Our Dark Skies sub-committee has been busy!
Dark-sky status, awarded by the International Dark Skies Association, would help restrict and reduce light pollution in the Vale and safeguard night skies for future generations. Light pollution can lead to the night sky being hundreds of times brighter than a natural sky, hiding stars from our sight and preventing humans and animals alike from experiencing a natural night.
The Society believes passionately that it is just as important to be able to enjoy a clear, dark, star-studded sky in Constable Country as it is to be able to go on a tranquil walk along the River Stour on a Sunday afternoon.
Over the winter months a small group of dedicated DVS volunteers mapped out the quality of the night skies across the Vale, using sky-meters. The sub-committee has since confirmed that the survey is finished and all the readings fall well within the criteria for IDS Dark Sky Reserve Bronze status.
The next step is to survey all the street lights in the AONB to determine if they are minimally intrusive and to ascertain the colour temperature of each light. Following that, the aim is to create a Light Management Plan for the AONB which will require the buy-in from councils to protect the skies from stray and unwarranted light.
Mike Barrett, a Society volunteer from Polstead, has managed to access the relevant street light data from Suffolk County Council and having checked the lights against the current AONB boundary, has whittled down 10,000 fittings to the 220 most significant ones and plotted them on a map.
He says the vast majority of these are situated in Nayland, Stoke-by-Nayland, Stratford-St-Mary and East Bergholt, with the remaining six in Polstead and Thorington Street. Mike is now trying to work out an effective means of surveying these and collating the information into a workable database.
The Society is hugely grateful to Mike and our team of night sky measurement collectors for their efforts. Securing dark-skies status would protect our dark skies, enhance the visibility of the Dedham Vale, protect its AONB status and boost tourism (astro-tourism in particular) and the local economy.
The International Dark Skies Association runs an award-winning conservation programme to recognise and promote excellent stewardship of the night sky.
The Dark Sky Places Program was started in 2001 to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.