Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which lies just a couple of hours outside of London, has become the first ever international dark sky reserve of its kind.

The region is the only place on the list of such reserves – which are assembled by the US International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) – that is also an area of outstanding national beauty.

“We think of our beautiful landscapes as being on the ground but 50 per cent of our landscape is above our heads, in the sky,” said Linda Nunn, Director of Cranborne Chase AONB.

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“The quality of our night sky is so important and this isn’t just for the benefit of astronomers. There are huge benefits for nocturnal wildlife, our own human health and wellbeing, for education, tourism and for energy saving. We’re thrilled to be playing our part.”

Cranborne Chase becomes one of 14 different places across the world to gain the recognition, alongside international places including New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie, Central Idaho in the US and NamibRand National Reserve in Namibia. In the UK, other dark sky reserves include Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Dark sky reserves are given the status after a series of checks. The IDA recognition can only be received by places that have exceptionally starry skies and commit to preserve them.

Cranborne Chase’s recognition came after 10 years of work.

“We have taken meter readings of the darkness of the night sky for several years and we are hugely grateful to the Wessex Astronomical Society for their support. We must also thank Bob Mizon as we could not have achieved this without his help, or the support of the local authorities and parish councils and we look forward to working with them as we continue to improve our dark skies,” said Nunn.

“Although huge amounts of work have already been done to achieve this status, we must continually improve our dark skies. Dark sky friendly schemes with schools, business, parishes and landowners are being developed and Wiltshire Council, which administers two-thirds of the area, has already agreed to upgrade its street lighting. This will make a significant contribution and will help us continually improve our dark sky quality. This is a requirement of the IDA to ensure we maintain our exclusive status.” 

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