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!

The results of this year’s Star Count, released today by CPRE, the Countryside Charity, reveals light pollution blocks three-quarters of UK residents view of the night sky, with only five percent of people enjoying the wonder of a truly dark starry sky. 

Almost 4,000 people took part in this year’s Star Count, the country’s biggest annual star watching citizen science project, from 17-24 February 2023. Participants were asked to report the number of stars they could see with the naked eye in the Orion constellation. The results nationally show that, for just over half the population, their view of the night sky remains obscured by severe light pollution. The proportion experiencing ‘truly dark skies’ and ‘very severe light pollution’ – the best and worst categories – both increased slightly by two percent. 

Emma Marrington, landscape enhancement lead at CPRE, the countryside charity, said:  

‘It’s great that so many people took part in Star Count this year. What is clear is that light pollution continues to affect people’s experience of the night sky. 

‘A strong approach is needed by local councils to manage light pollution, by ensuring local planning and street lighting policies protect dark skies and intrinsically dark landscapes in their areas. We’re calling for minimum standards to be introduced nationally for the management of external lighting to cut light pollution. This would be a hugely important step towards strengthened planning to ensure we get well-designed lighting that is only used when and where it is needed, protecting our existing dark skies for the benefit of current and future generations.’

The Star Count results across Cumbria reflect the value of its darker skies environment, with 31.3% seeing ten or fewer stars indicating severe light pollution. This is down by 2.5% from the previous year, but the next category, seeing only 10-20 stars due to light pollution up by 6% on 2022. The number of Cumbrian residents able to see a true dark sky, 30+ stars in the Orion constellation remained the same this year as in 2022, at 6.3%.

Jack Ellerby, Cumbria’s Dark Skies Officer at Friends of the Lake District, said:

‘CPRE’s star count gets people out after dark, making that connection with the wonder of the night sky, hopefully inspiring them to tackle light pollution.

‘Unlike other forms of pollution that will take many decades to remove from our environment, such as plastics in the oceans or greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, by changing poor lighting we can all make an instant improvement.

‘Our project work in collaboration with Cumbria’s local authorities, the National Park authorities, parish and town councils, businesses and lighting professionals, demonstrates that you can achieve functional safety needs, and at the same time, protect dark skies, wildlife, landscape character and people’s health and wellbeing.

‘Poor lighting represents wasteful energy usage just adding even more onto electricity bills. Good lighting principles in the outside environment are quite simple – no upward light projection, only have lights on when required, don’t use intense glaring levels or white coloured LEDs and keep lights away from wildlife.’

Increasing concerns about the effect of light pollution on people’s health and wellbeing has led to a House of Lords Inquiry looking into the issue.  In evidence presented this month to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, CPRE recommended that local authorities should have legal powers to control light pollution through the planning process. Outdoor advertisements are already managed in a similar way. Further to that, key changes to national and local planning policy were identified that, if implemented, should lead to a step-change in reducing light pollution, including policies to protect dark skies and intrinsically dark landscapes. 

About the Star Count: 

CPRE has been running Star Count, a citizen science survey, since 2011. People around the UK are asked to count the number of stars they can see in the Orion constellation. As an indicator, if people count fewer than ten stars they are experiencing severe light pollution and counting more than 30 stars is truly dark skies. 

Star Count 2023: Top line data 

This is for the UK (England – 3,672 counts, Wales - 141 counts, Scotland - 110 counts, Northern Ireland - 10 counts), the Isle of Man (2 counts) and Jersey (2 counts). This makes an overall 3,937 Star Counts. 

  • 51% (51.2%) saw ten or fewer compared to 49% (48.7%) last year. This is back to the headline stat in 2021 of people reporting ten or fewer (when it was 51%), indicating the most severe light pollution - but this year is up by 2.5% compared to 2022.   
  • There has also been an increase in the amount of people counting five or fewer stars, so very severe light pollution: in 2023 it was 13% (13.3%) compared to last year, when it was 11% (11.1%) of people, a 2.2% increase. This is the highest it has been since 2020 (when it was 17.8%).  
  • Another change between 2023 and last year is that less people are counting between 11-15 stars in Orion (24.1% vs 26% respectively). There’s a difference of 1.9%
  • There has been a slight decrease in the percentage of people counting between 26-30 stars since last year. In 2023, this was 2.4% compared to 3.7% in 2022. This is a change of 1.3%.  
  • 5% (5.3%) saw more than 30 stars, compared to 3% (3.1%) last year – again, a difference of 2.2% increase.  

Image above: Photo of light pollution across Kendal, one of Friends of the Lake District’s pilot Dark Sky Project’s communities, taken by local astronomer Stuart Atkinson, June 2020.