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!

Work is nearing completion on Cumbria County Council’s exciting street light replacement and improvement programme.

The County Council has invested £12.9m over the past seven years in this major countywide project to replace over 45,000 street lights with more efficient and cost effective LED technology.

The programme has enabled the Council to reduce its annual lighting energy bill by over £1 million, reduce annual energy consumption by 60% and save more than 9,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

As part of the LED replacement programme, the Council believes it will be the first local authority in the UK to use a newly-developed and adaptive LED street lantern which is Dark Sky friendly.

The new LED lanterns are manufactured by Thorn Lighting and use their innovative NightTune LED technology. The lanterns emit a blend of white and amber light which can be automatically adjusted to suit the time of night and level of traffic on the road. Visibility for drivers and pedestrians is not affected by the blended light colour and the scheme is fully compliant with the required safety standards for street lighting.

The lanterns, known as luminaires, deliver light focused at ground level, preventing light pollution up into the night sky with no visibility of the LED, reducing any potential for glare.

The County Council will be piloting these NightTune LED street lights at five locations in Alston, Warcop, Dent, Glenridding and Ambleside, where lighting was due to be upgraded and/or is situated in a sensitive location. Each site has been selected to cover a diversity of communities and landscape settings, in areas bidding for Dark Skies landscape status nationally – the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks and North Pennines AONB.

This project is a collaboration between Cumbria County Council, the Dark Skies Cumbria project led by the Friends of the Lake District, and the Council’s LED supplier Thorn Lighting UK Ltd, a lighting brand of the Zumtobel Group.

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Highways, said: “I am really pleased our exciting street light replacement programme is nearing completion on schedule. Using the LED technology is helping the council to save over £1m a year in energy costs and reducing our carbon emissions and energy bills.

Cllr Celia Tibble, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Environment, said: “We believe we are the first council in the country to pilot the use of NightTune LED technology. The pilots will allow us to monitor how the lighting impacts on the night-time environment and obtain feedback from each community.”

Cumbria’s Dark Skies Project is backing NightTune lighting. Project Officer Jack Ellerby from Friends of the Lake District said: “I’m liaising across all the Dark Sky areas in the UK, with the International Dark Skies Association (IDA) and many different organisations and lighting/design professionals. Awareness and concerns over the harmful impacts of light pollution on our night skies, our wildlife, people’s health and wellbeing and the wider implications on greenhouse gas emissions, is growing rapidly.

“Cumbria County Council’s leadership in taking this initiative with Thorn Lighting, puts us at the forefront of finding win-win solutions to provide lighting in ways that do not harm the natural world. I know many areas across the UK are watching with interest in this excellent initiative.”

Matthew Boucher, Managing Director at Zumtobel Group said: “We are delighted to be working with Cumbria County Council and Friends of the Lake District on these very worthy pilot schemes. We all have to take responsibility to preserve our Dark Skies and take action against light pollution in any way we can. Thorn will continue to fully support the campaign to reclaim our Dark Skies.


The pilot locations are on residential roads in the Lake District National Park World Heritage Site (Ambleside and Glenridding), North Pennines AONB & UNESCO Global Geopark (Alston and Warcop) and Dent in the Yorkshire Dales National Park & Dark Sky Reserve.

Combining the innovative use of LEDs technology, the NightTune luminaires not only prevent any light pollution up into the night sky, but their ‘warmer’ colour temperature means they minimise any potential harmful effects on wildlife, and light sensitive people.

Most modern LED road lights, which replaced the old energy inefficient, orange sodium lanterns, are set at 4,000 Kelvins or higher. The Cumbrian NightTune lights specification start at 2,700K at dusk, then reduce down to 2,200K during the quieter period in the middle of the night, and then return back to 2,700K before day break.

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

The NightTune lighting is explained in this short video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWY7sYEkDjA 

Learn more about Thorn’s NightTune technology: http://www.thornlighting.com/en/about-us/press/advanced-led-technology-that-protects-the-precious-night-skies

Image above: Light pollution spilling across Derwentwater by night, credit: Pete Collins.