Member visits to the Observatory

Member visits to the Cyril Swindin Observatory

Notes for members visiting the observatory

This guidance note applies to members of the Society who are visiting the observatory for small ‘member only’ sessions. A separate note applies to non- members and/or members of the public which will be made available once Covid19 restrictions permit such visits.

Any non-member visiting the observatory before such restrictions are lifted may only do so if accompanied by a member who will be deemed responsible for ensuring that these guidelines are followed by both the non-member and themselves.

Attendance at the observatory is at your own risk. These guidance notes are provided to help you mitigate some of the risks but ultimately it is your responsibility to use your common sense and avoid any harm coming to you or anyone else.


Separate guidance is provided in relation to procedures in case of fire. All attendees must read that guidance and familiarize themselves with the procedures before visiting the observatory.

Prior to attending

Any member intending to visit the observatory should let the observatory director know in advance by e-mail or other immediate means, and ensure that they are conversant with the gate unlocking procedures. 

If the event has been publicized and is being organized by the Committee this advance notice is not necessary although would be greatly appreciated.


The entrance to the observatory is at the bottom of a working farm track and frequently has obstructions covered by grass and weeds. Turning is difficult and involves nosing and reversing off of the main track surface. Such manoeuvres should be undertaken with extreme care.

If there is insufficient room on the track to park, please park in Hill Drive which is a wide cul-de-sac close to the observatory. Please do not park on the main road. Use the paved side of the road to walk towards the observatory gate and take care crossing the road, especially if dark and drivers may struggle to see you.

If parking on-site, please ensure that, as you pass through the gate, your headlamps are dipped to avoid dazzling anyone using the observatory.

Most members use the end of the track where the barn is to turn around and then, having turned, park up on the left hand side of the track as you look towards the exit gate. Please do not take the ‘last space’ such that no-one else can turn around. If that is the only space left, turn around and park in Hill Drive.

Reaching the observatory

The path to the observatory is through the small gate to the left of the track as you look towards the observatory. It is unlit, and has barbed wire fencing either side, so unless you have a torch, proceed with extreme care. Use of a small torch is highly recommended but please avoid dazzling anyone using the observatory.

The path is unsuitable for some wheelchairs. Entering the observatory building is not possible in a wheelchair.


There is a Portaloo available for observatory users. This is located in the barn. Needless to say, do not attempt to use this without having a torch with you. There are a number of unlit obstructions and unexpected drops/steps in the barn.

There is neither running water nor any washing facilities on site either at the toilet or the observatory.


Even if the day has been warm, the night time can be surprisingly cold. Visitors must take due care and wear adequate clothing. Hats and fingerless gloves are also very useful.


Minors are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult responsible for their safety and behavior. An astronomical observatory is not a suitable space for games. The Society does not currently vet its members.


As noted above, please try and avoid dazzling anyone using the observatory with headlamps or torches – the human eye takes about 20 minutes to adapt to the dark  but only seconds to get back to normal. Please put a red filter, red polythene bag or several red cellophane sweet wrappers over your torch.

Use of Equipment

Any members intending to use the Society’s equipment without supervision must ensure that they are fully briefed and conversant with its use, to the satisfaction of the observatory director, before doing so.

Sole attendance

It is not recommended that members attend the observatory on their own, but it is permitted on the understanding that any member intending using the observatory on their own does so at their own risk.  Members are advised as follows:

a).  The location of the observatory is off the beaten track and very dark. Attendees should ensure full safety precautions such as:

  • Ensuring someone knows where you are and when to expect you back
  • Ensuring you have a charged mobile phone, with signal and speed dial to summon help if needed
  • Ensuring you have a torch
  • Ensuring you are conversant with escape procedures in case of fire.
  • Locking the observatory door once inside to prevent any hostile ingress.
  • Ensuring the trapdoor is lowered once you are inside to avoid falling down the stairs
  • Avoiding any potentially hazardous activities such as lighting any flames, leaning out of the dome or exposing yourself to any heavy weights for example by loosening the telescope mount bolts.
  • Ensuring your car is functional and has plenty of fuel.

b).  The dome is heavy and stiff to move and you need to be fit enough to move it without causing injury to yourself.

c).  You must never point the telescope at the sun.

d).  Users must ensure everything is turned off and locked up on leaving, including the entry gate to the track.


Astronomy is a generally safe activity but does take place in the dark, and an observatory is not a familiar shape or layout to most people. Therefore all visitors should take extra care to survey the area around them and move carefully to avoid banging of heads, stepping backwards onto or off of anything, and tripping over any low objects.

Falling backwards down the steps is a particularly obvious risk and should be mitigated by closing the trapdoor as much as possible. Equally, all attendees should be aware of the low entrance door and ensure they duck suitably to avoid banging their heads.

No-one should ever be running on the observatory site.

Scroll to top