A location in North Yorkshire has become one of the first in England to become 'dark skies friendly' after a project has been completed in the region. 

Hawnby, near Helmsley, has joined a select few in achieving the feat, with other villages urged to gain recognition for the work they do to protect and enhance the quality of the night sky above their neighbourhood.

By meeting new standards launched by the North York Moors National Park, the location has become its first Dark Skies Friendly Village.

The Northern Echo: Hawnby dark skies The OwlHawnby dark skies The Owl (Image: NATIONAL PARK)

The new community-focused extension to the Dark Skies Friendly scheme, first launched by the North York Moors National Park in 2019, follows the completion of the pilot whole-village lighting project it worked on with Mexborough Estates at Hawnby.

The announcement comes midway through this year’s Dark Skies Festival which is happening across both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales. 

It involved converting over 100 lights on 30 properties within the village to ensure light is well targeted, at a suitable level and only used when needed.

The Northern Echo: Mexborough Estates dark skiesMexborough Estates dark skies (Image: STEVE BELL)

Mike Hawtin, the North York Moors National Park’s Head of Nature Recovery Projects and Dark Skies lead officer, said: “We’d urge people to visit Hawnby and see how achievable it is to do something similar for their community and realise this is not about being anti-light but using lighting in a more targeted, ‘where and when it’s needed’ way. 

“There are already some hamlets and villages, particularly those with few streetlights, that are likely to meet the eligibility criteria for achieving dark skies-friendly status.

"However, by recognising whole community efforts within the scheme, we hope it will encourage more bodies like parish councils to work with residents and businesses to make lighting improvements.

The Northern Echo: South Farm HawnbySouth Farm Hawnby (Image: NATIONAL PARK)

"This is particularly so in cases where people are moving into a neighbourhood, perhaps from a town or city, who are unaware of the detrimental impact that some lights can have on the environment.”

The project’s completion means that Hawnby is one of the first villages in England to become dark skies friendly as a result of switching exterior lights on individual homes, properties and public spaces, including the village hall and the popular The Owl Inn, rather than focusing only on street lighting to minimise light pollution.

To become dark skies friendly under the National Park’s scheme, communities will need to show that at least 60 per cent of exterior lighting is suitable.

The National Park will provide templates to allow villages to carry out a mini audit to assess the lighting and identify where improvements are needed.


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As part of the eligibility criteria, budding Dark Skies Friendly Villages will also need to be prepared to hold several outreach events such as stargazing evenings each year which, as well as spreading the message about reducing light pollution, can also help the village economy.

Mexborough Estates owner James Savile, added: “Right from the start we were keen to listen and work with the residents in Hawnby, rather than imposing the change upon them, and as a result, the project has gathered momentum and local support.

“We are all very proud to be a trailblazer in the UK for the Dark Skies Friendly campaign, and we are delighted to be attracting night sky and stargazing enthusiasts during the Dark Skies Festival and know they will be welcomed with open arms in our village and at The Owl, our flourishing inn with rooms in the heart of Hawnby."