We were invited along to a family astronomy session at Grassholme Reservoir to share our views on their brand-new observatory, this review is based on our visit in September 2021.
These sessions are ideal to introduce and educate children on all things spacey! We had 3 children with us aged 7,8 & 10 and all three thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was perfectly pitched for these ages, there were also a couple of younger children there who had a real passion for space, and they managed fine with the interaction and questions.
The session we attended was fully booked and this consisted of about 14 people, so the events are small, so make sure you book in advance as spaces are very limited.
When we arrived, we all gathered in the classroom for an interactive presentation by Gary & Andy which included some amazing photography of various planets & stars. My eldest was very intrigued by the meteorites which they were allowed to handle!
Our group was then divided into 2 and while the other group stayed with Andy, we went with Gary into his brand new, top of the range observatory. Once inside the whole roof of the observatory rolls back with a click of a button. Gary was good with all the kids and encouraged them to answer questions, he made sure they were all participating and following the lesson. The telescope within the observatory is HUGE and is electronically controlled. Gary showed us how he could ask the computer to find something then the telescope moved into position to locate the chosen subject. Unfortunately, it was cloudy on the evening we visited so we couldn’t see any stars or planets, but we did watch the telescope find and track a satellite, I had no idea there was so many of these in our solar system!
We then swapped with the other group and Andy had set up a smaller scale telescope so we could have a look through the lens. Again, due to the weather we had to settle for at looking at the trees and cattle over the other side of the reservoir rather than the stars, but it did give the children a go at using a telescope and how it worked.
The family sessions are on from 6pm -7.30pm, in our opinion we would have liked it to be slightly later so we could have experienced part of the session when it was dark. With the rural setting of the observatory and the darker skies it would have really enhanced the session.
It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening, the children enjoyed looking for stars on our way home and it’s encouraged the children to think about what’s out there!
Thank you to Gary & Andy for having us, you are both so knowable and passionate about astronomy and really made the session engaging and fun.
Grassholme Observatory, West Pastures Road, Middleton in Teesdale, Barnard Castle, DL12 0PW. (Watch out for the brown sign on the main road directing you to the observatory, we nearly missed it as the hedge was overgrown). There is free parking and toilet facilities.