The blissfully clear, quiet skies above the Brecon Beacons in mid Wales have long been a favourite with stargazers, but they’ve now gained official recognition. Last week, they were designated an International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Brecons is only the second place in Britain to be awarded the coveted status (Exmoor was the first, in 2011) and the fifth in the world-the others are Mont Mégantic in Canada, the Namib Rand Nature Reserve (Namibia) and Aoraki Mackenzie (New Zealand).

As an IDSR, the Brecons will enjoy protection against light pollution. ‘It was quite an ambitious project,’ says Ruth Coulthard, funding development manager at the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. ‘But we were becoming increasingly aware of the threats to dark skies. Getting the award is the first step-the next is enhancing what we have. We’re now firmly on the stargazing map and we’re in the process of training people to be Dark Sky Ambassadors.’ She and her colleagues worked on their bid for designation for two years. Local residents were encouraged to tilt their security lights downwards and villagers in Talybont-on-Usk organised a community switch-off.

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