Stonehaugh sets its sights high for a Dark Sky boost!

Nightowls

23 October 2012

Things are looking up in Stonehaugh - quite literally!

Image attached: Amateur astronomer Richard Darn gets ready for the Stonehaugh stargazing event.

The Forestry Commission and Wark Parish Council is staging a free public star party on Saturday 27 October from 7pm as part of the push to secure Dark Sky status for up to 400 square miles of stunning Northumberland countryside.

The parish council has backed the plan and has also asked Northumberland County Council to install more environmentally friendly street lighting in Stonehaugh, replacing older and more light polluting units.

Other developments have also been unveiled to draw more star struck visitors to this tranquil corner of 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) Kielder Water & Forest Park.

A new eco-friendly composting toilet has been built at the village′s popular Warks Burn picnic spot and new information panels installed.

Alex MacLennan, Forestry Commission Public Affairs Chief for the North East, explained:

"The star party is a great way to herald these important new improvements as it′s very much about allowing people to sample the area′s breath-taking scenery in comfort, whether its walking in the forest, or gazing at the heavens."

The toilet block is accessible to people with disabilities and been built by the parish council working with the Forestry Commission using a £10,000 Lottery Awards for All grant.

Annie Hutchinson, Chair of Wark Parish Council, added:

"We have seen a lot more people using the picnic site this year so these are timely developments. We have lovely dark starry skies, fresh air and wonderful woods and trails, so it’s good that we can also provide quality facilities. We think the Dark Skies bid could help us develop sustainable tourism and protect our village′s rural character."

The Stonehaugh Star Party is based at the village hall. It is free and hot refreshments will be available to purchase.

1. Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland National Park Authority and Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society have joined forces on the Dark Sky bid, which will help preserve the quality of its starry sky and help combat light pollution. An audit of external lighting in parts of the proposed dark sky area will get underway over the next few weeks as part of the application process which will be judged by the Tucson-based International Dark Skies Association. If the bid is successful Northumberland would gain the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. The move has drawn support from tourism and wildlife bodies, parish councils and astronomical organisations.

2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more information go to www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland

3. Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.

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