Dark Sky Status (Cornwall)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:58 pm on 29th November 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock 4:58 pm, 29th November 2017

I apologise, Mr Sharma; I am relatively new and still learning. I will be brief. Thank you for your understanding.

I thank my hon. Friend Mrs Murray for initiating this debate. There was a mention of somewhere being “darker still” Not only do we have whisky stills in Scotland, but we are darker still, too, so we have some things in common. Cornwall had tin mines and Cornish pasties; Scotland had coalmines and Scotch pies. I am going to talk about Dalmellington in the Doon valley, near Galloway forest dark sky park, which Carol Monaghan mentioned. For 100 years, the Doon valley produced from deep and open-cast mines the coal that kept the nation’s lights on, but it has moved on. Instead of keeping the lights on, it keeps the lights off, because it is a designated dark skies area.

I commend Ken and Muriel Bennett for the good work they have done on Bodmin moor. I extend that compliment to Mark Gibson from the Doon valley, who purchased Craigengillan estate. He had a vision for the area, which is hurting from the loss of the collieries and industry. In 2012, he opened the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in Dalmellington. It is wonderful. It cost £700,000, which came from various funding streams. It aims to build on the park’s status and offers visitors a chance to observe the northern lights, the Milky Way, planets, comets and shooting stars—of which I am not one. As I say, the observatory was the brainchild of estate owner Mark Gibson, who is to be commended along with the many others who made it happen. The observatory celebrated its fifth birthday in October with the opening of a new planetarium and the launch of the new dark sky tartan. It is a tourist hub that is breathing life into the Doon valley.

The observatory inspires young people—several colleagues mentioned the importance of that. Amateur astronomers, schools, colleges and universities go along. Viewing is not restricted to night time—that is the ideal time, obviously—because the observatory has links with others elsewhere in the world. I hope that dark skies status brings similar revival and success to Bodmin and the rest of Cornwall. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is Scotland’s wee magic corner in the Doon valley. It is wonderful. Come along and see us.