From 12th Night to Starlight, 7th January 2021
No doubt this week you'll have been busy boxing up the decorations and storing them away for another year. Let's hope next time we dust off those baubles and tinsel, and put up a Christmas tree, we'll be in a much happier place.
I found the festive lights in homes and gardens really uplifting. People seemed to have gone to an extra effort to make the season special. If you're sad to see them go, there's a stellar display you can enjoy, 365 days of the year, if you look upwards on a clear night. And it's a sight we must preserve.
Did you notice how bright the moon was last week? It lit up my garden enabling me to spot badgers, foxes, even owls. January's full moon is often referred to as the Full Wolf Moon or the Moon after Yule. The photo accompanying this column was taken by an enthusiastic neighbour of mine who captured it beautifully. She's just eight years old. If you missed the spectacle, there's another full moon due again on January 28th.
I'm sure you'd agree that we should count our 'lucky stars' we live in this part of the world. We don't have to travel too far to enjoy really dark skies, free from light pollution. Take for example the Mendip Hills, a designated area of outstanding beauty (AONB) and the perfect place to observe the constellations. From a city centre you'd expect to view no more than 100 stars with the naked eye, on the Mendips, you can see more than 1,000 - including our own galaxy, The Milky Way.
Other regions are not so fortunate. The most recent Star Count Survey published by the CPRE countryside charity (May 2020), found 61% of people in the UK are in areas with severe light pollution. This means they could count fewer than 10 stars in the Orion constellation. Just last month, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dark Skies published a report which aims to revolutionise our approach to light pollution. They believe fresh ideas are needed, and want to see an overhaul of rules applicable to outdoor lighting installations, as well as challenges to planning policies.
Thankfully, there are organisations clearly fighting to protect our dark skies, including the Mendip Hills AONB, as well as the District Council. Last August in Wells, armed with a petition signed by 1,000 local people, we persuaded a city supermarket to turn off two illuminated signs at the back of its store at night. A victory for light pollution prevention, and for our climate too.
All this talk of stars leads me to my final thought. I'd like to say a special thank you to the staff at Mendip who volunteered to help with the recent roll-out of the vaccine programme. Not only did they transform our council offices in Shepton Mallet into a medical hub, they worked alongside health professionals to ensure the safe and swift administration of these potentially life-saving doses to our communities.
Do let me know if you have any questions or concerns, I am always delighted to hear from you. You can contact me through my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
21st column for Mid Somerset Series, 7th January 2021
Mendip Matters, written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council