Protecting Cumbria’s dark skies – a collaborative effort between Thorn Lighting and Cumbria County Council

Cumbria, located in the north west of England and bordering Scotland, is a county known globally for its spectacular Lakes. The Lake District – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – attracts millions of tourists each year. But Cumbria is also home to many rural villages, seaside communities and bustling towns. And what these places all share is the desire to protect their dark skies.

Vulcan Park, Workington

Cumbria County Council’s lighting team have worked hard to achieve this over many years, forming strong relationships with organisations such as Friends of the Lake District. For decades, Cumbria County Council have also worked with manufacturer Thorn Lighting to provide solutions and luminaires across the county, including road and street lighting, urban lighting for parks and architectural lighting for landmarks and architectural buildings.

But most recently, Cumbria County Council has teamed up with Thorn Lighting to install innovative technologies and solutions that reduce light pollution and help to protect the nocturnal environment.

Lining the pavement of the historic Cliff Terrace in Kendal, restored cast iron columns have been fitted with Thorn’s EP145 post-top lanterns providing an energy efficient solution. This change has improved the quality of lighting for residents in the vicinity.

One resident, Lucy Bound commented, “The previous luminaires were lighting up our gardens and houses, but not the pathways. Now, the lighting is in the right place, leaving the garden dark for wildlife, and people no longer have light trespassing into their bedrooms, improving sleep quality. There have been many side benefits to this project. It has also had a really positive impact on the community, bringing people back out of their homes and uniting them with a shared interest, which has been really great to see, especially after lockdown.”

As part of a pilot project which is now being rolled out further, Cumbria County Council have also installed Plurio post top luminaires equipped with NightTune technology. NightTune is a system which automatically adjusts the level of light emitted by a luminaire, and its colour temperature, to suit the exact time of night and level of traffic. There are a multitude of benefits for using this technology, such as the warmer colour temperatures being less harmful to wildlife, and minimised light spill and reduced sky glow.

Plurio luminaires with NightTune have been installed in a small residential cul-de-sac in Glenridding, as well as a popular park in the heart of Workington. Their installation in Castle Park in Whitehaven was supported by funding from the Home Office’s Safer Streets initiative, and the new lighting has created a more welcoming environment in the hours of darkness.

Cliff Terrace, Kendal

Ian Harker, Cumbria County Council’s Lighting Manager said, “Cumbria has some of the darkest skies in Great Britain, and we are custodians of both the night sky and the world class environment here. So, we realise that in the work we do, we need to be careful and mindful that we don’t have a negative impact. We have a strong relationship with Friends of the Lake District, and after discussions with the team at

Thorn Lighting were confident that these innovative technologies and solutions were fitting for our county. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from residents, including reports of returning nocturnal wildlife, including larger bats feeding in Kendal’s Cliff Terrace.”

“For other councils or organisations looking to protect their dark skies and enhance their urban spaces through lighting, I’d say innovative technology is the key to unlocking a better service for our residents and visitors. All of the luminaires which have been installed as part of this project have the International Dark-Skies Association Fixture Seal of Approval, which is evidence of their ability to suit our dark-sky environment. The important thing is to get to know your communities and the people you are providing the service to. So, you need to talk and be able to listen, and importantly, be open to new ideas.”

Thorn Lighting’s Key Account Manager Craig Lensky, who worked closely with Cumbria County Council’s Lighting Team throughout the project added, “Our advice for others wanting to carry out a project like this, is to do the research. Speak to the people who are familiar to the nocturnal habitat in the place you want to light, and then tailor a solution that benefits everyone and everything.”

To protect dark skies, Thorn is also collaborating with the International Dark-Sky

Association (IDA), to make sure that inherent in Thorn’s brand DNA are all the attributes that need to be followed to meet the regulations to limit light pollution, in the form of light spill, sky glow and light trespass.

Thorn’s Head of Application for Urban Life & Architectural, Eliot Horsman said, “We

approach dark sky sensitive solutions not just from a post-top luminaire point of view, but also from wider luminaire families, appropriate for building surrounds as well.”

To find out more about this project in Cumbria, watch the video here:

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