Businesses in some of the North East’s most unspoilt locations are being urged to reach for the skies to make the most of growing stargazing tourism.
Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park now have International Dark Sky Park status and the North Pennines also enjoys star-spangled dark skies. And The Journal has already reported how a small observatory is planned for Allenheads.
Now, the first in a series of 10 training days will help other businesses to develop their astro-visitor attractions.
The events are being provided by the Animating Dark Skies project partnership, which includes Northumberland National Park Authority, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Kielder Observatory, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Northumberland County Council. The first days will take place on April 29 at the Redesdale Arms, near Otterburn, Northumberland, and May 1 at Hamsterley Village Hall, Hamsterley, County Durham.
Richard Darn, a communications and marketing professional with a passion for astronomy, has been commissioned by the Animating project to provide the training.
He said: “The training days are open to any business that wants to capitalise on our wonderful dark skies. The event will be useful for bed and breakfast, campsite and self-catering owners, inn and hotel managers, tour guides and anyone working in the visitor economy to help them gear up to provide an unforgettable dark sky experience.
“Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and the North Pennies AONB have some of England’s darkest skies, which offer a spectacular display from the end of the summer visitor season and throughout the winter.
“In a light-polluted country they are an economic asset which translates into a unique selling proposition for the tourism sector.
“Just as people have long been attracted by the region’s wildlife, landscapes and historic sites, now the stars offer another compelling reason to visit. “
The North Pennines AONB has the most designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the UK.
“To benefit from the international interest generated by our dark skies, tourism businesses need to act quickly to capitalise on this wonderful and distinctive feature of the region. We’re aiming to extend the visitor season and make sure our offer compares favourably with the best stargazing experiences in the world,” said Richard. “This a tremendous opportunity for tourism businesses to exploit our most natural asset – unforgettable starry skies.”
The Animating Dark Skies project aims to build on the development of astro-tourism stimulated by the success of the Kielder Observatory and Northumberland International Dark Sky Park – the largest area of protected dark skies in Europe. There are plans for 31 new Dark Sky Discovery Sites in Northumberland and the North Pennines.
Bookings for the training days can be made on: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/star-tips-for-profit-workshop-otterburn-tickets-11031480455 and www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/star-tips-for-profit-workshop-hamsterley-tickets-11114167775
The Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership and Northumberland Astronomical Society will stage a stargazing event as part of International Dark Sky Week. The event is on April 22 from 8pm-11pm at the Barn at Beal, with the cafe opening to serve refreshments, and is timed for the possibility of seeing the annual Lyrid meteor showers, which take place from around April 16 to 25. The event is free but booking is essential on www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stargazing-evening-at-the-barn-at-beal-tickets-11202120845. No dogs.