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Exmoor is one of England's best kept secrets.

Tucked away in a relatively isolated corner of the West Country, it is often overlooked by holidaymaker's as they head down the south-west peninsula towards some of the region's more high-profile holiday destinations. But those who discover Exmoor tend to return again and again to enjoy the National Park's unique landscape, which although breathtakingly dramatic in many ways is generally softer and rounder than other moorland areas such as Dartmoor and Bodmin.

Straddling parts of west Somerset and north Devon, Exmoor is actually a patchwork of different landscapes, encompassing wild uplands, thickly wooded combes (valleys), ancient farms, sheltered villages and a stretch of coastline - with its dizzying hog's-back cliffs - that is unsurpassed.
Exmoor's special qualities were officially recognised in 1954 when it was given National Park status to help conserve the area's natural beauty and wildlife. The National Park Authority, with its team of rangers, keeps a close eye on the environment to help ensure that the delicate balance of nature, tourism and agriculture is maintained - it is important to remember that Exmoor is a real working community, not just a pretty place. One of the rangers' main responsibilities is the extensive network of footpaths and bridleways that criss-cross the National Park. There are rights of way all over Exmoor: across tracts of open moorland, beside fast-flowing rivers, through ancient woodland and along the dramatic coastline. There is probably nowhere in Britain that offers such a variety of walking within such a compact area during every season.


Click here for information about Exmoor through the seasons.

Though one of the smallest national parks, Exmoor never feels too busy. Even in the height of summer it is possible to walk for hours amid glorious scenery without seeing a soul - a welcome change from some British beauty spots. There are one or two 'honeypot' places, such as Tarr Steps, the ancient 'clapper' bridge over the magical River Barle, and Dunster, the beautifully preserved medieval village, but generally you won't find yourself in a crowd.
Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world.
In announcing the good news to Exmoor National Park, Rowena Davis from the International Dark-Sky Association said: "I am very happy to inform you that the IDA board has approved Exmoor as the world's second International Dark Sky Reserve! Congratulations on all your work and outstanding outreach to teach Exmoor's residents and visitors how to appreciate and conserve this outstanding resource."
As many tourism providers will be aware the National Park Authority and partners have been working on the application for over two years following the success of events held as part of the 2009 Year of Astronomy and the high level of interest received.
It is hoped that the forthcoming Exmoor Tourism Partnership conference on the 23rd November will include a session related to the designation (further details to follow) and also to feature Exmoor's dark skies in the 2011 Exmoor Awareness programme. In the meantime some tourism providers are already gearing up and all are encouraged to make the most of this designation alongside the other special qualities of the National Park. It is hoped that the award will be of great value to supporting tourism and could especially help convert day visitors to staying visitors in order to experience the night skies of Exmoor.

Our many thanks to all those that supported the bid, and to those tourism providers that responded to our request for information earlier this year.

 

Exmoor Dark Skys Reserve

"Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world.

In announcing the good news to Exmoor National Park, Rowena Davis from the International Dark-Sky Association said: “I am very happy to inform you that the IDA board has approved Exmoor as the world's second International Dark Sky Reserve! Congratulations on all your work and outstanding outreach to teach Exmoor's residents and visitors how to appreciate and conserve this outstanding resource.”

Exmoor National Park has been working towards the award for more than two years and has had support and encouragement from many local organisations including tourism providers who are anticipating an increase in visitors keen to experience the thrill of dark skies full of stars.

Dr Nigel Stone, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park said: “We are delighted that the importance of dark skies, one of Exmoor National Park’s special qualities has received this international recognition and we would like to thank all those who have helped in achieving this International Dark Sky Reserve award. We look forward to welcoming many more visitors in the future to enjoy the starlit skies at night as well as the spectacular scenery Exmoor has to offer during the day.”

The British Astronomical Association and the Royal Astronomical Society have both supported the bid with funding and local astronomy groups have also provided their support and knowledge. UK astronomer Steve Owens, chair of the IDA's Dark Sky Places Development Committee who has advised Exmoor National Park throughout the development process said: "I'm over the moon that the IDA saw fit to recognize the amazing night-sky preservation work done within Exmoor National Park by designating them Europe's first International Dark Sky Reserve. Exmoor National Park now joins a select group of places around the world - including Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in Scotland and the Channel Island of Sark, a Dark Sky Community - which have stunning night skies, and now have lighting controls in place to make sure that man-made light doesn't spoil that view in future. The designation will hopefully attract stargazers from around the world, and astrotourism will become another staple attraction to Exmoor."

The National Park Authority will be running a programme of activities for community groups in and around the National Park as part of a nationwide Dark Sky programme this winter."

(Exmoor national Park website)

 

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