Ian McMillan pens poem for the Dark Skies Festival

Dark Skies Festival takes place February 18th-26th

Dark Skies Festival takes place February 18th-26th - Credit: Archant

Astro-tourism reaches new heights in the national parks

Ian McMillan Photo by Kippa Matthews/REX/Shutterstock

Ian McMillan Photo by Kippa Matthews/REX/Shutterstock - Credit: Kippa Matthews/REX/Shutterstock

One of the UK’s best known poets has written a poem celebrating the wonders of the Yorkshire’s dark skies. Ian McMillan, known as the ‘Bard of Barnsley’, commissioned by the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities, draws on his observations of stargazing and hunting down the Aurora Borealis, as well as the special qualities of the night sky in the areas of low light pollution found in both stunning national parks.

The verse was completed just ahead of the two national parks’ second joint Dark Skies Festival, a week-long event during February half-term (February 18th -26th). ‘I’m very excited to be illuminating the Dark Skies Festival with the pure light of poetry, the only kind of light that doesn’t pollute or distract. My light verse will concentrate the mind and the eyes on the darkness!’ said Ian McMillan.

This year’s expanded Dark Skies Festival includes several new events including a starlight cross-country run at Cote Ghyll Mill, Osmotherley, a stargazing evening run by the York Astronomical Society at the Yorkshire Arboretum, an opportunity to contribute to a huge dark skies painting at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes and a family night hike around spectacular Semerwater. A dark skies poetry competition will also be open to schools in and around the Yorkshire Dales National Park for all budding bards inspired by Ian McMillan’s words.

With their low light pollution, both national parks have some of the darkest skies in the country to embark on a celestial safari and enjoy stargazing.

The national park centre at Danby is one of the latest locations in the North York Moors National Park to be identified by the Dark Sky Discovery Initiative as a Milky Way Class site, where skies are sufficiently dark to potentially view the galaxy with the naked eye.

It joins the visitor centre at Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest as other existing Milky Way sites on the North York Moors, while three sites were awarded the same status in 2015 at Hawes, Malham and Buckden in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Go to darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk for information on getting the best out of stargazing in the national parks, including visiting one of the six Milky Way Class Dark Sky Discovery sites – Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest in the North York Moors and Hawes, Malham and Buckden in the Yorkshire Dales – which have sufficiently dark skies to view the galaxy with the naked eye.


A poem for the National Parks and their Dark Skies Festival

In praise of darker skies and lighter thinking

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The darker the sky, the more you can see;

The blacker the night, the brighter the Moon,

The dimmer the streets, the stronger the glow

The deeper the shade, the lighter the view.

The map of the heavens, the time and the space

The distance they travel, the cities of stars,

The trail of a comet, the satellite’s stroll

The football of Venus, the beach ball of Mars.

The blindness of headlights, the dazzling fire

The hint of a sunrise, the dawn’s subtle kiss,

The straining of tired eyes, the lamp in the face

The struggle to notice, the sights we all miss.

The hope for the future: the sky’s welcome gleam,

The Milky Way’s jewels, the meteor’s trail,

The old constellations, the space-station’s glint.

The inky sea’s waiting; the night boat sets sail!

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