Blog: Reaching for the stars at Kielder Observatory

Watch Julia Barthram's video report.

By Julia Barthram

I knew Kielder is quite a long way away.  I celebrated quietly when I topped the brow of a hill and saw I'd reached the edge of the reservoir.  Then I drove further.  A lot further.  Along the six miles of reservoir. Almost to the Scottish border.  Eventually a sign directed me off the tarmac road onto gravel, a narrow track winding through the trees.  Another two miles and at last I popped out above the tree tops to a wind swept hillside, it felt like the far side of nowhere.

Kielder Observatory is stunning, a wooden ship sailing on the tree tops of the 150,000 acre forest.  The views are even better.  And that is in daylight.  I joined two groups who were there for the Stargazing workshops.  First a Young Explorers session, early in the evening so children can join in.  Next, Origins of the Universe after the sun had set.  Both groups, even the six year olds, were awed by the information and, as I hid in the socially distanced background all I could hear were 'Ooo's and 'Wow's.

Kielder Observatory Credit: Kielder Observatory

We were lucky with the weather, the clouds cleared and the moon was incredible.  So bright, in fact, that it paled the stars and planets.  The detail picked out by the telescope took my breath away, though that could also have been the wind.  It's impossible to chose my favourite sight of the night, Venus was bright, Vega felt special, the Moon was amazing and the log burner in the centre gave them all a run for their money.

I could have stayed looking at the skies all night and nearly did when an Aurora warning was announced.  The elusive Northern Lights didn't show in the end but, so many stars and planets did, my eyes could hardly take in any more.