Travel

Herstmonceux

Castle, Observatory and Science Centre.

I’ve never been inside the castle. The 15th century moated castle houses an international study centre within its walls and you have to time your visit right to gain a peek inside. The gardens are fabulous.

That is where we didn’t go this weekend. We went to the Observatory and Science Centre next door. I last visited there a couple of years ago and a couple of years before that and a couple of years before that. It’s one of those places.. visitable every now and then but pace yourself. Of course, you need children to go there with, relatives or borrowed children count.

I had – been there with other children – and enjoyed their reactions to the hands on experiments. But there’s something so special about seeing your own children light up when they identify a constellation or explore electricity or suddenly understand earthquakes.

There’s a woman in a lone observatory down by the castle who beams light into space to help the satellites figure out where they are in orbit. She can tell where active volcanoes are on earth as the heated air from bubbling lava rises out of the atmosphere and registers on satellite sensors.

There’s a man in the Science Centre who knows an awful lot about space and Isaac Newton and stars and telescopes. He gives a mind blowing tour of the old Greenwich observatories; moved to Sussex after the last war so astronomers could view far off lights without the glare of inner city neon.

There are things to press and squeeze and pick up and spin and build and inspect and learn and I enjoyed every minute. My children enjoyed every minute too.

My husband wonders if he’s too old to learn about the wonders of the universe as seen through a rather large telescope: No, he’s not.

We joined, as members for the year. The cost of a family membership for the year is less than a family day pass to Lego land. In an age where family entertainment, days out and pastimes are often based on deep pockets, it’s a good reminder that our lives are what we make them. Yes, we could spend all our time at family fun parks watching the children whizz around but I prefer to join in with their learning Journeys – the children’s and their dad’s – and mine.

We’re looking forward to spending many more days together there exploring the wonders of science and astronomy.

It dawned on me as my small children grew in heart and mind that we should ignite our children’s love of learning far beyond what is expected of them. It dawned on me again as we watched them soaking up scientific ideas with delight and enthusiasm. They can fuel their own interests – follow their curiosities and genuinely enjoy discovering what the world is about.

Beyond the confines of classroom, beyond imposed restrictions and testable knowledge.

Amid the copper-green domes, lush vegetation, flint brick walls and landscaped paths; within the beautiful Sussex countryside among wood and Field and marsh; there is much to enjoy; much to learn.

As the nights lengthen and evenings arrive earlier and earlier, we’ll be heading down to the Observatory to peer through massive telescopes at the unbound universe.

I for one, can’t wait!

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