Boost for astro-tourism in Northumberland

Kielder Observatory and Forestry England have signed a partnership agreement which will increase opportunities for more dark sky tourism within Northumberland.

Monday, 3rd January 2022, 9:24 am
Peter Standfield, Chairman of Kielder Observatory, Catherine Johns, CEO Kielder Observatory, Kevin May, forest management director, North England Forest District, Forestry England and Sir William Worsley, Chairman, Forestry Commission.

The two organisations will develop a joint inclusion strategy to open up astro-tourism to more diverse communities and create additional stargazing opportunities around Kielder Castle and the wider Kielder location.

It will build on the current dark skies tourism offering which is worth more than £25m per year to Northumberland, generating around 450 jobs.

Staff at Forestry England recently helped clear the track to Kielder after a number of trees blocked entry to the site following the chaos caused by Storm Arwen.

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The observatory, which is set in the beautiful Kielder Water and Forest Park, has seen its events sell out fast following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Catherine Johns, chief executive of Kielder Observatory, said: “Kielder has always been a hub for stargazers and the observatory has become a beacon location for that and has attracted a huge amount of visitors with sell out events consistently.

“Forests can provide excellent locations for public access to stargazing with minimal pollution from artificial light. The partnership with Forestry England will create a great opportunity to develop more stargazing events in Northumberland which will mean more visitors and more jobs.”

Forestry England is part of the Forestry Commission, responsible for managing and promoting the nation’s forests in England.

Kevin May, forestry management director, North Forest District said: “The nation’s forests provide some of the darkest skies in England and offer great opportunities for stargazing.

"This formalising of our partnership with Kielder Observatory will provide even greater opportunities to connect more people with the nation’s forests, through an inclusive and diverse outreach offer, providing fantastic experiences and educational opportunities."

Meanwhile, a virtual creative tour of the dark sky experience has been launched by Helen McGhie, photographic artist-in-residence at Kielder Observatory.

Another Dimension is a virtual tour of the observatory that invites audiences to explore telescopes, imaginative darkness and the forest, to creatively contemplate the cosmos through photography, film and sound.

Helen will lead a special arts event, The Art of Dark Skies at Kielder Observatory on Monday, February 7.