OUTDOORS enthusiasts are being invited to join the Forest of Bowland Partnership next month for its fifth dark skies festival.

The event, timed to take place during school half term, from February 11 to February 19, is aimed at celebrating the beauty of Bowland after dark.

This year's festival not only promises to offer a helping hand to navigate the stars, it will also give people the chance to indulge their creativity, delve into the history book of local astronomy and find out about some of the fascinating wildlife which populates Bowland once the sun has dipped.

Organisers will be hoping for clear skies when scientist and amateur astronomer, Robert Ince, heads outside for a traditional stargazing evening in Downham, before setting up his camera the following night for a virtual tour of the late winter planets.

Graham McLoughlin, of Preston and District Astronomical Society, will be looking back online at the history of what could be the oldest public observatory in the UK – originally named the Deepdale Observatory.

For family-friendly fun, the festival will be linking with the library service and local storyteller, Sue Allonby, for dark skies tales on a moon theme, and heading off with Outdoors 4 All on a lantern-lit campfire adventure in Dunsop Bridge.

Some of the events will be online, including family storytelling and a closer look at Bowland's marvellous moths with ecologist, Rob Foster, who began his moth exploration during lockdown and has never looked back.

Artist, Anne Somers, will run a fused glass workshop in Clapham, using colours which reflect the beautiful night-time world, and there will be a chance to enjoy skies and pies with astrophotographer, Lee Hunt, in Barley.

Forest of Bowland AONB Project Officer, Sandra Silk, said "We're so lucky in Bowland to have relatively little light pollution obscuring the stars. This means that, on clear nights, a blanket of constellations, nebulae and galaxies are revealed overhead. It's a beautiful sight."

She added: "We want to encourage more people to have this wonderful experience for themselves, whether that is stepping outside their own back door on a dark night, visiting one of our Dark Sky Discovery Sites, or staying with one of Bowland's Dark Sky Friendly-accredited businesses."

Online events are free to attend, but there will be a charge for face to face sessions. All events need to be booked in advance, as some have limited space.

Details and booking information for all the Dark Skies Festival events are available at https://www.forestofbowland.com/Festival-Bowland-Events