In pictures: Dark Skies Festival returns to Sussex during February half-term

There is cosmic fun as Dark Skies Festival returns this month and it promises to be better than ever

The South Downs National Park’s popular Dark Skies Festival returns with an action-packed line-up of exciting events over the half-term holidays.

Nine days of celebrations will explore the awesome wonders of the dark skies of the South Downs, which remains one of only 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world.

Among the highlights will be a dark skies-themed ride at 450ft on Brighton’s i360, self-guided walks through the solar system at Queen Elizabeth and Seven Sisters Country Parks, seafront star parties, night-time walks, nocturnal wildlife, celestial storytelling and planetarium shows.

Breathtaking night-time photography of the National Park will also be shared online during the festival, as well as downloadable colouring sheets and cosmic crafts.

The theme of this year’s event is “Take Action for Nature and Climate” and people will be able to find out more about nocturnal wildlife and learn how to build their very own bat box.

“Dark Skies” Dan Oakley, the dark skies expert for the National Park, said: “We’re pleased to be back for our eighth Dark Skies Festival with more in-person events than ever.

“There’s something for everyone this year, whether you want to get hands-on and see some stunning constellations through a telescope, or you want to connect with nature at night on a tranquil walk.

“The fact we have this precious Dark Sky reserve in the heart of the South East is amazing, given the proximity to London and the cities of the south coast. We have some incredibly dark patches that allow you to see so much of the universe with just the naked eye and it’s an experience we want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy. The South Downs landscape is incredible enough, but look up, and there’s another dimension to explore. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature on its biggest scale – the universe itself.

“The importance of dark skies for wildlife cannot be overstated. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects all rely on the natural rhythms of daylight and darkness and protecting our dark skies will be vital if we’re to restore biodiversity in the National Park.”

And Dan added: “We’re obviously at the mercy of the elements for all our outdoor events, so it’s worth checking out the National Park’s social media channels on the day of the event for any updates.”

Among the in-person events in the evenings will be:

Saturday 10 Feb, Brighton seafront – star party and i360 talk.

Tuesday 13 Feb, Goodwood, Counters Gate – star party

Thursday 15 Feb, Queen Elizabeth Country Park – Walk The Planets, telescopes, storytelling, owl displays.

Friday 16 Feb, Hogmoor Inclosure, Bordon – Walk the Planets trail.

Saturday 17 Feb, Seven Sisters Country Park – Walk The Planets trail, telescopes, storytelling.

A range of other exciting events are taking place across the National Park, including at Butser Ancient Farm, Amberley Museum, Midhurst and Bignor Hill.

See the full programme and event timings at

Booking may be required and all events are weather-dependent.

For more information about the Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the National Park, visit