See star potential with big dipper campaign

  • Contributor information: CNP

23 October 2018

Northumberland National Park has been hailed as “one of the best places in England” to enjoy the beauty of the night sky. Duncan Wise, visitor development and marketing manager at Northumberland National Park Authority explains why England’s northernmost county is now fighting to protect its starry skies from light pollution.

Home to Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, spanning a whopping 572 square miles, we are incredibly proud of our Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park designation, which is why we are backing a national campaign to protect it.

Northumberland National Park Authority is one of the leading bodies supporting the ‘Big Dipper’ campaign, launched by the Dark Sky Alliance this October.

Stars over Bellingham by Neil Denham

Stars over Bellingham in Northumberland National Park. Photo credit: Neil Denham

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of LED flood lighting right across the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, as well as in other rural areas. Many of these lights, including security lights, are too bright and are installed in such a way that much of the light is directed up into the night sky, contributing to the orangey-white sky glow above our towns and cities, which spreads out into the countryside.


Milky way by Ian GlendinningThe Milky Way over Harbottle Castle in Northumberland. Photo credit: Ian Glendinning.

The Big Dipper campaign aims to raise the public awareness of light pollution and encourage property owners with outside lighting to assess how much lighting they have and ensure wherever possible that outside lights:

  • Point downwards or are fully shielded
  • Only illuminate the areas they need to and aren’t used excessively
  • Employ lighting that is no brighter than necessary, using bulbs which emit warm light rather than white/blue light to help minimise glare

Our outstanding night skies are of vital importance to the Northumberland tourism industry at this time of year, so it is of vital importance that we support this campaign in any way that we can.

To help landowners in and around the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park to convert to dark sky-friendly lighting in line with the campaign, for a limited time, the National Park Authority is offering grants through its Small Grants Fund to businesses to cover the cost of replacing their existing outdoor floodlights with shielded ambient lighting.


Linehope by Paul Appleby

Linhope Spout at night. Photo credit: Paul Appleby

The Northumberland National Park Small Grant Fund is designed to make a big difference within the National Park by funding innovative projects that would benefit from some seed capital to help make a real difference.

Offering grant funding toward the cost of installing dark sky friendly lighting to businesses in and close to the National Park is a positive and proactive step that we can take to help businesses minimise light pollution and help maintain our magnificent dark skies.

Northumberland National Park is hosting a number of dark skies events as part of its winter event programme. Throughout October and running through until the end of March 2019, the programme includes stargazing events, astrophotography courses, meteor shower watches and much more.

By Duncan Wise, 

Northumberland National Park Authority

To find out more about dark sky events or to book tickets, visit For more information about the Small Grants Fund for businesses, please contact  

For advice on minimising light pollution visit or

Further information on light pollution and interactive maps can be found at