What if we could really see all the stars and cosmological activity happening in the sky, every night, just by stepping out of the front door? This idea has come a lot closer, as communities in Cumbria are going dark to help reveal “thousands of stars” which are usually hidden by light pollution. The Dark Skies project will see Ambleside and Grasmere turn off their street lights for the Big Switch Off tonight (February 9), to see all that they can see shining in the sky.
The initiative is run by the Friends of the Lake District, which is encouraging residents and businesses to join in and turn their lights off. The Big Switch Off will take place in Ambleside and Grasmere tonight, with the Keswick event planned for last night having been postponed due to weather warnings, now scheduled for April.
This will be the fourth annual Big Switch Off across Ambleside and Grasmere, and the first one for an area of Keswick around Crow Park and Hope Park, with free dark skies activities in Crow Park when the Keswick event eventually happens.
Friends of the Lake District’s Engagement Officer, Kay Andrews, said: “A very small moon, and weather permitting, clear skies, will give us a really impressive view of thousands of stars after all the lights go off. Each year more businesses and people take part, and we’ve produced a ‘Dark Skies booklet’ for hoteliers to encourage their guests outside and help identify some of the major star constellations.”
Light pollution is on the increase and artificial light at night is harmful to wildlife, and can damage human sleep patterns, affecting our long-term health. Too many lights are left on overnight when not needed, wasting energy, adding to electricity bills and releasing more carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Will Clark, Westmorland and Furness Councillor for Windermere, Ambleside (and Grasmere) said: “I am pleased to be supporting another Dark Skies event, a one night switch off that has already proved extremely popular. An opportunity to truly observe nature and appreciate our local surroundings without the impact of light pollution.”
Ambleside and Grasmere are around two hours from Manchester, making them the perfect day (or evening) out, for the Big Switch Off or purely a lovely weekend away, with opportunities for walking, eating and drinking.