Seeing Stars

Trawsfynydd (© Keith O'Brien)

alt=Ty Cipar Llyn Conwy (© Keith O'Brien)

Seeing Stars

Dark Sky Reserve Status for Snowdonia

Welcome to Snowdonia International Dark Sky Reserve. Our aim here is to provide information on this special designation.

Our journey of discovering and appreciating the stars has only started and we intend to add information to the following pages as we continue our journey.

If you have any ideas on information that is not included here and is relevant to Snowdonia, please email darksky@snowdonia-npa.gov.uk us.

The Milky Way from Trawsfynydd

The Milky Way from Trawsfynydd (© Keith O'Brien)

Taurus and Pleiades to left of memorial at Trawsfynydd

Taurus and Pleiades over Trawsfynydd (© Keith O'Brien)

What is a Dark Skies Reserve?

This is a prestigious award given by the International Dark Sky Association to select destinations that have proven that the quality of their night air is outstanding and that real efforts are being made to minimise light pollution.

So why is it important?

Light pollution in the UK has increased significantly in recent years. Between 1993 and 2000, light pollution increased by 24% in the UK, and over 90% of UK population now live under a highly polluted sky. As light pollution increases, the opportunities to enjoy the night sky and its stars are declining. Excessive or inappropriate lighting can have multiple adverse impacts on both humans and the natural environment. These include:

  • Sleep deprivation and stress amongst those who have light intrusion into their homes;
  • Prolonged exposure to high levels of artificial light can impact on melatonin levels in humans, which in turn can lead to increased risk of cancer;
  • Increase energy bills for both Local Authorities and individuals through the use of inefficient and excessive lighting;
  • An adverse impact on nocturnal wildlife including species of mammals, invertebrates and birds. Examples include disturbance to the migratory routes of bats (of which there are thought to be 12 species residing in Snowdonia), increased mortality in moth populations, and decreased ability to mate amongst certain bird species e.g. blackbirds;
  • Impair the enjoyment of the night time landscape for both star gazers and other recreationists who undertake outdoors activities during night time hours. Amongst its statutory duties, the National Park Authority is expected to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and wildlife of that area. We firmly believe that these principles should be applied to the night time environment as well as what we see during daylight, giving people a sense of place and well being whenever they chose to enjoy the outdoor environment.
  • Luckily, surveys show that we still have large areas with good quality dark skies here in Snowdonia, particularly in the more rural areas that lie away from the more populate coastal areas.

So what does all this mean to the residents of Snowdonia?

Snowdonia National Park Authority wishes to work alongside local communities and the relevant Local Authorities in maintaining the quality of dark skies we have in Snowdonia, as well as improving the situation where required. This will primarily be done on a voluntary basis by better managing lighting, and encouraging businesses and private residencies to use appropriate external lighting around their properties. In addition, we hope to provide opportunities for local business owners to benefit from the designation by training so that they may become Dark Skies Ambassadors for Snowdonia, thus further increasing their potential to attract tourists during the quieter winter months.

FAQ

Will I have to switch off my lights?
Put simply, no. We are not able to force people to make changes to their existing external lighting, nor would we wish to do so. Rather, we hope to encourage people to use less and/or more appropriate lighting as and when necessary. Examples would include using fully shielded lamp heads that direct light downwards only, or using lighting which only comes on temporarily when detecting motion (PIR lighting).

Will new developments not have lights?
We expect related supplementary guidance on external lighting to follow in due course. However, this will apply to new applications only, and not to existing developments. It will specify the need for responsible external lighting on new developments and not stipulate the absence of external lighting altogether. There will be a greater focus on new developments within the proposed core zones, which are generally scarcely populated and located away from the larger towns and villages in Snowdonia.

Will the streets be less safe?
We appreciate that human safety is of paramount importance, and this will be at the forefront of any future changes. Modern LED street lighting coupled with good design works just as well, if not better, than traditional sodium burning street lamps with their orange glow. If the levels of street lights are to be dimmed during unsocial hours, as many Local Authorities have done elsewhere in the UK, this will only be done where it's safe to do so and following consultation with the local community.

What does it mean to me?
At present, very little. Any changes would be voluntary other than obligations on new developments. And even then, the Authority will be asking for responsibly designed external lighting, rather than refusing lighting altogether. We wish to promote the opportunities available to local businesses and communities through the project such as an increased tourist market and longer tourist season, based on astronomy, particularly during the quieter, winter months.

How Can You Help?

You can help by sending us your data on sky brightness within the National Park. To do this, download an App such as Dark Sky Meter by DDQ, take a reading, and then by following the link below, complete the form and send us the results.