A cloudy start to the day today which was Sod’s law as today, we were off to the Kielder Observatory. Absolutely no sign of Storm Katie up here whatsoever and I hope none of you had more damage than a wheelie bin blown over or a plastic flowerpot overturned….I heard via Facebook and my brother back home that it was quite something.
For this event at the observatory to be any good whatsoever we were at the mercy of the universe and had to hope that whatever cloud was around now, would be gone by 8pm when we were due to begin.
It’s a fairly new observatory (8 years old I think) which has been built high on a hill above Black Fell (very Game of Thrones) inside The National Forest, Northumberland. This spot was chosen for it to be built because it sits inside the 3rd largest dark sky space in Europe (amazing eh?! And it’s practically on our doorstep) so you can see an enormous amount of stars compared to what you can see normally, due to the lack of light pollution. They’ve really had to fight to protect this dark sky space and I cannot reiterate enough how important places like this are in order to study, understand and appreciate the universe in which we sit.
You can read more about the observatory and book events for it here:
Anyhow, I digressed, the morning was cloudy and the middle one and the toddler woke up demanding Easter eggs for breakfast. After a bit of a battle I managed to get them to eat something that wasn’t chocolate based, oh no, wait, they had Coco Pops…. #mummyfail
The eldest one is still a bit poorly with flu but was showing signs of improvement which is great as we really wanted him to be able to enjoy the observatory rather than sit in the car and him (as well as someone else who was watching him) miss out on all the fun when we’d travelled such a long way.
After assessing how poorly my eldest was, we headed out for a little drive just to have a look about and see where we would like to visit when he’s feeling fighting fit again.
There are at least 7 castles within a few miles of where we are staying, some in tact, some just ruins, and we saw a few of them on our little road trip. The most impressive from the road was Bamburgh Castle, which loomed large out of the rocks it’s built upon and then Alnwick Castle, which is where part of Harry Potter was filmed. Both imposing and full of history. Hopefully once the lurgies have left us we will be able to go and visit one, or both, of these places to learn a little more.
On the way home we stopped off at a local farm shop called, Sunnyhills Farm Shop. It was great and had some local produce, some unusual items from further afield and lots of lovely decorative bits for your house. As we walked in, the boys all covered their noses as it did smell a bit unusual in there (maybe cheese and meat) and made no qualms about letting it be known they thought it ‘stank!!!’.
Luckily for them, a lovely lady took pity on them and told them there was an Easter egg hunt on if they wanted to do it. They jumped at the chance and headed outside with daddy whilst I had a look around the farm shop with my mum. I settled on a solid chocolate drinking chocolate bar (nom!!!) and some natural honey and beeswax lip balm made by a local place called Chainbridge Honey Farm – It’s lovely!
Upon arriving home from our road trip, the sun was shining and my eldest was feeling a bit better so we finally managed our Easter egg hunt. It’s amazing how the lure of chocolate eggs can make a sick child instantly better….
Here is my photo for The Britmums daily photo challenge: Day 28 – Egg…
After the madness of sniffing out chocolate eggs had ended, we retired indoors and had a bit of chill out time as we had a 2 hour drive from where we are staying into the forest to get to the observatory later on….which mostly consisted of scoffing Tunnocks Teacakes and Mini Eggs and looking up amazing properties that are for sale near here which have a crazy amount of land, are near the sea and are just beautiful. They’re also a ridiculously cheap compared to back home….so depressing.
We set off for the Observatory at 5:30 in order to get there for 7:45 – the national park is vast and it takes an hour alone to travel across it once you’re into it from where we are staying. The drive there is ‘interesting’ and it’s like my husband has planned all this route on purpose. I’m not even joking that the road was as up and down as the Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and resulted in me leaving my stomach behind on numerous occasions and gripping onto the door handle and the chair arm rest for dear life….much to my husbands amusement.
I swear to god he thinks he’s the stig from top gear….but forgets he’s driving a Discovery laden down with almost my entire family, not a sports car.
After narrowly avoiding throwing up, and writing my will en-route, we reach Kielder Dam/Water in time for sunset. It was a pretty spectacular one…
Then it was onwards to the Observatory. To get to it, you have to travel up a dirt track, off road. Much to my husbands delight – he’s in Stig mode again….
It is a steep road which winds through dense forest and was quite eerie in the dim light.
We reach the observatory and head over there to queue for the talk. Tonight it’s a talk on how the northern lights happen as well as other general information on what we could see in the night sky this evening. The talk was really informative and we were all looking forward to getting stuck into using the telescopes. At the end of the talk the organisers checked the skies and…thankfully, we were in luck!! The clouds had disappeared and we were blessed with crystal clear skies – we were literally under a blanket of stars. It was utterly breathtaking and you could even see star clusters with the naked eye, not clearly, but you could see they were there.
First up was looking at Jupiter through the amazing computerized telescope they have. The observatory roof opened up before us and the computer trained the telescope on the largest planet in our solar system.
I was about to look at it through the telescope when my eldest tapped my leg and said he was going to to be sick. And with that, I ran out of that room as fast as we could and out into the forest where he proceeded to throw up again. Utter nightmare and came out of nowhere – much like Katie Hopkins.
The toddler, who had behaved until this point, also began crying and bless my mum, we admitted defeat and she very kindly said she would sit in the car so they could rest and sleep whilst we carried on with the talk. It was really selfless of her but that’s my mum all over. In fairness, it was also a darn sight warmer in the car than outside – perhaps a cunning plan…. 😉
We spent a little while longer looking through the telescopes and I finally got to see Jupiter through one. It was amazing and you could even make out the lines on its surface, as well as being able to see its 4 moons all illuminated in a diagonal line. Something I’ll treasure seeing forever. We also saw the Milky Way (not the chocolate version 😉) and a nebula (star cluster) in Orion. My middle one thought it was utterly brillaint and he enjoyed it so much. I truly hope it’s something that will stay with him forever and kick starts a lifelong interest in Astronomy.
After a talk on the Northern Lights and some hot chocolate next to the wood burner in the observatory, it was time to head home. The 2 hour drive home, mostly alone through dark and vast forest, was super spooky and I’m over the moon the car did us proud (and my husband, the pretend stig) by getting us home safely.
We arrived home at 1:15am and we were all knackered. Sadly it would appear the toddler has now picked up his brothers flu bug and he is also man down now with raging temperature and is very irritable. I fear the rest of our holiday may be spent at the holiday cottage and we may not get to see those castles after all…..
My favourite phrase from the night came from when the guy, Hayden, who was doing the talk reminded us of our Sun’s mortality. He was telling us the sun has 5 billion years of life left in it, but reminded us that the radiation of it as it nears its life will be so immense that earth will only be habitable for a further 1 billion years. I know that’s a long time, but I sat there struggling to comprehend that one day, all this will be gone. It reminded me how precious our little ball of rock is, how we need to make the most of it and our short time here and that ultimately, the universe decides when our time is up. People on this planet may think they are in control, that a greater being made our earth and our sun and everything inbetween, that they own it and can dictate what happens, but ultimately, our master is the Sun. Not a man. Not a being that’s living or dead.
“We are subjects of the Sun”
He’s so right. And that phrase will stay with me forever….