In the mid 20th century, the Royal Observatory at Greenwhich was moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex, to escape the problems of being in London (lights, smog, electric fields etc). However, after just a few decades at Herstmonceux, it was decided that this location wasn’t ideal either. The giant Isaac Newton Telescope that had been installed in 1967 had been moved a more cloud-free location in the Canary Islands, and the Royal Observatory moved their base to Cambridge. Instead, a hands-on Science Centre opened at the site in 1995 (after a temporary trial run in 1994), and since then it’s a great place for fun hands-on exploring and learning about scientific concepts of various kinds!
Last week, we visited the science centre for the first time in about two years (it’s been closed for most of that time, due to the pandemic). We really enjoyed looking around and trying out many of the hands-on activities, both indoors and outdoors:
One thing that can be useful to know, is that some of the activity stations outdoors get closed off if the weather is wet (for safety reasons, as they get slippery). So if you can, pick a dry day for visiting to get the most out of it.
The Observatory Science Centre is currently (November 2021) open Saturdays and Sundays plus one weekday per week, 10am to 4 pm. It is recommended that you book and pay for your tickets in advance (and you book for a whole day, no time slots), but they also accept buying tickets at the door if places are available. More information on their website: https://www.the-observatory.org/ . Admission prices for the centre are reasonable in my opinion, and carers go free when accompanying a paying child or adult who is disabled. You might be asked to show proof, such as a disability benefit letter or iGo card. All details about admission are found here: https://www.the-observatory.org/admission-prices.
Here’s a little slideshow of photos from our pre-pandemic visits, to show you some more of what you can expect to find at the science centre:
As we’re now approaching Christmas, I’d like to point out that the science centre has not only got a small gift shop at the entrance/exit, but also a shop online selling science themed toys, books, trinkets etc, as well as vouchers for tickets and events, and some quirky things such as astronaut food!: https://www.the-observatory.org/shop. To find out more about their astronomy events for adults, take a look here: https://www.the-observatory.org/events
Finally, on a very practical note, I was happy to notice, when we walked past the accessible toilet, that it now has a proper adult changing bed. I got a quick shot of it, but didn’t stop to have a closer look at the space. The website says there is a hoist as well. It’s great to see that more and more places are investing in facilities that make them more accessible for disabled visitors.
Thanks so much for reading! Have you been to Herstmonceux Observatory Science Centre yourself? Or perhaps you can suggest similar places for hands-on science learning, closer to where you live? Any comments or questions are, as always, very welcome below, thank you x
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