Dark Sky Reserve
South Downs National Park
Sussex and Hampshire, England
South Downs National Park is England’s newest National Park, coming into full operation in 2011. The “Downs” are named for an area of chalk downland, deriving from a Celtic word meaning “hills”. The Park spans 140 kilometers (87 miles) across southern England, stretching from St Catherine’s Hill near Winchester, Hampshire, in the west to Beachy Head, East Sussex, in the east. This area hosts a permanent population of approximately 108,000 residents, and the area sees about 39 million individual visits per year.
The entirety of the Park lies within about 100 km of the edge of the greater London metropolitan area, among the most light-polluted metropolises on Earth. It is remarkable that any relatively dark areas remain between London and the south coast of England, particularly given aggressive housing development in the Sussex Downs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Park’s efforts in seeking Dark Sky Reserve status have helped establish it as an important bulwark against the creeping advance of the furthest-outlying London suburbs. Like Westhavelland IDSR, situated a similar distance from Berlin as South Downs is from London, the Park offers authentically dark nighttime outdoor experiences to over ten million people who live within a two-hour train journey of the Downs.
The Dark Sky Reserve is named in honor of the numerous contributions to British astronomy made by area resident and native son, Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS (1923–2012).