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.


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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!

Five Dark Skies and wildlife friendly road lights have been installed in Lorton, in the north west of the Lake District National Park as part of a new scheme. 43 existing sodium road lights around Low and High Lorton, owned by Allerdale Borough Council, were installed in the 1980s. Whilst having low energy efficiency levels by today’s standards, they are becoming a maintenance issue and also cast light upwards and wastefully into the night sky.

Working in partnership, Lorton Parish Council and the Dark Skies Cumbria Project carried out a survey of residents in December 2020 to ask whether they supported changing the lights to more energy efficient and Dark Skies friendly ones.  A clear majority (80%) supported new LED Dark Skies friendly lights and in addition, a part-night switch off to help protect wildlife active after dark.(1)

Whilst half of respondents were happy to have some of the lights turned off completely, a fifth still wanted lighting retained for safely walking around as there are few footways in the village. 

New Isaro Pro LED lights produced by Thorn Lighting UK(2) are being used in the pilot scheme. They are set at 2,200 Kelvin - a warm colour temperature lantern - with dimming by 50% from 9pm, switching off completely at midnight and back on at 6am. It is expected that they will cut electricity consumption by around 70%, angle the light beam downwards where it’s needed, prevent sky glow light pollution and reduce maintenance costs given the age and condition of many of the existing lights. 

Steve Irlam, Lorton Parish Councillor, helping with the lighting changes, said: 

“Working with Jack Ellerby the Dark Skies Project Officer and Allerdale Borough Council, we’ve picked the core area of the village near the school, shop and village hall to try the new improved lights. Before the nights draw out we’d welcome feedback from residents before we look to replace any more of the lights we think are still needed. 

“We will have to be pragmatic with local authority budgets being very tight. Some of the lights won’t be able to be replaced, including those connected to Electricity North West Ltd timber poles where their risk assessments do not now permit other equipment being attached.” 

The Parish Council were facing the prospect of having to take on responsibility for all the road lights from Allerdale Borough Council, but fortunately they reversed that decision. The Parish Council were concerned about the age and condition of the lights, the electricity and maintenance costs and the impact on the Parish precept costs on villagers. 

Dark Skies Cumbria Project Officer Jack Ellerby, said: 

“Changing road lighting can arouse strong, differing views so it’s really important in my role to listen and work with each individual community. The good thing is with LED technologies developing so rapidly, and manufacture’s now taking on board Dark Skies and wildlife friendly requirements, there’s usually a solution for each situation to accommodate a balance of residents views. 

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Lorton Parish Council and the wider Melbreak communities as we all want to make the local environment a better place. If feedback on these new lights is favorable, I hope we can change some more of the poor lights to enhance the star laden night sky that local people and visitors so cherish.”(3) 

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

(1). A significant body of research shows the harmful impacts on incorrect artificial lighting on wildlife. Check out the Dark Skies Cumbria website news blogs section: https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/Listing/Site/dark-skies-subsite/Category/dark-skies-blog 

(2). The new Dark Skies and Wildlife friendly road lights are supplied by Thorn Lighting Ltd, please contact: Craig Lensky, Key Account Manager, Outdoor Lighting - [email protected]  

(3). Lorton is one of three pilot areas working with the Dark Skies Cumbria Project to help reduce light pollution. These are: Kendal-Oxenholme in South Lakeland, Patterdale Parish in Eden District and Buttermere, Lorton and Loweswater in Allerdale. A Lighting Audit and Action Plan (LAAP) Report has been produced by Manchester-based Cundall Light4 Lighting Consultants covering these communities to identify where lighting changes could bring positive benefits (funded by Friends of the Lake District, Kendal Civic Society and Kendal Town Council).