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Star bathing among new events during this February’s Dark Skies Festival (18 February-6 March)

Orion over Saltwick Bay North York Moors National Park by Tony MarshOrion over Saltwick Bay North York Moors National Park by Tony Marsh

Star bathing among new events during this February’s Dark Skies Festival (18 February-6 March)

An astrophysicist turned Zen teacher is bringing his star bathing experience to this February’s Dark Skies Festival, one of several new events enabling visitors to pause the button on everyday life and let the night sky soothe the soul.

Amid growing awareness of the wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside under the night skies, this year’s Festival (18 February-6 March), which runs across both International Dark Sky Reserves of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, will see an expanded range of mindfulness sessions.

These will run alongside perennial Festival favourites such as stargazing safaris, nocturnal wildlife trails, dark sky runs, walks, cycle rides and canoeing evenings, astrophotography skills sessions and art exhibitions.

For the first-time Zen teacher Mark Westmoquette brings his star bathing approach to the Festival, drawing on his astronomy background and showing how people can use the night sky to live ‘more in the moment’.

Visitors can join Mark at Nethergill Farm or the Dent Meditation Centre for a mindfulness stargazing evening in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales surroundings, or at High Dalby House in the North York Moors for a yoga and mind-body-spirit practice called qigong, held jointly with Adventures for the Soul, before going on a night nature walk in the wooded grounds.

Families with younger children can also enjoy the opportunity to slow down during a Mindfulness Walk organised by Whitby YHA when stargazing, nature at night and views across the cliff tops above the harbour will help reinvigorate all the senses.

Meanwhile to coincide with the new moon, visitors can join Wild Roots Foraging for an afternoon gathering foraged food in Easby Wood before walking uphill towards Captain Cook’s Monument to enjoy panoramic twilight views. The group then returns to an open fire for foraged nibbles and mugwort hot chocolate in preparation for a starlit stroll through the forest.

Among other new events, visitors will be able to admire the work of dark skies photographer Pete Collins in an exhibition within the visitor centre of Ribblehead Station before venturing across to the Station Inn to join an astronomer for a tour of the night sky, with the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct acting as the backdrop.

Northern Lights above Orton Scar Yorkshire Dales by Callum Stott

Other stargazing safaris include evenings with dark skies hunter Richard Darn at Aysgarth Falls and Gill Garth Farm at Settle where visitors can gaze in awe at the star-lit canopy hovering above one of Yorkshire’s highest peaks Pen-y-Ghent. Go Stargazing’s Neill Sanders will also be leading a celestial tour of the beautiful sky above Wensleydale ice-cream parlour.

For the first time the woodland setting at Gilling Castle near Ampleforth will be used for a night photography skills workshop in the company of photographer John Arnison.

The Moors National Park Centre at Danby in the North York Moors will serve as a hub for many events including an evening with the Whitby & District Astronomical Society. The Inspired by… gallery at the Centre will also be hosting two exhibitions, starting with a preview event on the opening night of the Festival, where visitors can see how the fragility of the night sky is interpreted through the work of specially-commissioned artists, printmaker Helen Peyton and cosmic artist Louise Beer.

Families with younger children needn’t miss out on the fun as there are daytime dark skies-themed workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre; a Van Gogh-inspired winter sky painting day at The Moors National Park Centre in Danby; an opportunity to learn more about nocturnal animals with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at the Dales Countryside Museum; and a chance to investigate the diet of owls at Sutton Bank. Kids can even get creative by making bat biscuits at the Fire Box Café near Hawes.

Following on from last year’s lockdown virtual Festival success, families will also be able to log into ‘In The Night Sky Live’ sessions from the comfort of their home, courtesy of the Space Detectives run by Jo Richardson, who is just one of six UK Space Champions working on behalf of the European Space Education Office.

Helen Dalton, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park comments: “As well as being fun and enlightening, many of the events at this year’s Dark Skies Festival will focus even more on the need to appreciate the value of the night sky: that beyond its beauty it has a vital role in protecting not only our own health and wellbeing but also that of the natural world.”

For more programme information, including booking details go to www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk

Notes to editors:

The Dark Skies Festival runs across four protected landscapes - North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

North York Moors National Park

The National Park is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, spectacular coast, ancient woodland, dark skies and historic sites. Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2022, it was created on 28 November 1952 and became Britain’s sixth national park. The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire. Nearly 14% of its staff are apprentices from local families. For more information go to www.northyorkmoors.org.uk

Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is home to stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife and a rich heritage. As well as being ideal for those who want to enjoy the outdoors, the National Park offers a wealth of attractions for visitors – from great food and places to eat, castles, abbeys and quirky museums, and opportunities to learn new skills. It is one of 15 National Parks in the UK and is administered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Nidderdale AONB

Nidderdale AONB covers 603 sq km (233 sq miles) from Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales through to the edge of the Vale of York in the East. The fascinating geology of the area which has created a gorge and eye-catching rock formations, together with the tranquil expanses of water, open heather moorland, rolling pastures and scenic villages are among the special qualities of the AONB.

Howardian Hills AONB

Howardian Hills AONB covers 204 sq km (79 sq miles) of North Yorkshire countryside, nestled between the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of York. It is a captivating landscape with its well-wooded rolling countryside, patchwork of arable and pasture fields, tranquil villages and historic country houses with classic parkland landscapes.

For further information and images please contact Amanda Brown at A2BPR on:

T: 01423 740048

M: 07876 452580

E: amanda@a2bpr.co.uk

Or Nina Beadle, Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority:

T: 01439 772577

E: press@northyorkmoors.org.uk

Or Andrew Fagg, Media Officer, at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

T: 01969 652374

E: andrew.fagg@yorkshiredales.org.uk