AN astrophysicist turned Zen teacher is bringing his star bathing experience to this February’s Dark Skies Festival.

It is one of several new events on offer at the popular festival taking place across both International Dark Sky Reserves of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

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Amid growing awareness of the wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside under the night skies, this year’s festival will see an expanded range of mindfulness sessions.

These will run alongside perennial favourites such as stargazing safaris, nocturnal wildlife trails, dark sky runs, astrophotography skills sessions and much more.

For the first-time Zen teacher Mark Westmoquette brings his star bathing approach showing how people can use the night sky to live ‘more in the moment’.

Visitors can join Mark at locations including High Dalby House in the Moors for a yoga and mind-body-spirit practice called qigong before going on a night nature walk in the wooded grounds.

Meanwhile to coincide with the new moon, visitors can join Wild Roots Foraging for an afternoon gathering foraged food in Easby Wood before walking uphill towards Captain Cook’s Monument to enjoy panoramic twilight views.

The group then returns to an open fire for foraged nibbles and mugwort hot chocolate in preparation for a starlit stroll through the forest.

Among other new events, visitors will be able to admire the work of dark skies photographer Pete Collins in an exhibition within the visitor centre of Ribblehead Station before venturing across to the Station Inn to join an astronomer for a tour of the night sky, with the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct acting as the backdrop.

Other stargazing safaris include evenings with dark skies hunter Richard Darn at Aysgarth Falls and Gill Garth Farm at Settle where visitors can gaze in awe at the star-lit canopy hovering above one of Yorkshire’s highest peaks Pen-y-Ghent.

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Go Stargazing’s Neill Sanders will also be leading a celestial tour of the beautiful sky above Wensleydale ice-cream parlour.

Helen Dalton, tourism officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park said: “As well as being fun and enlightening, many of the events at this year’s Dark Skies Festival will focus even more on the need to appreciate the value of the night sky: that beyond its beauty it has a vital role in protecting not only our own health and wellbeing but also that of the natural world.”

The festival runs from February 18 to March 6, visit for the full schedule and booking details.

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