadly light pollution in Cumbria is increasing each year, threatening to obscure our view of the stars and blinding and confusing animals so they can’t feed or find a mate. We need urgent action now to stop light pollution. Stargazers, photographers, wildlife lovers and local communities… please help.


Or you can give by text to 70085. Just message DARKSKIES along with your chosen donation amount (eg DARKSKIES 5 to donate £5). Standard message rates apply.

The Lake District and Cumbria offers some of the most spectacular and precious skyscapes in England and we want you to join us on an interstellar adventure. Download our Dark Sky Discovery Pack and get started today!

Community groups, residents, businesses and Cumbria County Council Highways took part in the first lighting ‘Big Switch Off’ in Ambleside on Saturday 10 April, from 9.30pm onwards overnight.

The lighting switch off aimed to raise awareness about the importance of dark skies for people’s enjoyment and health, for wildlife to flourish, and the need to tackle climate change by reducing energy consumption.

The event was coordinated by Ambleside Action For A Future (AAFAF) and the Dark Skies Cumbria Project and took place during International Dark Skies Week (5-12 April).

The gods were on our side for the Big Switch Off, with a beautiful still, clear night on Saturday 10 April. Our Project Officer Jack Ellerby, and Ambleside Action For A Future (AAFAF) members Steve and Clare, were stood in the town next to street lights that were turned off at 9.30pm. They were totally blown away by the thousands of stars that revealed themselves after the lights went off. Although as all the B&Bs, guest houses, hotels and hospitality businesses were unfortunately still closed, it was a real shame that visitors weren’t able to enjoy the spectacular show.

Lake District based photographer Don Reardon said: “I'm an astrophotographer from the Lake District and last night was one of the best dark skies I've seen from the lakes! It seems as though it wasn't just Ambleside that did the switch off but possibly Keswick and a couple other places joined in? If so that's awesome. Just want to say good job and I hope you get to do that more often. A monthly dark sky night around new moon would be amazing.”

Approximately 180 street lights were switched off by Cumbria County Council, along with the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus external lights, St Mary’s Parish Church’s flood lights and many homeowners supporting the event by turning off their own outside lights too. Overall feedback from people has been extremely positive, alongside those who expressed disappointment that many street lights not owned by the County Council didn’t go off. Rob Fraser, Friends of the Lake District Patron and professional photographer, took ‘before’ images looking down across Ambleside from Todd Crag on the clear Tuesday evening, and then ‘after’ the Switch Off on Saturday evening (see images below).

Ambleside before streetlights switched off:

And after, showing street light switch off:

Gillian Kelly of Ambleside Action For A Future said:

“In those parts of the village where all the lights went out, the before and after difference was amazing: one minute there were no stars visible and then suddenly we could see thousands. This was a brave and important experiment for Ambleside from which we can learn a great deal – about energy saving, reducing light pollution and reducing harm to wildlife. I am very happy to know it will be repeated.”

Jack live streamed a video to the Go Stargazing Facebook page which has been watched by nearly 5,000 people from all over the UK, many of whom posted comments asking for this to happen nationwide.

You can watch the video here:

We plan to hold the event again in Ambleside, perhaps during CPRE’s Annual Star Count week next February, to support visitor accommodation and hospitality businesses and allow more people to see the fantastic starry skies in the heart of the Lake District.

We know that other communities in Cumbria would like to take part in the Big Switch Off and feel part of a bigger collective contributing to reducing our carbon and light pollution footprints, helping wildlife affected by light pollution, and letting more of us enjoy the dark night sky.

For more information about Friends of the Lake District’s Dark Skies Cumbria Project, visit the website at: www.darkskiescumbria.org.uk

AMBLESIDE ACTION FOR A FUTURE is a network of local residents working together to mitigate climate and environmental breakdown and build community resilience.