North Yorkshire village is the latest to turn down the lights and become ‘dark-skies friendly’

Hawnby is the first 'dark sky friendly' village in the North York Moors and residents are already starting to see positive results from dimming the lights

Inhabitants of Hawnby, near Helmsley in North Yorkshire—population 193 at the last count—which is owned by Mexborough Estates, have got together to ensure their small village becomes the first to be dark-skies friendly in the North York Moors National Park.

Unlike other neighbourhoods that have recently made similar efforts to adapt street lighting—such as Powys, named Wales’s first dark-sky community last month—in Hawnby, this transformation has also involved converting more than 100 external lights on 30 properties, including the village hall and the popular Owl Inn. Sometimes, this was a case of merely switching bulbs to warm white or changing the angle of lights, which, in resident Tom Storrar’s opinion, has the added benefit of increasing security.

‘Light is only directed downwards on the areas that need to be lit up rather than blasting a bright glare,’ he says. ‘As your eyes are no longer blinded by inappropriate flood lights, you are more likely to be able to see an intruder.’ At least 60% of the village’s external lighting needed to comply with criteria set out by the National Park’s Dark Skies Friendly scheme, and there also had to be a commitment to host events such as stargazing evenings each year. Currently, only 5% of British people are able to enjoy a truly dark, starry night sky.

Residents believe that the lower light level has encourage owls to fly closer to the village. Credit: Getty

‘When driving towards Hawnby from the Helmsley direction, I used to notice how the village glowed in the night sky,’ recounts architect and Hawnby resident Paul Smith. ‘Now, this is no longer the case. We’ve also seen and heard more owls in the meadow near the house where there are 30 fairly mature trees… which probably means they are more confident to fly closer to the village.’

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‘We’d urge people to visit Hawnby and see how achievable it is… this is not about being anti-light, but using lighting in a more targeted way,’ explains Mike Hawtin,
the Park’s Dark Skies lead officer. ‘There are already some hamlets and villages, particularly those with few streetlights, that are likely to meet the eligibility criteria for dark-skies-friendly status. However, by recognising whole community efforts within the scheme, we hope it will encourage more bodies, such as parish councils, to work with residents and businesses to make lighting improvements.