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

Chasing StarsVisit our new website for all the latest news

You can now stay up to date with our bid to attain Dark Sky Reserve status with our new website - www.chasingstars.org.uk.

Did you know that 90% of the UK’s population and two-thirds of the world’s population live under heavily polluted night skies?

We think of pollution in terms of dirty air, water contamination and excessive noise, all of which can have a significant impact on us. However, light pollution is equally a problem and is already having a big impact on our health. It is also affecting local biodiversity, particularly birds and trees.

Here at Cranborne Chase, though, we are lucky to possess and cherish our dark night skies. Ours is a unique area of pristine night skies where fortunate residents and visitors can witness the majestic arc of the Milky Way on a clear night. This is one of the most treasured qualities of the AONB and we are campaigning to give our dark night skies the statutory protection they need to enable them to thrive and survive. If we achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status we will be the first AONB in the UK to earn this accolade.


Chasing stars in our out of this world skies

Knowlton Church - Paul HowellCranborne Chase's Dark night skies are one of its most special qualities. National data continues to show the general loss of dark night skies across the country and an increasing risk of light pollution across the AONB.

In order to conserve and enhance the quality of our night skies the AONB's Management Plan 2014-2019 has a clear objective to secure prestigious Dark Night Sky status.

To date only Northumberland, Elan Valley and Galloway have become Dark-Sky Parks, with Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Snowdonia and South Downs National Parks awarded Dark-Sky Reserve status. Cranborne Chase is now bidding to become the first AONB in the country with Dark-Sky Reserve status. Watch this space for some out of this world news. 

Download our Dark Skies Leaflet

Latest news...

Dark Night Sky stargazing evenings 2017/18

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.

Astronomer and Cranborne Chase AONB Dark Skies advisor Bob Mizon will regale the audience with stories of the astronomical wonders above their heads, while the AONB’s director Linda Nunn will detail developments concerning the Cranborne Chase AONB’s bid for prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status. Afterwards, the audience will join Bob and members of the Wessex Astronomical Society outside for a spectacular stargazing experience.

The season of stargazing events during 2017/ early 2018 has now finished, but we will be organising new events from September 2018 onwards.

All events will normally commence at 7pm and last for around two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on weather conditions. The cost for adults is £5 each (cash or cheque on the night/includes a free tea or coffee), with no charge for children. Bookings must be made in advance, tel: 01725 517417, or email: info@cranbornechase.org.uk.

Cranborne Chase - one of the darkest places in England

CPRE Dark Skies MapNew 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 is in the process of working towards International Dark Sky Reserve status and this  research provides clear evidence that this nationally protected area 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.  

Dark Sky Pledge

Help Cranborne Chase AONB gain International Dark Sky Reserve status. There is so much that you can do.

Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NL375VD and take the Dark Sky Pledge if you’d like to support this work.

Cranborne Chase AONB Partnership is working closely with the British Astronomical Association’s (BAA) ‘Campaign for Dark Skies’ and Wessex Astronomical Association to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status. Bob Mizon of BAA has provided some extremely helpful information on lighting that can be found below.

Very popular stargazing evenings were held throughout last autumn/winter with more events planned for this coming season.

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 has set itself the goal of gaining this status applying to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

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

How you can help:

  • Show your support by taking the ‘Dark Skies Pledge
  • On clear nights, see if you can spot certain starry constellations that serve as markers of a truly dark sky and let us know.
  • Record night time lighting in your area, so that the AONB can explore ways of removing unnecessary artificial glare from the night sky
  • Improve the dark night sky by adjusting any of your lights downwards that shine above the horizontal. Nobody need turn any existing lights off but rather confine the light to the place to be illuminated

For further information, pledge your support, also, search online for various free downloadable star gazing apps for your mobile.

Take the Cranborne Chase AONB Dark Skies Pledge


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