It has been two years since the sky above Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park was awarded Gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association. Since then, stargazing has become a very popular pastime in the county.
In celebration of the second anniversary of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, the 2015 Northumberland Dark Skies Photography Competition was launched to find the best photographs of the Northumberland night skies - from mesmerising shots of the aurora borealis to lively selfies in front of the stars.
The competition proved extremely popular, with many breath-taking images entered. After much consideration, the winner has been chosen.
‘Milky Way over Cawfields’ by Michael Ridley shows the natural phenomenon of Cawfields Quarry on Hadrian’s Wall dwarfed by a vertical panorama of the Milky Way arch stretching upwards in a seemingly endless column. When submitting the photograph, Mike explained the image ‘consists of 18 landscape frames joined into a vertical panorama and stretches approximately 160 degrees from horizon to horizon’.
The judges felt that ‘Milky Way over Cawfields’ really captured the essence of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park: vast inky-black skies studded with thousands of stars over a landscape full of history and beauty.
Mr Ridley’s prize is a group ticket for a Family Astronomy night at Kielder Observatory, recently announced as Small Attraction of the Year at the 2015 North East England Tourism Awards.
Tourism bosses from Northumberland Tourism, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park were left starry-eyed after judging the competition. Duncan Wise, Visitor Development and Marketing Manager for Northumberland National Park, said:
“We are so fortunate to have the darkest skies in England here in Northumberland. Anyone who can capture the beauty of the night sky in a single photograph, that can leave you speechless, should be congratulated. There were some wonderful images submitted in this year’s competition, proving very clearly that people’s hearts and minds have truly been inspired by our dark skies.”
Thanks to the huge popularity of the competition entries shown on the Visit Northumberland social media channels throughout the competition, the accolades were extended within the competition with the introduction of a separate ‘People’s Choice’ Award.
The images were compiled into an online album and the public was asked to vote by liking their favourite photo. This was won by Anthony King, with his excellent shot of a Perseid meteor streaking across the star-studded skies above Kielder Water & Forest Park.
Lynn Turner, Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “It’s the second anniversary of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and what better way to celebrate than by capturing some exceptional images of the night sky above us. Not only has the competition encouraged amateur photographers to get out there under the stars and push the limits on their camera, it has also drawn attention to the phenomenal natural beauty of our dark skies.”
Jude Leitch, Director of Northumberland Tourism, said: “Congratulations to both Mike Ridley and Anthony King for sending in their winning images, both of which highlight the superb quality of the Dark Sky Park. Another really promising aspect of the competition was the wide range of photographs taken in locations outside of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. From Kielder Water & Forest Park and Northumberland National Park to the North Pennines and Northumberland Coast AONB, this shows stargazing is developing into a county-wide attraction to residents and tourists alike.”
Discover more about Northumberland dark skies at www.visitnorthumberland.com/nlandstars and join the stargazing conversation on social media using #NlandStars
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park was unveiled in December 2013. At 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres) it is also Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Due to its pristine skies it was awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens.
Northumberland National Park covers 405 areas of protected landscape with breath-taking views, crystal clear streams, dark skies for star gazing and rich wildlife havens.
Kielder Water & Forest Park is the ultimate outdoor playground that everyone can enjoy.