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Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Now you can explore the darkest places around our Norfolk Coast which have been accredited as Dark Sky Discovery Sites.  They join over 200 other sites across the UK that have been recognised by the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership, a network of local and national astronomy and environmental organisations, as the best places to view the night sky and landscapes of the AONB after dark. Visit their website and interactive map and scroll down for more information about our Dark Sky Discovery Sites.

Why are these sites are so important

Illustration for Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Dark Sky Discovery Sites form a nationwide network of places that are accessible by everyone and provide fantastic views of the dark skies and landscapes.  Nominated by local groups and organisations, they have been nationally recognised as places so dark, you can easily see the Milky Way or the constellation of Orion with the naked eye.  

These sites will help raise awareness and appreciation of dark skies and in doing so, will encourage all of us to help reduce light pollution on the Norfolk Coast.

Find out how you can help to preserve the night skies on the Norfolk Coast 

Norfolk Coast AONB - Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Kelling Heath Holiday Park

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Kelling Heath

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Kelling Heath

Darkness rating: Two-star (Milky Way class, with events) with an SQM* reading of: 21.23

Two star parties, popular with astronomers from around the UK, are held here every year.  In addition the Park's administration advocates the use of minimal lighting around the complex in order to preserve the dark skies all year round.

Location: Sports field within the complex of Kelling Heath Holiday ParkWeybourne, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 7HW. Visit the Kelling Heath website.

Grid reference: TG 10681 41270 (lat/long: 52.927481N, 1.132964E)

Directions: From entrance to the Park, drive to the main car park adjacent to the Village Square. From here follow the main road on foot, to the left for around 200m until you reach a track on the right. Walk approximately 55m down the track until you reach the sports field.

Safety notes: Away from the Village Square, the Park is very dark.  Watch for uneven ground between road & sports field although the field itself is mostly short grass. Play area equipment is present. You are advised to stay within the perimeter of the sports field as other hazards are present throughout the rest of the Park. It is advisable to go to the site in the daytime prior to your night time visit.

 

Wiveton Downs

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Wiveton Downs

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Wiveton Downs

Darkness rating: Two-star (Milky Way class) with an SQM* reading of: 21.26

Location: A very dark, elevated, heathland site valued for its geology.  It offers very good site lines in all directions.  

Grid reference:  TG 03136 42176 (lat/long: 52.938524N, 1.021451E)

Directions: NR257SN: Travel 1200m south-west from Wiveton village.  At the brown sign turn left over a cattle grid and into the reserve car park.

Safety notes: Uneven ground, rabbit holes on the grassed plateau.  Stay within the gorse perimeter of the car park and plateau, as beyond here there are steep slopes.  Between car park and plateau are wooden posts, two of which are connected by a low bar. Use a torch especially when moving between the two areas. It is advisable to go to the site in the daytime prior to your night time visit.

Barrow Common, Brancaster

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Barrow Common

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Barrow Common

Darkness rating: Two-star (Milky Way class) with an SQM* reading of: 21.23

Location: A very dark, elevated, heathland site with very good site lines and a spectacular 180° view of the north horizon.

Grid reference:  TF 79040 43339 (lat/long: 52.957538N, 0.66398390E)

Directions: From the A149 at the Jolly Sailors pub in Brancaster Staithe, head south on Common Lane for 1km to Barrow Common.

Safety notes: Stay close to the allocated site, be aware of uneven ground, gorse, rabbit holes and steep slopes. Common Lane runs through Barrow Common - visitors therefore should be aware of moving vehicles. Park in one of several small lay-bys. Take care when walking to/from the site (<50m from parking area; 1km walk from Brancaster Staithe Village). It is advisable to go to the site in the daytime prior to your night time visit.

RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Titchwell RSPB Reserve

Location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Titchwell RSPB Reserve

Darkness rating: Two-star (Milky Way class) with an SQM* reading of: 21.26

Location: A very dark site on a raised embankment, surrounded by wetland habitat, with impressive 360° views of the horizon.

Grid reference:  TF 74948 43954 (lat/long: 52.964408N 0.60344902E)

Directions: Follow signs from the A149 Coast Road to RSPB Titchwell. Note that there is limited parking in the staff car park after 5.00pm and ample spaces in main car park. From the car park follow path past visitor centre onto main reserve path.  Walk north for approximately 150m to the first bench. 

Safety notes: Be aware of water bodies and steep slopes in close proximity to/from and either side of the DSDS. Keep to the paths at all times, use a torch (preferably with red light e.g. the back light for a bike) and take care when walking to/from/through the site. Be aware of moving vehicles in the car park.

Close up location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Titchwell RSPB Reserve

Close up location of Dark Sky Discovery Site at Titchwell RSPB Reserve

Dark skies work in the AONB

The Norfolk Coast Partnership works closely with local astronomy groups, local authorities, tourism businesses, landowners and conservation bodies through our AONB Dark Skies Working GroupThese Discovery Sites provide opportunities for people to enjoy our night skies and landscapes but also raise awareness of the importance of our dark skies and how we can all do something to preserve them.  Although these sites are often used by astronomy groups for stargazing events you absolutely do not need to be an expert astronomer to enjoy these sites.

Let us know of a good star-gazing site in the AONB

We'd like to expand the number of dark sites in the AONB. If you know of a good spot that is good for star-gazing and potentially fits the Dark Sky Discovery Sites criteria, please contact kate.dougan@norfolk.gov.uk 

General safety information

Given that these sites can be remote and visited during the hours of darkness, please pay extra attention to the safety information above and use common sense when visiting these sites.  Try to visit in a group - it's safer and more fun! Check for latest access information before you set off and please always follow the Countryside Code for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

Disclaimer: The Norfolk Coast Partnership does not accept any responsibility for any harm, injury, damage, loss or prosecution as a result of people visiting these sites.

*SQM stands for Sky Quality Meter. This is a hand held instrument which is used to measure the luminance of the night sky.  It uses the units of magnitudes per square arcsecond, and is favoured by astronomers, particularly when looking at skyglow and light pollution. 

An SQM reading, taken by a official astronomy group will enhance a site's chances of being successfully nominated as a Dark Sky Discovery Site.