A new pavilion for stargazers to enjoy the darkest night skies in England has been unveiled in a Northumberland village.
The Stargazing Pavilion at Stonehaugh, near Wark and in Kielder Water & Forest Park, was designed and built by Newcastle University architecture students , who worked closely with Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and local residents on its development.
The structure, which celebrates the recent Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park designation, awarded to an area covering Kielder Water & Forest Park and Northumberland National Park, will be a focal point to the community, attracting amateur astronomers, hosting events and encouraging more tourism to the area.
The project began in June 2013 where the 15 MA Architecture students held multiple consultation days to work closely with local residents and engage them in the design and construction process.
Graham Farmer, Director of Architecture at Newcastle University, said: “This has been a great opportunity for the students. They have gained all kinds of experience which will be really useful to them when they are looking for their first job. I’m really proud of what they have achieved. The pavilion looks impressive and is set to become an important part of village life.”
Sophie Connor, one of the students who co-designed the pavilion, added: “It has been fantastic. We have been so lucky getting the chance to be involved in the project right from the beginning and then spending every weekend building it. The Stonehaugh residents couldn’t have been more helpful, from making us cups of tea to giving us practical help when we needed it.”
Student Gavin Welch (pictured) said: “We got the chance to do so many new things with the pavilion, from actually constructing it to sourcing materials. It has been a really good experience for all of us. Now, I hope as many people as possible go along and enjoy using it.”
Lynn Turner, Director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “This project has been a great example of partnership working between the Trust and the University, with the community and the students working together to deliver a unique venue to view the stars.
“At 580 square miles, Northumberland is home to the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe and our dark skies draw in visitors from across the country. This spectacular pavilion is just part of our commitment to develop dark sky tourism and everyone involved is delighted to see it officially opened.”
Chair of Wark Parish Council and local resident, Anne Hutchinson, said: “The project was met with a lot of enthusiasm by the villagers and they’ve come along to whatever we’re doing with interest and a lot of knowledge.
“People come to live in Stonehaugh because of the tranquillity, there’s no light pollution and I think it’s a really good thing that the students took on board the thoughts and what the villagers wanted. The pavilion is perfectly situated between Kielder Water & Forest Park and Hadrian’s Wall and will be a real attraction for visitors.”
The Northumberland National Park Authority has contributed to the establishment of the wildflower meadow which is the setting for the circular pavilion, and has provided a grant for the planted green roof.
Constructed with local timber and stone donated by the Forestry Commission, as well as providing a shelter for stargazers, the pavilion can also be used to watch wildlife.
Plans are in place to designate the Stargazing Pavilion at Stonehaugh a Dark Sky Discovery Site along with a number of other sites which are being created throughout Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Together with the world class Observatory at Kielder, these officially-recognised locations will offer visitors a network of opportunities to enjoy the region’s Dark Skies.
The Stargazing Pavilion has also been supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Northumberland County Council Community Chest, and is part of the wider *Animating Dark Skies programme, which is supported by The Rural Development Programme for England, for which DEFRA is the Managing Authority, part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Investing in rural areas.
Main banner image used for illustrative purposes only
published on: 11 July 2014