My Proud Day – Announcing the Dark Sky Designation

Posted on: 11th December 2021

My proud day – announcing the International Dark Sky Park Designation for West Penwith at PK Porthcurno.

Me with the celebration cakes make by Rae at The Cook Book

Although no representatives of the press came, I still made a formal announcement about our achievement in getting this recognition from the International Dark Sky Association, as there were some local elected people that had not been on the journey with us so would benefit from some background information. Our MP Derek Thomas came with his wife Tamsin and their little girl, and he seemed pleased with the achievement.

I’m going to include, below, what I said on that memorable afternoon on 9th December 2021 but first, a link to the press release that went out: West Penwith Dark Skies Press Release

Today we are here to formally announce, acknowledge and importantly celebrate, the West Penwith Section of Cornwall AONB being designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.

We are only the seventh area of the UK and the second in Cornwall to become an International Dark Sky Park. Whilst anyone can step outside on a clear night and appreciate our dark skies, especially if they have any experience of light pollution in a more urban environment; collating the evidence to demonstrate the area meets the high standards specified in the International Dark-Sky Associations guidance takes time and commitment. We had to show not only that we had minimal traces of light pollution, but also that we had the will to promote, protect and fully appreciate this natural resource important to life.

A dark night sky has wide-ranging benefits. This designation means that the informal partnership we have formed will continue to work to: 

  • Preserve and enhance the dark night sky above the West Penwith Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for pleasure, leisure and to support the wellbeing of residents, visitors and wildlife 
  • Raise awareness of the importance of a dark night sky and encourage a reduction in light pollution 
  • Engage with individuals and groups, in the wider West Cornwall area, to grow an outreach and education programme for astronomy, nature, historic environment and human well-being
  • Guide residents and visitors to the most appropriate locations and opportunities for appreciating the dark night sky
  • Promote eco- and astro-tourism 
  • Inspire other designated landscape areas, within Cornwall and beyond, to appreciate and protect their dark skies, both formally and informally.

The Steering Group we formed has included local Councillors, Cornwall Council officers, PK Porthcurno, Land’s End Accommodation Providers, The National Trust, Cornwall AONB Unit, Mayes Creative, Penwith Landscape Partnership and other passionate locals. Whilst this Steering Group formally started in 2017, and our journey towards achieving this prestigious designation began in earnest then, it was the inspiration and vision of a couple of Parish Councillors that had the idea that this was something worth going for.

One of those Parish Councillors could not come today (Kevin Hughes) but he asked me to read this out.

“He is delighted and proud of this great achievement that as a collective group we have worked so hard for, to protect the beautiful and remarkable night skies of West Cornwall. This project started in 2014 with his idea and it’s taken a lot of sweat and tears from a great deal of people to achieve it. Whilst not naming all, Kevin wanted to say a special thank you to councillor Jon Brooks who recognised the potential and has been on the journey from the start. Kevin also acknowledged the support they had from Zennor & Towednack Parish Councils, Vanessa Luckwell, their Cornwall Council Community Link Officer and Emily Ruben in Cornwall’s Planning Department. The fact that the Steering Group came together believing in this project enabled his dream to become a reality. 

Kevin’s inspiration for this journey came from the Irish singer Enya who wrote a album about the Dark Skies on Sark called dark Sky Island.”

And I want to echo Kevin’s thanks to those that started the journey as beginning is often the hardest part.

Me photographed between Cllr Jon Brookes and Community Link Officer Vanessa Luckwell, who started this journey to the designation

This Designation becomes a fact that must be taken into consideration when planning application are made and determined. Appropriate conditions can be placed on applicants to ensure light pollution does not impact this area.

The Steering Group may not always consist of the same individuals but to keep this designation, a partnership will need to continue to lead an outreach and education programme, take Annual Dark Sky quality readings and report to the International Dark Sky Association. We have worked hard to achieve this Designation today and for this to stay in place forever, people and their organisations will have to maintain this level of energy and commitment.  

I set up, have chaired and Project managed this journey since 2017 but I started out knowing nothing. I know much more now but it is the people around me that had the knowledge, skills and passion to make this happen. I will therefore stop talking, and can take your questions but I may have to turn to my Steering Group colleagues to answer any technical matters.

Our wonderful Dark Sky Cake made by Rae at St Just Cook Book

In inviting people to come now to share cake, as a celebration of our achievement, I want to thank PK Porthcurno for hosting this celebration; whilst there will be no charge for hot drinks, donations will help them continue their work here. I hope you will all take the opportunity to visit the Dark Sky exhibition, if you have not had the chance before. In drawing your attention to the cake, I funded that through my Mayors Allowance and The Cook Book in St Just made it for me; I think you’ll agree they did a splendid job and it almost seems a shame to cut it but then it would be wrong not to eat it so, here I go!

Cutting our Dark Sky Cake with Cllr Jon Brookes