I was watching a TV programme the other night about the Channel Islands ('An Island Parish – specifically about Sark). This little island hangs on to an earlier, more sedate way of life reminiscent of previous generations by, in particular, banning motor vehicles (apart from tractors) and street lights (lamp posts).
Consequently, there is virtually no light pollution over there at night and, on a cloudless night, you can see the stars – all of them; virtually every single star that is possible to see with the naked eye. The effect is amazing.
Millions and trillions, even zillions of stars
Millions and trillions and 'zillions'... of stars can be seen (as very tiny, very bright 'pin points' covering the entire tapestry of the night sky – with the naked eye! The programme demonstrated this by filming a re-enaction of a popular tourist event where participants simply lie down (face up) in a field and look up to the heavens to stare in awe at the brightly lit night sky.
Herefordshire is an area of peace and tranquillity
It sounds like an idyllic place to visit if you like peace and tranquillity. But did you know that there are parts of our own county of Herefordshire that afford exactly the same opportunity and pleasure? In fact this little county of ours is one of only three areas in mainland Britain officially designated as 'an area of peace and tranquillity' (the other two being Dartmoor and the Yorkshire Moors). Watching a rerun of this TV programme recently reminded me of a popular 'activity' enjoyed by me and my young children when we lived in the countryside – 'far from the madding crowd' – in a quiet little valley not far from the River Wye between Hereford and Ross (I live in Ledbury nowadays).
Lie back and look up at the sky!
On many a summer evening I would take my brood outside for a country walk and, as the light began to fade, we would make our way back home. Then, as darkness fell (to the point that you couldn't even see your hand in front of your eye) I would tell them to lie down on their backs and stare upwards – just like those Sark tourists. The effect was amazing and they were mesmorized.
Harrison could name all the planets when he was only five years old!
They so enjoyed this simple little pleasure that it was not long before they – middle son Robbie in particular – began looking up the constellations in school library books, learning their names and competing against each other in recognizing them for real in the diamond littered sky above us. Robbie's interest continued to last through his entire school years and beyond – so much so that he passed this interest and enthusiasm down to his first son Harrison who, as a result, could rattle off all of the names of the planets in our solar system (in the correct order from the Sun outwards) right off the top of his head when he was only five years old (and, needless to say, he is the proud owner of a very powerful telescope now he is six).