As keen star gazers with a passion for Exmoor we became interested in the opportunity to combine both being Europes’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.
The BBC Stargazing Live program at the beginning of this week fired our enthusiasm so with a sunny day at home promising a clear night on Exmoor, we headed down to the White Horse Inn to join the party of watchers.
As ever the hospitality of the hotel was present with supplies of hot beverages along with binoculars for everyone’s use, infra-red torches and information leaflets.
Our driver, a local gentleman and safari bus guide knows the best dark sky areas so we headed off to the nearest, out of Exford and up to Dunkery Beacon. This being the highest point on Exmoor there was a chance of rising above any cloud around, though fog can also rise from the coast, so we travelled back through Simonsbath then on uphill in the direction of Drybridge Combe, the skies cleared enough to set up and start viewing.
Now I am not a techy person so shy away from gadgets and gizmo’s but when a tablet screen pointing up to the sky shows me exactly what I have come to see and where to point my binoculars, then I take notice. Wow, there was Jupiter and it was coming in and out of view regularly and everyone was spellbound. You can view it and it’s neighbours with your own binoculars to achieve the dark sky experience. It becomes very interesting to recognise the groups of stars by name by their positions in the sky. The North Star and Plough (also known as The Big Dipper) are usually prominent and from these follow to the W shaped 5 star Cassiopeia. Our guide was on hand to assist and the accompanying leaflet gave helpful information on recognition. We found it held useful and interesting information to fire the imagination, before and after the event.
Clear nights can be chilly and the welcome hot mulled wine and hot chocolate was a toast to a very successful evening enjoyed by all and when the party arrived back at the hotel we chatted and marvelled at what we had witnessed that night, looking forward to the next trip and putting our new knowledge into further practice.
For special offers visit our Dark Skies Safari website