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Twinkle, twinkle count the stars

Fancy counting your patch of the Milky Way? Not your chocolate stash, but the twinklers in night sky. Here's how you can join Star Count 2021 – plus our fave stargazing spots in Berkshire.

Silhouette of figure stargazing in rocky landscape below a clear night sky & vibrant Milky Way, Dartmoor National Park, UK

Berkshire is that perfect combo of town and country – close enough to the fun, far enough away to escape it all. But dark skies? Well, we’re not exactly top of the pops. This means you don’t have to travel to join in the Star Count 2021 from your window, balcony or garden. But, if you live near any of Berkshire’s top stargazing locations, perhaps you could take your daily walk just after dark and see how many stars you can spot. Apparently tonight will be crystal clear, so start totting up those twinklers while you’re waiting for the takeaway to arrive.

Top five spots for stargazing in Berkshire (and the borders)

Combe Gibbet, Inkpen

Combe Gibbett Walk Inkpen

The only official dark sky in Berkshire! Walbury Hill near Hungerford is the county’s highest point – it’s also the highest chalk hill in England and the highest point in south-east England at 297m. So it’s no wonder it has uninterrupted views of the night sky. Set off from Walbury and head to the summit where you’ll find an Iron Age fort before heading on to Combe Gibbet – a beautiful spot with a grizzly back story. Perched on the hill is a double gallows purpose-built in the 17th century to hang the adulterous lovers Dorothy Newman and George Bromham for murdering his wife and son. Grizzly back story for epic stargazing.

Warren Hill, Streatley

The Ridgeway is an epic place to escape it all. The views are breathtaking. This is an ancient track that’s so old no one can put a date on it – and Streatley Warren is your go to for open skies and the chance to see a the constellations. It’s open access land but you are only permitted to use it between November and February.

Ashley Hill, Hurley

Let’s be realistic, with Maidenhead lighting up the night’s sky, you’re going to struggle, but aim high and find your summit for half a chance. Ashley Hill near Hurley, is a 144m. The ‘summit’ can be found is actually in a private garden, but don’t let that stop you.

Dinton Pastures, Wokingham

A 400-acre site, that’s relatively flat and easy to get to. Don’t stray from the path and there’s no danger of you getting lost. It’s a pretty spot for an amble and you can perch on a bench to look at the stars. It’s not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but a nice spot to look up nonetheless.

White Horse Hill , Uffington

Another beauty spot untarnished by light pollution is Uffington’s famous White Horse hill. Set within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can walk across The Ridgeway (the views here are stunning) and to the iconic Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse leaping across the hills. If you don’t fancy hiking in the dark, head to the National Trust car park and amble along to the stargazing spot at the top. You can find the longer walking route here.

Top Tips from CPRE for your Star Count:

  1. Remember that we’re counting stars from 6-14 February 2021, so choose a night!
  2. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts for the week ahead. Remember: your safety and health are the most important things, so stay at home for your star counting this year.
  3. Pick the clearest night for your count, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so that the sky is really dark. Turn off all the lights in your house, too, to make it easier to see the stars.
  4. Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘belt’.
  5. Take a few moments to let your eyes adjust, then count the number of stars you can see within the rectangle formed by the four corner stars. You can count the three stars in the middle – the belt – but not the corner stars.
  6. Make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then submit your count here.
  7. Share your experiences (and any photos) with others on social media using #StarCount
  8. And don’t forget to check back here in the spring to see the national results and how your area compares to the rest of the country.

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