Stargazing pavilion opens to take advantage of Northumberland's darkest skies

Stonehaugh residents worked with Newcastle students on shining new attraction

Stargazers can set their sights on a shining new attraction in Northumberland and make the most of some the darkest night skies in the world.

With the area covering Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park now enjoying Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status, lucky northerners have the largest area of protected night sky in Europe in their own back yard.

And now, thanks to the creative talents of Newcastle students and the support of local residents, amateur astronomers are in for even more of a treat with the launch of a special stargazing pavilion in the small village of Stonehaugh, near Kielder.

At its official opening yesterday, guests got to see the end-result of a special collaboration which aims to boost local tourism.

There was also a solar telescope set up, operated by Gary Fildes, founding director of Kielder Observatory, to give them an idea of the possibilities in store.

Involving Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and local residents, the project saw students design and build the stargazing pavilion to celebrate the area’s International Dark Sky Park designation.

The attractive timber-framed pavilion is also expected to be popular with nature watchers.

The Stonehaugh village community had helped to pick out the best site for the structure, which is near the Warksburn picnic site, then Newcastle University’s School of Architecture students created designs for it before residents chose their favourite. Then it was a matter of planning permission followed by lots of hard work.

Residents and students have worked together since 2012 under a Kielder Art & Architecture’s Testing Ground programme which first involved them developing a recycling project before their latest ambitious efforts.

It’s expected to be a huge hit with visitors.

It’s estimated that most of the UK population have never seen a truly dark sky although many towns and cities are gradually becoming darker thanks to the replacement of old-style street lights which give off a higher degree of light pollution.

But Northumberland remains the best place in England to enjoy the unspoiled wonders of the night sky.

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