Wednesday, 27 November 2013 8:30 AM
With some of the darkest skies in the UK, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water's Elan Valley estate is aspiring to become the first International Dark Sky Park in Wales.
International Dark Sky Parks are areas where the night sky is protected and lighting controlled to prevent light pollution, which makes stargazing better and easier. Currently, the only International Dark Sky Designation in Wales is the Brecon Beacons, which was awarded this status in February.
The Elan Valley estate near Rhayader – which includes around 18,000 hectares of land across Mid Wales and the Cambrian Mountains – has some of the lowest levels of light pollution in the whole of the UK, which provides an ideal location to promote the enjoyment of night skies and boost tourism.
Over 90 percent of the UK population lives under a severely light polluted sky, according to the 2012 British Astronomical Association survey. Therefore, protecting those skies that are free of light pollution is important and will encourage people to enjoy their true beauty.
Sorcha Lewis, head ranger at the Elan Valley, said: “Dark skies are hugely important in protecting wildlife and the natural environment. Many birds and animals are affected by stray light intruding into their night world, confusing their natural patterns of activity and affecting their breeding cycles causing premature breeding. As the Elan Valley is an area of spectacular beauty and abundant wildlife, it is crucial that we protect the wildlife of the night by ensuring we look after the dark skies here in Mid Wales.”
Local astronomer, Allan Trow, manager at Dark Sky Wales, said: “We fully support the Elan Valley’s application for dark sky status. The area provides an unusually dark area for night time observing, providing amateur astronomers, the general public and tourism providers a unique environment in which to treasure the night sky and prosper from its economic potential.”
Welsh Water’s Elan Valley estate has held a number of events during the past year to promote the dark skies. The next of these will be a Star Meeting held on Sunday, January 26 from 7.30pm until 9pm where visitors will have the opportunity to use scopes to learn all about the stars in the night sky.