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TV star joins the celestial line-up for next month’s Dark Skies Festival

Photo Richard Darn

[A] children’s TV presenter will join the stellar line-up in the 2018 Dark Skies Festival organised by the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks.

Over 30 new events and locations will feature in the Festival, which takes place 9-25 February, including a ‘Stories under the stars’ storytelling evening hosted by actor and former Cbeebies presenter Alex Winters in the conservatory of the Spa Hotel, Saltburn.

Visitors can go starry eyed in the company of expert astronomers at new locations including the Buck Hotel, Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales; or Byland Abbey, Ryedale Folk Museum and Chapelgarth Estate at Great Broughton in the North York Moors.

Those who are keen to satisfy both their cosmic curiosity and culinary cravings can eye the skies while tucking into tapas at The Churchmouse, Barbon near Kirkby Lonsdale, eating canapés at Wensleydale’s Bolton Castle, or simply sit outside and look at the stars with a loved one after enjoying a romantic meal at Saltburn’s Spa Hotel on Valentine’s Day.

For runners, walkers and cyclists there are plenty of new events to choose from. These include a 3.5 mile guided night walk through the Land of Iron at Rosedale, bike orienteering at Hawes or an early morning social run up Great Shunner Fell, the third highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, in time to enjoy the sunrise.

Adrenaline-seekers can also hurtle into the darkness on a zip wire at Go-Ape in Dalby Forest or venture underground at Crackpot Cave in Swaledale to see caving’s answer to the stars with the sparkling calcite formations in the cavernous roof.

There are more sessions with photographers enabling visitors to master night time photography at scenic spots such as Settle, Bolton Abbey, Malham Cove, Sutton Bank and Whitby.

The North York Moors fishing villages are even more atmospheric at night when there are opportunities to go on ghost walks at Robin Hood’s Bay or a candlelit stroll through Staithes to learn more about tales of smuggling.

Wildlife watchers can explore the nocturnal goings-on in the countryside with the Tees Wildlife Trust at Saltburn, rangers from Forest Holidays, an owl prowl at the National Centre for Birds of Prey at Helmsley or a Senses by Starlight Forest Schools evening in the woods at Aysgarth Falls.

Children can immerse themselves in the universe by making rockets, telescopes and planet pom-poms. For the first time this year the YHA at Whitby is lining up a crafting evening and the Animated Objects Theatre Company is holding lantern-making workshops at Sutton Bank and Danby. Kids can also become star bakers, making intergalactic biscuit decorations at The Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.

For crafters and art appreciators there is a night sky print workshop at Broadrake in Chapel-le-Dale, Ingleton and a starry-themed felt-making session in Hawes while the Inspired by… gallery in Danby will be showcasing how artists and jewellery designers interpret the beauty of the National Parks’ dark skies.

Even if the weather doesn’t quite play ball, visitors can still imagine they are in space with indoor evenings at the Lime Tree Observatory at Grewelthorpe in Nidderdale and the cosmos planetariums in Skipton, Hawes and Ryedale Folk Museum.

Tracey Lambert, tourism officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park comments: “We’re delighted with this year’s programme as even more businesses have got behind the Festival to showcase the myriad ways that people can enjoy the National Parks after dark.”

Mike Hawtin, Outdoor Activities Tourism Officer for the North York Moors National Park Authority adds: “Whether visitors want to feel as though they’re careering into the cosmos, sedately studying the stars or being wowed by the world of space, the Festival has an event for them.”

Each National Park has three Dark Sky Discovery locations where skies are sufficiently dark to potentially view the Milky Way with the naked eye. The North York Moors sites are at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.

The Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Discovery locations are at Hawes, Malham and Buckden.

Stuart Atkinson, lifelong amateur astronomer based in Kendal will give an hour-long illustrated talk about basic stargazing – no prior knowledge or experience needed. Guests then head outside to see the real thing with Stuart pointing out the stars and constellations featured in his talk.. Then, back inside to take a look at some of his personal collection of rare and valuable meteorites, and answer questions before the evening ends.

Tickets are £10 per person and include a glass of Mulled Wine and the following tapas:

Tapas menu includes homemade hummus, Yorkshire Picante Chorizo in red wine with crusty bread, Cumbrian Serrano Ham wrapped pears with goats cheese, Yorkshire blue cheese and biscuits.

Places are limited to 40, so please book quickly. Any further information, please phone Jules on 015242 76224.

Full programme information and booking details can be seen on www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk A number of events will be free while others will have a small charge attached.

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