© Reeth Informal Astronomy Group unless otherwise indicated

  Reeth Informal

 Astronomy Group

covering the Northern Yorkshire Dales

The search for clear skies

I lived in Manchester for 23 years and became accustomed to the orange glow that permeated the night sky, reducing even the brightest stars to blobs of pale light.

Now that we have moved to Reeth, I can go out in my back yard on a clear night and looking up, get a fantastic view of the milky way as it stretches over the roof of my house.

Even here though, there is the dreaded peril of light pollution. If my next door neighbour goes out and forgets to turn off the security light, there is much gnashing of teeth and the thought of a subtle brick making contact with that damned light, but it`s only a thought you understand.

So we are searching for suitable spots to observe from. At the moment we have two that are just about adequate. One is our base in Reeth, where there is a limited view and several street lights, but there are also toilet facilities, hot drinks and a warm dry place to sit whilst we wait for clouds to pass. Our other spot is very much rural, very clear skies, very cold, no shelter and the problem of lights from passing cars and the possible risk of farmers on their anti-poaching patrol mistaking us for poachers and letting off a shotgun or flash light at us.

There must be many better locations in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale where, with the appropriate permission we could get a fantastic viewing position. The problem is access, especially in winter when some of these places could be a foot or more deep in snow, and the other is parking space when you get there.

So we have decided to search for a compromise, a place with a good sky view and where there is a structure of some sort for shelter. Somewhere with a track for road vehicles and enough parking for a few cars would be ideal. I found  one possible spot which is up for sale but it is in Wensleydale and, unless one of us wins the lottery, it is beyond our group’s means to buy and renovate. Perhaps there’s a kind farmer or landowner with an empty barn or shed that we could negotiate to use/rent/buy ….?

In the meantime we are scouring maps and making expeditions to see what alternative locations are out there and to find what may be the impossible. But as the days lengthen and the weather becomes more clement we hope to find a better observation point than the current lay-by ready for next winter.

To be continued