An entire village in North Yorkshire is turning down its lights to provide a better view of the Milky Way.
Hawnby is the first village in England to swap its streetlights and more than 100 other outdoor lights for dark skies-friendly lighting in a bid to cut light pollution and allow residents and visitors to see the stars.
The North York Moors village is located in an international dark sky reserve, one of only 21 sites in the world designated by the International Dark-Sky Association.
The village hall and local pub are part of the initiative being put in place by the North York Moors national park and the landowner Mexborough Estates, which has widespread support locally and is also good for nocturnal wildlife.
The measures allow local people and visitors to see the Milky Way, planets and meteors at any time of year and also occasionally the northern lights, when conditions are right.
Meanwhile, grants have been given to businesses in a different national park, the Yorkshire Dales, to help reduce light pollution there.
These include the Station Inn, close to Ribblehead viaduct, and the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes.
Mike Hawtin, the dark skies officer for the North York Moors national park, said: “We’re aiming to show how relatively easy it can be for communities to take a similar approach to the one at Hawnby and help us protect the pristine qualities of our dark skies.
“There are a few other places in Wales and Scotland which have converted streetlights to become dark sky-friendly towns or villages, but we think Hawnby will be the first village to go even further by converting both street and external building lighting when the project completes later this year.”
Both the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales national parks became international dark sky reserves in December 2020 after a five-year process.
In order to get approval, places have to have low light metre readings, support from more than 80% of the local population and dark sky-friendly lighting.
The North York Moors said it also provided an opportunity to reduce unnecessary consumption of electricity, minimising the carbon footprint and energy costs for properties, as well as attracting visitors interested in astrotourism.
Other international dark sky reserves include Snowdonia national park, Greater Big Bend in the US and Mexico, and the NamibRand nature reserve in Namibia.
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