ALONGSIDE collective effort to combat climate change and increase biodiversity, celebrating our dark skies and tackling worsening light pollution is rising up the agenda, writes Jack Ellerby, Cumbria Dark Skies Project Officer with Friends of the Lake District (FLD).

Working with the Cumbria Dark Skies Project hosted by FLD, Kendal and Oxenholme will be one of three pilot communities in Cumbria seeking to identify and reduce light pollution.

The benefits could be significant. If we switch off unnecessary lights, change the intensity and add shields to direct lights, we’ll save on our electricity bills, cut carbon emissions and reduce light glow up into the sky.

Research shows the harmful impacts on wildlife from artificial light pollution, not just on nocturnal species such as bats. Birds’ sleep is disturbed by artificial light at night. You’ve probably heard birds singing throughout the night next to heavily-lit places. Research in Germany showed four songbird species – Blackbirds, Robins and Blue and Great Tits - were all disturbed, limiting their hours of sleep and rest.

Two-thirds of birds migrate during darkness to avoid predators. Powerful light sources can disorientate them, causing them to collide into buildings or ‘trapping’ their flight routes, causing exhaustion and stress.

Studies reveal how much essential pollination takes place at night, especially by moths and other insects. Artificially-lit meadows had 62% less pollinator visits, cutting subsequent wildflower seed production by 13%. We need to increase flower-rich meadows, parks and gardens for overall biodiversity health, and we must reverse the decline in our insect populations for the sake of the whole ecosystem.

Another potential major benefit is helping our tourism and hospitality sectors recover from the impacts of Covid. Dark Skies or ‘Astro-tourism’ is on the increase and growth of staycations will boost this trend further. Cumbria is the fifth darkest area in England, South Lakeland is the eighth darkest district and Eden the third darkest.

A star-filled night sky has a huge ‘wow’ factor. It’s also a ‘free display’ and, crucially, is best seen during the quieter shoulder season and in the evenings - boosting visitor numbers year-round and supporting the night-time economy. Find out more at: