LOOK UP

Kent Life|July 2020

LOOK UP
As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer
Caroline Read

In this strange new world, many have found themselves taking a greater interest in nature. With little chance of summer holidays abroad this year, it’s comforting to find beauty all around us here in our own county.

But while some are hiking in the countryside, others are taking time to look up and experience the summer’s clear skies.

Whether you’re hoping to witness a stunning sunrise, gaze at the stars or bask in a warm sunset, there’s a perfect spot for it somewhere in Kent.

It’s easy to take the night sky for granted, or to think of stargazing as overcomplicated and inaccessible, but there are a number of helpful websites, local groups, social media accounts and apps for novices. With their help, it’s quite possible to look upon a clear night without any equipment and understand at least some of what you’re seeing.

It’s something many of us can do from just outside our own homes, but if you’re able to get out and about, some of Kent’s best stargazing spots might surprise you.

Technically speaking, one of the best places should be Betsom’s Hill, on the North Downs between Biggin Hill and Westerham. The highest point in the county – at 251 metres – it’s closer to the stars than anywhere else in Kent. Sadly though, it’s far from the darkest.

Its proximity to London means views can be hampered by the city’s light pollution. In fact, the darkest skies in Kent have been recorded in Dungeness, Woodchurch and High Halden.

Jutting out into the Channel and largely flat, the Romney Marsh offers wide horizons, clear skies and such dark nights it was once a favourite haunt of smugglers hoping to go about their work unseen. Due to the low population density there is little light pollution and the Milky Way can often be seen with the naked eye, along with distant galaxies and star clusters.

Another of our wildest spots, the Isle of Sheppey is also known for its wide, open skies. The island’s Elmley Nature Reserve is a perfect, peaceful place for stargazing and is the only nature reserve in the UK where you can spend the night.

FOR AMATEUR STARGAZERS

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July 2020