Outdoor Articles and Reviews

Kielder Observatory and Skyspace

For centuries Northumberland was a land of wild lawlessness, be it from the times of the Roman Empire when Hadrian’s wall marked the edge of civilisation, keeping the rebellious Picts at bay, or from the days of the Scottish Marches, when Reivers raided the lands, running protections rackets called ‘mál’s’, leading us to the modern word Blackmail. Indeed, Northumberland, the northernmost part of England, has throughout history been a bleak and dangerous place.

However, as I stood next to the Hadrian’s wall, high up on the edge of Walltown Crags, on a cloudless day, it was hard to imagine Northumberland’s turbulent past. Indeed, today it is a place for tourists to leisurely admire. And come to think of it, it’s also place of many superlatives: it is, afterall, home to the largest forest, the darkest skies, and the sparsest population in England and Wales. Yet it is the least visited of our national parks. For all of its rugged history and vast swaths of hills, forests, and moorland, the National park seems to have passed most of us by.

One thing that piqued my interest in visiting the park was its status as an International Dark Space: it offers the best views of the night skies in England and has the largest area of protected night skies in Europe. I am certainly no more than a casual astronomer at best and have never really seen an unpolluted night sky. So I jumped at the chance to visit. Here are some more pictures from my trip:

The winning design: created by Charles Barclay architects of London, chosen from from 230 design entries
The small telescopes
The Skyspace is an echoic subterranean hall with an apertured ceiling for viewing the sky with the naked eye