Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water's Elan Valley Estate in the Cambrian Mountains has achieved International Dark Sky Park status and become the first privately owned, but publicly accessible park in the world to do so.
The silver-tier status has been granted by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) based in Arizona, USA and means that the 45,000 acre estate is now protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work there, as well as for visitors and for the abundance of wildlife found there.
The process to become an International Dark Sky Park began in November 2012 and was spearheaded by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water estate rangers and two local amateur astronomers, who are now volunteer astronomy rangers for the Estate. Over 200 individual light readings were taken at 13 sites over a 22 month period to demonstrate that the Estate would fit the criteria for this status. Analysis of the data revealed that the Estate, "possessed exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resource" - one of the primary conditions for granting International Dark Sky Park status and so ideal for stargazing.
Ed Parsons, Area Lands Manager for Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, said: “I’m very excited that our spectacular night sky has been recognised by the International Dark Sky Association. This global recognition is testament to the hard work of our rangers and voluntary astronomers, without whom this would not have been possible. I would also like to thank the Elan Valley Trust for their support from the beginning of this process. We will continue to work in partnership with them and local residents to protect and enhance this feature of the Estate and welcome visitors to experience a truly dark sky at night.”
International Dark Sky Association Executive Director, J. Scott Feierabend, said: “Today IDA takes a major step forward in dark skies conservation by welcoming the Elan Valley as the first-ever privately owned International Dark Sky Park. Moving into the realm of private land conservation significantly extends the reach of protections for the natural night time environment."
Bob Mizon, Director of the British Astronomical Association's Commission for Dark Skies, said: "It's really exciting to see the Elan Valley joining the ranks of those places worldwide who are protecting our heritage of starry skies above. We look forward to the time when everyone will have the optimum night sky over them."
There are currently 25 Dark Sky Parks in the world including Galloway Forest Park in Scotland, Death Valley National Park in California, De Boschplaat in the Netherlands and Eifel International Dark Sky Park in Germany.
The Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park will now embark on plans to further improve light wastage within the Estate, and to improve facilities for astronomers at several locations across the Estate.
To find out more about the astronomical events run by the volunteer astro-rangers at the Estate please visitwww.elanvalley.org.uk or call 01597 810880.
- The Elan Estate is the largest single area of land owned by any of the national water companies, comprising some 10% of the total. The Estate has been managed to protect the quality and quantity of the water since 1892. The 70 square miles of moorland, bog, woodland, river and reservoir are of national importance for their diversity of lower plants and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales.
- Responsibility for protecting the Elan Valley lies with Welsh Water and The Elan Valley Trust, who manage the largest part of the Estate under a long-term lease including the farmland and open hillside. Both organisations promote public access and recreation; provide environmental education services and work together to enhance biodiversity in this special area.
- Welsh Water is committed to promoting access and recreation at its reservoir sites as well as managing over 42,000 hectares of land and enhancing the special wildlife areas in its care.
- Welsh Water is owned by Glas Cymru. It is a non-shareholder and single purpose company and it exists to give customers the best possible water and sewerage services while keeping bills as low as possible. Profits are reinvested in the business to deliver further benefits to customers.
About the International Dark Sky Association (IDA)
IDA is the recognised authority on light pollution. Founded in 1988 and based in Arizona, IDA is the first organisation to call attention to the hazards of light pollution.
It promotes one simple idea: light what you need, when you need it. They work with manufacturers, planners, legislators, and citizens to provide energy efficient options that direct the light where you want it to go, not uselessly up into the sky.
Find out more at www.darksky.org