For those who believe dreary winters of rainy days and long nights mean many of us want to buy homes overseas, think again – increasing numbers are drawn to the remotest corners of Britain.
In today’s environmentally conscious times, many want to get closer to nature by day and to see genuinely dark skies by night, free of the light pollution blighting our cities and towns.
Now the International Dark Sky Association has recognised three large dark areas in Britain — these are Exmoor in Devon, the Galloway Forest in Scotland, and Sark in the Channel Islands.
In addition, there are various officially designated Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Discovery Sites, many of which are in the UK’s 15 National Parks.
Data from estate agency Hamptons International shows rising sales in National Parks.
In the Brecon Beacons, there were 519 house sales in 2019 compared with 254 in 2009, while on Exmoor there were 191, up from 135. Snowdonia had 525 against 295 a decade ago.
‘Dark skies are part of ‘the Exmoor deal’,’ explains Gideon Sumption of Stacks Property Search, an agency helping buyers track down homes in the wilderness of Exmoor, the 270 sq miles of moorland and hills straddling north Devon and west Somerset.
‘The Exmoor deal requires buyers to like the unrivalled scenery albeit beautifully bleak in winter, roads that need a 4×4, an ability to reverse it, the hunting and shooting going on around you, and satellite internet.
‘Clearly these will not appeal to everyone, but to those that like this way of life, Exmoor is Britain at its finest,’ according to Sumption.
And Jason Roberts, who runs the Morpeth office of estate agency Strutt & Parker, says getting back to nature in his part of Northumberland is a pull for buyers.
‘The popularity of Northumberland’s Dark Sky Park has a positive knock-on effect in outlying villages and towns such as Hexham, Morpeth and Alnwick.
‘The demand for properties within the National Park and in particular ‘off-grid’ properties is certainly on the increase as people look to reduce their carbon footprint and become more self-sufficient’, he says.
A study of 2,300 people last year by the Campaign To Protect Rural England and the British Astronomical Association suggested that a mere 2 per cent of the UK’s population were able to gaze at a truly dark sky full of stars because of light pollution.
This contrasts with 4 per cent in 2015. The study found road lights, house and business security lights, sports grounds and supermarket were key causes of light pollution.
As a result, some other areas outside official Dark Sky zones are now turning down the lights: locations as diverse as Theydon Bois in Essex and the Hebridean Isle of Coll (with just 200 residents) have few or no street lights while larger towns and cities now turn off their lights in the early hours, saving taxpayers’ money as well as reducing pollution.
Artist Alison Pestell lives in a Monmouthshire village near Sugar Loaf mountain, a legendary dark sky area.
‘There are just a few hamlets and it’s some distance to Crickhowell, the nearest town, so night time really is dark.
‘The sky appears vast and I can see the Milky Way with the naked eye many nights, even though it’s not always bright,’ she says.
With this search for the stars, of course, there are other aspects of relative isolation — being a long way from towns and transport links, having to drive even to get a coffee or newspaper, and having unreliable telecommunications.
It’s not for everyone but as our cities become more toxic, increasing numbers want homes a little closer to nature.
For them, there’s only one message: let there be night.