Brecon Beacons Park Society and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority have announced today that the Brecon Beacons National Park has become only the fifth destination in the world to be granted prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status making it Wales’ first International Dark Sky Reserve.
The accreditation is awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association, based in the USA. International Dark Sky Reserves are areas recognised as possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment specifically protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage or public enjoyment.
Back in 2011 Brecon Beacons Park Society and the National Park Authority initiated an ambitious project to gain International Dark Sky Reserve status for the Brecon Beacons, one of Wales’ National Parks. They set up collaboration with the University of Glamorgan, Dark Sky Wales and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. The project was made possible thanks to generous funding from the Brecon Beacons Trust, Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund and initial seed funding from the Brecon Beacons Park Society.
Martin Morgan-Taylor, board member of the International Dark-Sky Association and a committee member of the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, said: “We are gradually losing the night to light pollution, which is eroding the view of the night sky, and fewer and fewer people are able to see the Milky Way from their back gardens. This is not just an aesthetic loss; it is a loss of part of our culture, and the children who would have become scientists if the spark of interest had been ignited by a view of the night sky. Light at night is also bad for animals and human health. Whilst no one wants all the lights to be switched off, we can improve the lighting we use in towns and cities. However, the best views of the night sky come from places such as the Brecon Beacons, who have dedicated themselves to protecting and restoring the night sky for all to enjoy.”
Bob Mizon, UK Co-ordinator of the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, said: “For years most children and adults in this country have been robbed of their star-filled night skies, and the British Astronomical Association has long been fighting to try and reverse the harmful effects of light pollution. News that the Brecon Beacons National Park has been granted International Dark Sky Reserve status is a step in the right direction, in our fight to inform and educate about the detrimental effects of light pollution. I hope others will follow suit and help protect our precious dark skies, saving money and energy.
“The light from distant stars and galaxies takes hundreds, thousands, even, millions of years to reach us. What a pity to lose it in the last millisecond of its journey.
“The UK needs its dark-sky reserves, and more of them. If people have areas to which they can go to see what they have lost to light pollution, they may try harder to regain the stars where they live.”
The International Dark-Sky Association’s Executive Director, Bob Parks, added: “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Brecon Beacons in 2011, as they were preparing their International Dark Sky Reserve application. I was impressed by their dedication to preserving the night sky in this wonderful natural setting. Brecon Beacons holds special meaning for me as many of my ancestors came from this region. It is a wonderful addition to the International Dark Sky Reserve programme. ”
To get through the rigorous application process local astronomers conducted a survey to assess the levels of light pollution, and lighting engineers audited the existing external lighting in the National Park. Information leaflets and letters were distributed to residents living in the ‘core zone’ to help them understand the simple measures they could take, such as tilting outdoor security lights downwards instead of up, that could make a massive difference to how dark the night sky appears. Local communities supported the bid, with residents in Talybont-on-Usk holding their own Star Party and organised a community light switch off.
Punch Maughan, Director of Brecon Beacons Tourism, said: “Astro-tourism has been a growing trend over the last few years, and many tourism business owners here in the National Park have already equipped themselves with telescopes and sky maps to help their guests make the most of our wonderful, sparkly skies.
“News that the area is now an International Dark Sky Reserve is a massive boost for tourism operators here, particularly in this financial climate. I’m sure this special designation will help put the Brecon Beacons on the map as a destination where the views during the evening are as spectacular as they are during the day.”
Locally raised author Horatio Clare, who often cites the landscape of the Brecon Beacons National Park as a source of his inspiration, said: “Those of us who are lucky enough to know the Brecon Beacons National Park have long been acquainted with its peerless diurnal landscapes: the award of International Dark Sky Reserve status means that many more people will be drawn to this blessed region to see its nocturnal treasures, too. The original purpose of the National Parks, to preserve areas of great natural beauty for the enjoyment of generations of residents and visitors, is superbly served and expanded by this recognition of a priceless asset. In an age where darkness, peace and silence are constantly threatened, the Brecon Beacons National Park now has a new role, and the marvellous responsibility of honouring and protecting its night skies. The stars are mankind’s first and last navigation lights. They are nurseries and reserves of myth, poetry, literature and science: that the Brecon Beacons is one of the best places in the world to experience them is wonderful news.”
The Brecon Beacons Dark Skies project has received support from the Prince of Wales.
For more information about light pollution or the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies project, please visit www.breconbeacons.org/darkskies or www.breconbeaconsparksociety/national-park/dark-skies.