We tend to look at landscape as everything up to the horizon, but there's much more above it. We are situated on the edge of Cranborne Chase AONB, an exceptionally tranquil, deeply rural area, where we have access to some of the darkest skies in the whole country. Gazing skyward you can enjoy hundreds of spectacular constellations. With 80% of UK residents living under light polluted skies, we see thousands of stars overhead compared with a handful seen from towns and cities. From July to Christmas, you can enjoy the Milky Way in all its glory; in the winter star clusters, and in the spring planets and galaxies. For a small deposit, we can provide stargazing guests with Red Headlight Torches (thus preserving night vision which is important), 10x50 Binoculars, a compass and a copy of Steve Tonkin's book 'Looking Through Binoculars' as well as recommend some apps to point you in the right direction. Whilst you can enjoy stars from your hut, these are local places with vast swathes of visible sky to star gaze:
FONTMELL & MELBURY DOWNS, at the top of this reserve are stunning views over the Blackmore Vale, by night it offers fantastic panoramic views of the skies above (3 miles, Spreadeagle Hill, SP7 0DT, or you can walk up Melbury Beacon from the hut).
WIN GREEN, a prominent landmark with fine views (4.5 miles, Donhead Hollow, Ludwell, SP7 0ES).
BADBURY RINGS, an Iron Age hill fort (16.5 miles, Kingston Lacey, BH21 4DZ).
KNOWLTON CHURCH, a 12th century Norman church built in the middle of a Neolithic earthwork (15 miles, Knowlton, BH21 5AE).
You can be a novice with a casual interest or a professional to uncover the secrets of the universe. The AONB is currently working to gain international recognition for its dark skies and to be designated an International Dark Sky Reserve. Our dark skies are also good for nocturnal wildlife, owls and moths and offer a different perspective as you encounter their world. Enjoy a night walk where landscapes can be discovered anew, when the country seems yours alone and seldom glimpsed wildlife emerges to startle and thrill.
Paul Howell, Pictor Images: http://www.pictorimages.com/
Clockwise: Melbury Downs, Win Green, Badbury Rings & Knowlton Church.