• Cranborne Chase AONB Office, Rushmore Farm, Tinkley Bottom, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire, SP5 5QA  Tel: 01725 517417

Cranborne Chase AONB becomes an International Dark Sky Reserve - October 2019


Cranborne Chase became the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the country to be designated in its entirety as an International Dark-Sky Reserve

Cranborne Chase AONB becomes the 14th Reserve across the globe, and joins an exclusive club of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Areas to gain international recognition for its dark skies.

“Some people are lucky enough to recognise ‘the Plough’, but for others, seeing stars and their constellations is often impossible because of light pollution. Here in Cranborne Chase we can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy, if the clouds allow!” said Linda Nunn, Director of Cranborne Chase AONB.

The Reserve designation can only be given by the IDA to those areas that enjoy exceptional starry skies and have pledged to protect and improve them for future generations.

This is the culmination of over ten years’ work by the Dark Sky project team at the AONB led by Amanda Scott for the last 18 months. 

To achieve International Dark-Sky Reserve status, Cranborne Chase AONB was put through a series of stringent checks by the IDA.

Linda Nunn, continued: “We have taken meter readings of the darkness of the night sky for several years and we are hugely grateful to the Wessex Astronomical Society for their support. We must also thank Bob Mizon as we could not have achieved this without his help, or the support of the local authorities and parish councils and we look forward to working with them as we continue to improve our dark skies.

“Although huge amounts of work have already been done to achieve this status, we must continually improve our dark skies. Dark sky friendly schemes with schools, business, parishes and landowners are being developed and Wiltshire Council, which administers two-thirds of the area, has already agreed to upgrade its street lighting. This will make a significant contribution and will help us continually improve our dark sky quality. This is a requirement of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to ensure we maintain our exclusive status.”

Cranborne Chase AONB joins a prestigious group of areas around the world that are certified IDA International Dark-Sky Reserves:

Cranborne Chase is a unique International Dark Sky Reserve in the way it has had to draw together the lighting policies, practices and controls of its partner authorities and organisations.

Work has included auditing external light fittings within the AONB, consulting with the local planning authorities, and working with local communities and parishes to achieve non-polluting good lighting and providing training on reducing light pollution for everyone.

The AONB organises a programme of dark sky events and communications throughout the year, including stargazing evenings, talks, as well as school visits and workshops. For more details, please visit www.chasingstars.org.uk.

Dark Night Sky stargazing evenings 2019/2020

LOVE gazing at the stars on a clear night? Now you can do so with the experts pointing out some of the hundreds of spectacular constellations in the pristine night skies above the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at a series of special Stargazing Events.

Please visit our Facebook page for information about Stargazing evenings or our Chasing Stars website www.chasingstars.org.uk

Our application to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)

Read Cranborne Chase AONB's application for International Dark Sky Reserve status

Read the appendices to Cranborne Chase AONB's application for International Dark-Sky Reserve status

Cranborne Chase - one of the darkest places in England

interactive maps offer the incredible pictures of England’s light pollution and dark skies. The most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies were released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). They show that 52% of Cranborne Chase AONB is in Band 1 –  the darkest category.

The maps, produced using satellite images captured at 1.30am throughout September 2015, show that as well as having 52% of the AONB in the darkest category, 40% of the AONB is in the next darkest category.  This makes the Cranborne Chase AONB one of the darkest places in England.

View the maps online

Cranborne Chase AONB does indeed have some of the darkest skies in the land. There is, however, no legislation that can be enforced to protect dark night skies. To achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status all those responsible for lighting (local authorities, highway departments, businesses and individual residents) are required to ensure that light pollution (light escaping sideways and upwards) is reduced to a minimum.

The CPRE is calling on the local authorities which fall within the AONB boundary to use these maps to identify areas with light pollution and target action to reduce it, as well as identifying existing dark skies that need protecting.  

Lighting Types, qualities and Impacts - Bob Mizon Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) - March 2016

This paper by Bob Mizon looks at best practice relating to external lighting - Different types of lighting through the years, terminology guide, threats to the environment from blue-rich white lighting, putting light where it is needed, part-night switch-offs and common misconceptions met when discussing quality lighting and good practice...

Download Lighting: types, qualities and impacts (1.2Mb)

Our special island of darkness

Dark Night SkiesOn light pollution maps, Cranborne Chase AONB stands out as an island of darkness, still enjoying a starry ‘dark night sky’ that most people can only dream of. 

The AONB Partnership is grateful to The British Astronomical Association (BAA) that is guiding work on the application. It involves taking dark sky meter readings across the AONB to identify the ‘core’ area where skies are the darkest and a ‘buffer area’ around it. The first set of readings look very promising!

Benefits of dark night skies:

  • People: Our sleep can be disrupted by too much light at night. At worst, it can lead to more serious health issues
  • Wildlife: Many birds and animals are affected by stray light at night, affecting their breeding cycles and feeding habits. Controlling stray light helps bats, birds, moths and other nocturnal creatures to go about their business and thrive
  • Enjoyment and education: There is increasing interest, wonder and amazement at the incredible array of stars above us. Stargazing is a fabulous educational activity for all
  • Money: Substantial savings can be made by Local Authorities, businesses and individuals from turning off or dimming down unnecessary lighting
  • Saving energy: There is no point shining light into the sky. Energy wastage can be considerably reduced by ensuring light is directed only where it is needed
  • Rural tourism: Other areas designated for their dark skies have seen greater visitor numbers, even in winter, leading to increased business for B&Bs, retailers, and others catering for visitors
  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: 50% of the AONB is above us! Dark night skies are definitely outstanding, natural and beautiful, and should be conserved and enhanced along with the rest of the AONB


Bob Mizon - The importance of dark night skies Powerpoint Show (1.5Mb)

Download Lighting: types, qualities and impacts (1.2Mb)

Malcolm Mackness - Combined presentations Powerpoint Show (3Mb)

Howard Lawrence - Lighting and Dark Skies Powerpoint Show (1Mb)

How you can help - guides to Dark-Sky compliant lighting and lighting units

Position Statement 7a - Recommendations for Dark-Sky compliant lighting on new builds & refurbishments - a Developers' Guide (PDF 500kb)

Choosing the right kind of lighting unit to be Dark-Sky compliant