The business of Nocturnal Manoeuvres in the Dark

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There’s an opportunity for eco-tourism to benefit both our rural landscape and the local economy, says Richard Miles, Dark Skies Adviser for Dorset CPRE

England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, this ‘sceptred isle’, has in my lifetime become rather too urbanised for my liking; 84 per cent of the UK population now lives in towns and cities. As such, the countryside is in danger of becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Rural areas such as the Blackmore Vale need to be
protected from creeping urbanisation on our doorstep.
How might we do this?

Capitalising on rural tourism
One approach is to exploit our rural heritage by encouraging visitors to enjoy the simple delights of the countryside which are noticeably absent from urban environments, such as walking through green fields
and woods, breathing clean air, enjoying the tranquillity, birdsong, the sound of running water and the rustle of leaves in the breeze. Communing with nature in this way is an increasingly popular form of eco-tourism – but have you considered another attraction that is missing from the life of the city dweller? Urban living
has many benefits, but it does come without the spectacle of the evening, when the failing light brings forth the nocturnal world and the starlit sky.
William Barnes, the 19th century Blackmore Vale poet and scholar, celebrated the beauty of evening-time in
his poem, The Evenen Star O’Zummer (opposite). Above is a photo taken by my astronomer friend, Nick James, to which I have added a relevant extract from Barnes’ Musings poem.
Late spring through to early autumn are arguably the best times for staying up late to take in all things nocturnal. The nights are warmer and darkness arrives later in the evening. Nocturnal mammals such as foxes, deer and bats are often best seen around dusk. Then we have the moon, stars and planets appearing in the night sky.
Pubs, inns and other local places to stay might profit by advertising these attractions and staging events to
enjoy them. In Hampshire, for instance, the Hawk Conservancy Trust stages Owls by Moonlight events that
include a hot supper and can be booked online.

Light pollution is falling
The CPRE has just published the findings of the 2022 Star Count, which aims to map light pollution across the UK. Severe ‘night blight’ in towns and cities reached a peak in early 2020, comprising 61 per cent of all reports. In two years, this proportion has dropped to 49 per cent, suggesting that more people are now
switching off lights (perhaps saving on their electricity bills).
Rural businesses could take advantage of our improving dark skies to attract more visitors to the Vale, adding ‘astro-tourism’ to their activity portfolio. To me, a night awash with stars and our Milky Way
spanning the sky instils a sense of awe and majesty. Stargazing is one of those contemplative activities which provides an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle and opens a door into a magical world that does wonders for our mindfulness and mental wellbeing.
Sleep well!

Richard Miles Dark Skies Adviser Dorset CPRE

The Evenèn Star O’ Zummer
William Barnes
When vu’st along theäse road vrom mill,
I zeed ye hwome all up the hill,
The poplar tree, so straïght an’ tall,
Did rustle by the watervall;
An’ in the leäze the cows wer all
A-lyèn down to teäke their rest
An’ slowly zunk towárd the west
The evenèn star o’ zummer.
In parrock there the haÿ did lie
In weäle below the elems, dry;
An’ up in hwome-groun’ Jim, that know’d
We all should come along thik road,
D a-tied the grass in knots that drow’d
Poor Poll, a-watchèn in the West
Woone brighter star than all the rest,–
The evenèn star o’ zummer.
The stars that still do zet an’ rise,
Did sheen in our forefather’s eyes;
They glitter’d to the vu’st men’s zight,
The last will have em in their night;
But who can vind em half so bright
As I thought thik peäle star above
My smilèn Jeäne, my zweet vu’st love,
The evenèn star o’ zummer.
How sweet’s the mornèn fresh an’ new,
Wi’ sparklèn brooks an’ glitt’rèn dew;
How sweet’s the noon wi’ sheädes
a-drow’d
Upon the groun’ but leätely mow’d,
An’ bloomèn flowers all abrode;
But sweeter still, as I do clim’,
Theäse woody hill in evenèn dim
‘S the evenèn star o’ zummer.

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