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Watch the skies! - Stargazers look for the Milky Way at Kelling Heath holiday park

Opening of the Dark Skies Discovery Site at Kelling Heath Holiday Park. Left to right, Colin Hards, Martin Boddy, Kate Dougan, David Jackson, John Ramm, Sarah Kemp, John Cumming.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Opening of the Dark Skies Discovery Site at Kelling Heath Holiday Park. Left to right, Colin Hards, Martin Boddy, Kate Dougan, David Jackson, John Ramm, Sarah Kemp, John Cumming. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

With the clocks going back and Halloween on the horizon this is a good time to celebrate darkness - and some of the blackest skies can be seen in north Norfolk.

The Dark Skies Discovery Site at Kelling Heath holiday park has officially been opened and can be visited 24 hours a day. And it has even been added to the activities programme at the park.

Kelling Heath and Wiveton Downs, both near Holt, have been acknowledged by the UK Dark Sky Discovery partnership as being exceptionally dark sites, unaffected by light pollution and accessible for people to view the night sky.

The seven stars of the Orion constellation and the Milky Way are both visible to the naked eye from the sites.

North Norfolk Astronomy Society (NNAS) member John Ramm, from Wiveton, said: “North Norfolk has some of the darkest skies in England. From here you can look at the moon which is in its first quarter. It’s also not too big to blot out the other sites near it.

“And you can see the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.537 million light years away.

“Stargazing used to be the province of rich gentlemen, but now telescopes are more affordable and technology has moved on.”

Fellow member Colin Hards added: “We use a sky quality meter at night-time to check how dark the skies are. In polluted cities the reading is about 18, but here it’s 21.23, which means it’s much darker.”

The NNAS surveyed the sites for suitability and is part of the Norfolk Coast Partnership’s Dark Sky working group, which also comprises organisations including planning authorities, tourism businesses, and conservation organisations.

Partnership project officer Kate Dougan said: “We are campaigning to raise awareness of dark skies. Darkness is good for the health and well-being of people, very good for sleep, and very good for retaining a sense of tranquillity.

“It tunes in your senses, as your sense of smell and hearing become heightened. Dark skies are also better to discover in winter, with the longer nights, so it helps tourism and extends the holiday season.”

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