Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park
In 2015, the Elan Valley Estate achieved International Dark Sky Park status and became the first privately owned but publicly accessible park in the world to do so.
Here on the Estate we were granted the silver-tier status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) based in Arizona, USA. This status now means that the entire 45,000 acres of the Elan Valley are protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work here, in addition to the many visitors each year. The status also provides sanctuary for the abundance of wildlife and nature which can be found by day or night here on the estate.
What is an International Dark Sky Park?
"An IDA International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) is a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. The land may be publicly owned, or privately owned provided that the landowner(s) consent to the right of permanent, ongoing public access to specific areas included in the IDA designation."
Why does it matter?
Dark Skies are important for a number of reasons. In the UK less than 10% of the population can open their curtains to a truly dark sky at night and therefore protecting and promoting this asset is important. The aim is to protect dark skies against light pollution. Light pollution is excessive and or inappropriate use of artificial light. This pollution can have detrimental effects on people, wildlife and the climate. The International Dark-Sky Association provides the following video as a short introduction to "Losing the Dark" (alternative language videos can be found on www.darksky.org).
Obtaining a Dark Sky status is one way larger land areas can protect themselves from light pollution, but everyone can take simple steps to reduce their own light pollution and in turn reduce their energy costs! The following brochure provides you with a few useful tips.
Why the Elan Valley?
The Elan Valley data showed that the Estate "possessed exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resource". There is a commitment on the Estate by the Elan Valley Trust and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water to promote public access and recreation, provide environmental education services and work together to enhance biodiversity. Here, the sky above us is just as important as the land and water around us, and has such an effect on the nature and beauty of the area it is vital we protect this amenity.
Where can you observe the night sky on the Elan Valley?
Currently the existing car parks and amenities are being promoted such as Craig Goch car park and Claerwen Dam car park with both having on-site public toilets. Alternatively, around Cwmdauddwr Common can give the longest distance shots and last year (2016) gave rise to the impressive sights of the aurora borealis. In time we hope to develop better astronomy and dark sky 'hubs' to allow discreet car parking and areas to setup telescopes and cameras. Don't forget there is also self catered accommodation on the Estate so you stay under the stars and enjoy more than one dark night.
The Elan Valley has 5 years from approval to reach 90% dark sky compliancy, of which we are currently at 88.95%. We are therefore working together to reduce light wastage within the Estate and improve our knowledge and understanding to ensure any new and necessary lighting is to the approved standard.
To keep up to date with Dark Sky news please sign-up for our newsletter - the link is at the bottom of this web page, and keep an eye on our Events Guide, What's On webpage, Facebook (ElanValley ), and Twitter (elan_valley), for dark sky events. Also feel free to share your photographs with us on social media or instagram #elanvalleydarkskypark
Credits: Details and resources are provided by the International Dark Sky Association, for more information visit www.darksky.org