Starry, Starry Nights

Cranborne Chase Chase and Chalke Heritage Fund

Starry Starry Nights Banner

Project Overview

Maintaining our precious dark skies and further reducing light pollution across the Cranborne Chase National Landscape, revealing the majesty of the heavens.

Over millennia humans have gazed at the stars above us, and created legends and culture around them, finding constellations and meaning in the dark night skies.

Our own galaxy, The Milky Way, can be seen clearly on a dark night, a bold strip of light across the sky, but for many light pollution means that this is a rare sight.


An International Dark Skies Reserve


Knowlton Circle Dark Skies Image

In 2019 Cranborne Chase NL was awarded status as an International Dark Sky Reserve – the only National Landscape in the UK to have this designation across its whole area, and one of only 16 Dark Sky Reserves in the world. We have some of the darkest night skies remaining in south central England, an oasis of dark.

The Chase & Chalke Partnership will celebrate and build on this status in the Starry Starry Nights project, creating Community Dark Sky Custodians and provide them with the knowledge and skills to share their enthusiasm for the myriad of sparkling stars with others and volunteers who will lead stargazing evenings and being trained to monitor their local dark skies.

Community Dark Sky Custodians will learn about the multiple benefits of dark skies; benefits to human health, wildlife, saving money and carbon by reducing unnecessary lighting, better targeted lighting for security purposes and the amazing wonder, enjoyment and learning that comes from a better understanding of the nightscape that forms 50% of our environment.


Project Development

Volunteer Dark Skies Custodians

Since the start of the project, 16 Dark Skies Custodians have signed up and completed all of their training.

Custodians training

Custodians have taken action in their local communities in different ways, such as writing articles for magazines discussing dark skies, light pollution, and astro-tourism.

A custodian also assisted a camping business with their application to become dark sky accredited.

6 Stargazing event leaders have been established in parishes such as Broad Chalke, Compton Abbas, Tarrant Gunville, Berwick st John, Martin, and Damerham.

Sky Quality Measurements

Sky Quality Meters were distributed to Custodians so that they could carry out measurements in different areas of Cranborne Chase National Landscape area. These measurements record levels of light pollution, and allow the monitoring of encroaching light pollution on the landscape. As of the end of 2023 192 baseline sky quality measurements have been recorded by volunteers.


Stargazing Events and Evenings

Since the start of the project, 257 people have attended various stargazing evenings, talks, and events throughout the Chase & Chalke landscape area. These have been organised by the Chase & Chalke team as well as volunteer Dark Sky Custodians.

Perseid Picnic event

The Perseids Picnic Event and Broad Chalke brought people together to witness the night sky. This was held at the Chalke Valley Sports Centre in Broad Chalke on the 12th August 2021. This was a fantastic evening of talks on the skies, planets and constellations, and information on Cranborne Chase as an international dark skies reserve. The event also featured a presentation about Artificial light at night and the importance of acting on light pollution. The talks were followed by a stargazing opportunity to see the perseid meteor shower. 46 people from the village attended the event.

Stargazing Event

Stargazing events have also been held in Compton Abbas, Damerham, Tarrant Monkton, Coombe Bissett, Tarrant Gunville, and at the Larmer Tree Gardens.

Stargazing event with steve

Stargazing events are still being organised and held during the winter months, when weather permits.

Working with Local Businesses

A dedicated tourism business webinar “Grow Your Business with Dark Sky Tourism: Astro-Tourism for Businesses” was held on the 16th Feb 2021 with 57 people viewing. Information for businesses was given to participants for them to use across their promotional material, such as cost effective measures that businesses can take to make themselves more dark sky friendly.
So far, 9 business have participated in astro-tourism workshops.

Youth Involvement

Work has been done to engage young people in the project. Events have been held with Woodcutts Scout Group, where astronomers gave talks and presentations about meteorites and constellations.

Scouts learning

Members from the local youth group Seeds4Success attended a Tarrant Gunville stargazing event. Two ‘In the Night Sky’ workshops for school children were run in the area by ‘Space Detectives’ with Jo Richardson.

space sweets

Pupils from St Andres Primary school and Shaftesbury Primary School attended these events.

Space Detectives

Three Dark Skies art activity events have been held at Coombe Bissett.
In total 227 school children have received dark sky or astronomy related workshops across a variety of areas as part of the Starry, Starry Nights project.

space detectives in school

Workshops and Events

The Starry, Starry Nights project collaborates with the Cranborne Chase National Landscape team to deliver Starfest, an annual event which features a variety of workshops and experiences focusing on the dark skies of Cranborne Chase. The Starfest events have been an excellent way to engage with people in the wider community.

Get involved

Become a Dark Sky Custodian, or attend special stargazing evenings, suitable for all ages, led by the Wessex Astronomical Society (these will be advertised on our website).

Contact the team to find out more.