Written on 24/10/18 by Paul Oldham

Can you remember the first shooting star you saw?

Today we have a guest post from Rachel Damms, Fundraising Officer with the Friends of the Lake District.


I grew up on the fringes of the Peak District National Park, just far enough from the city lights to be able to appreciate the night sky. One night, when I was about 7, we were driving home from the Buxton Opera House and I saw it. That night, which otherwise would surely have blurred into the rest of my childhood, sticks out prominently in my memory because that was the first time I ever experienced that incredible, breath-taking, awe-inspiring phenomenon of a light flashing across the sky, my first shooting star.

From that moment on I have spent hours and hours throughout my life staring at the night sky, waiting for another sighting to fill me with that sense of wonder, of smallness, of fleeting beauty, and the knowledge that I'd witnessed something so magical that so few other people would see, simply because they weren't watching, or had their view obscured.

When I think about having children, I want them to experience this same wonder and amazement that I still get every time I look up in a truly dark place. As our world gets brighter and brighter I fear we will start to lose these special places. That's why Friends of the Lake District are spearheading the work to gain Dark Skies Reserve status for the Lake District National Park, to protect this darkness.

Cumbria has some of the darkest skies in the country, where the Milky Way is still visible, however the importance of our dark skies urgently needs recognising and protecting. Between 1993 and 2000 average night-time brightness in Cumbria grew 40 fold.

It is our ambition to attain Dark Sky Reserve status for the Lake District National Park, an internationally recognised accreditation. We want to conserve and enhance people's sense of tranquillity and gain recognition of the special quality of this dark sky landscape in the Lake District. We have just employed someone to lead us in this project, who will run educational and outreach community events, implement a Lighting Management Plan and enable the National Park Authority and Local Authorities to enact this plan. To give an example, just a small part of this work will be updating street lights to be more efficient, saving thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions and hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers' money each year. The impact of this scheme is not only beneficial to our dark skies but also to our community and to our environment. Our three-year project will culminate in the submission of the Dark Skies Reserve bid to the International Dark-Sky Association.

Living in Kendal now I rarely look up at the night sky. Its beauty is obscured by the light pollution that comes with life in a town. But just a five minute journey and I can be back surrounded by that velvety blackness, lying on the cool grass on Scout Scar trying to fit the constellations together. Please help us save our beautiful nocturnal landscape, and foster the sense of awe that a truly dark sky brings, so that future generations can share this same special landscape.

Thank you,

Rachel Damms

Rachel Damms
Fundraising Officer


Photos and words copyright © 2018 Friends of the Lake District, All rights reserved

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