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Kielder Observatory in Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

Kielder Observatory looking out across the vast Kielder Water & Forest Park

It’s been one of those monumental years for us here at Kielder Observatory. Nestled in the fantastic dark sky park, which we helped spearhead, we have seen truly amazing growth in visitor numbers over the past few years, but nothing quite like the last twelve months.

It’s no secret, with the facility open almost the entire year, seven days and nights a week, that we hoped for this level of success, but with visitor numbers now in the tens of thousands, travelling literally from all over the world to spend time under some of the darkest skies on the planet, we’re over the moon (pardon the pun) with the story so far.

Having taken on a new office in Newcastle to manage everything from infrastructure to events, and several new full time members of staff, as well as dozens of new volunteers, our visitors have been not only coming, but also returning in huge numbers, with events selling out still weeks or even months in advance.

One of our recent huge success stories was the partial solar eclipse, which we managed to cover not only from the observatory, but also on giant screens all across the UK, and on national TV, again, giving great exposure not only for us, but Kielder as a whole. Millions of people across the UK watching the Sun being partially covered by the Moon in one of nature’s finest spectacles really showcased what we are able to deliver in terms of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), something which the North East has a proud and long heritage in.

Our Director and founder Gary Fildes has been taking the Kielder message far and wide, with hugely successful talks around the UK and even taking a film crew to Pasadena, California to meet up with moon walkers and produce a phenomenal series of films, where he talks to almost every living person who’s walked on the surface of the Moon. This has been shown regularly at the observatory, aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists to, in the words of the last man on the Moon Commander Gene Cernan “never give up on your dreams”.

From left to right, Kielder Observatory Founder Gary Fildes, Trustee Jacqui Miller and Sy Liebergot

From left to right, Kielder Observatory Founder Gary Fildes, Trustee Jacqui Miller and Sy Liebergot

Our fundraising event late last year, at Newcastle United’s football stadium, where we invited Apollo 13 legendary controller Sy Liebergot, was co-hosted by non-other than Olympic superstar Steve Cram. We managed to raise tens of thousands for the observatory, enabling us to, in the words of NASA “Dare Mighty Things” and take the observatory to new heights.

So now, with support from a host of organisations within Kielder Water & Forest Park , we’re planning the next phase of the observatory. A multi-million pound project to add a state of the art planetarium, huge research grade telescopes, a huge collection of meteorites, better on site facilities for our visitors, and much more, whilst retaining the ethos of sustainability and being at one with the natural beauty which is Kielder. An ethos which again shows that STEM can be so much to so many people.

Star-studded skies above Kielder Observatory

Star-studded skies above Kielder Observatory

So our goal… to make the North East and Kielder a truly global force in outreach and education, to make it the UK’s greatest centre for STEM and astronomy, but beyond that, to take the message globally, and one day, to be the world’s No.1 public observatory…

Dare Mighty Things…we know we can.


Kielder Observatory

Joanna Dailey with osprey

Joanna Dailey with one of the beautiful Kielder ospreys

My name is Joanna Dailey and I’ve been a volunteer on the Kielder Osprey Project since 2009, when ospreys bred in Northumberland for the first time in over 200 years.

After retiring from my role as a Civil Servant working in London, I moved back to the land of my birth and became involved in various outdoor activities as a volunteer. These magnificent, fish-eating raptors at Kielder Water & Forest Park are now my main passion.

I monitor the  nest cameras which are installed on two osprey nests and write most of the posts on a blog ( about the ospreys.

I also analyse the data from two satellite tracked youngsters, where we can see where they are at any time.


The ospreys at Kielder are a big ‘success story’. In 2011 we had two nests in the Park and by 2014 a third nest had been established, making Kielder one of the most successful areas in England and Wales for natural recolonisation.

I was thrilled when this year too got off to a fantastic start. Ospreys migrate in late August or September to hotter climates – mostly in West Africa, although some now go no further than Iberia.

It is always a relief when they return safely to the UK in late March or April. Our three pairs of ospreys were back by 9 April, although there was a slightly rocky start…

Two-timing ospreys gaze into each others eyes...

Two-timing ospreys gaze into each others eyes…

The first two to return to Kielder were a male from Nest 1 and a female from Nest 2. Ospreys are usually faithful to their nest and breeding partner, but the urge to pass on their genes can result in them mating with another osprey when they are first to return. The Nest 1 male was scouting around the area and came across the Nest 2 female waiting for her mate to return. The inevitable happened!

However their ‘other halves’ returned on the same day and normality was restored. The third pair were also re-united around the same time.

Egg production began on 17 April at Nest 1. Ospreys usually lay three eggs roughly three days apart, and by 25 April Nests 1 and 2 had six eggs between them.

A 'rare' four eggs for Nest 2

A ‘rare’ four eggs for Nest 2

We prepared for the long incubation (the average hatch is 37 days after laying) but on 29 April, while watching the nest cam, I was surprised to see  a fourth egg on Nest 2!

This is very rare and it is a big ask for the male to catch enough fish for all the chicks.

Last year, the chicks on both nests last year were very heavy thanks to their fathers’ fishing skills, and if the weather is kind this year, we should see four young fledge from one nest. This will be the the first time this will have ever occurred in England and Wales as far as is known!

Incubation is also underway on Nest 3, where three eggs were glimpsed by 30 April.

A final excitement to date was the first return of a Kielder born osprey to the natal area. Blue 2H, a male who hatched on Nest 2 in 2012 landed on Nests 1 and 2! Less than one in three of the average clutch survives to return to the UK, so this is very special.

The live nest cams can be seen at Kielder Castle Café, where I like to pass the time monitoring the nests and writing the blog (

Osprey Watch, a chance to look through telescopes manned by Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteers, also runs from Leaplish Waterside Park from June.



Joanna Dailey

Volunteer, Kielder Osprey Project

It’s the end of my third full week in my new role as Director, and I already feel like I’ve been here for years… everyone has been very welcoming and helpful and I’m quickly settling into the team.

My time so far has been filled with a wide variety of activities. One of my first tasks was to get a thorough understanding of all the exciting things Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust has been getting up to over the last three months, from our Dark Skies project to our new inspiring art workshops and even our recently launched Friends scheme.

VE Awards for Excel Port 2014_Bronze Red

In my second week, I had the privilege of sharing in the Northumbrian Water Leisure team’s success when Leaplish Waterside Park was awarded Bronze for Best Holiday Park at the Visit England 2014 Awards.

Coming hot on the heels of Kielder’s award as the Best Tourism Experience in England in 2013, it was inspiring to see that the Park is still recognised as being among the best in the country.

Given my previous role at Northumberland County Council, I was equally proud when two other Northumberland businesses won Gold Awards that evening and delighted to see our county so strongly represented.


George Clarke

On another positive note, we launched the Park’s Friends scheme, with support from Sunderland-born, TV architect, George Clarke – the first North East star to become a ‘Friend’ of Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Our Friends scheme will help us to conserve wildlife, develop educational opportunities and enhance the great attractions available at the Park. Plus, Friends will receive various offers and promotions. If you fancy joining George and becoming a Friend, click here for more info.


One of the opportunities I’m most excited about is our Dark Skies astro-tourism potential.

There has been a huge amount of interest in stargazing following ITV’s Robson Green’s Tales from Northumberland, Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and our recent designation as an International Dark Sky Park, together with Northumberland National Park.

Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust is   leading a DEFRA funded project, with support from other partners in Northumberland and the North Pennines, to help businesses take advantage of this new opportunity, as well as improving the facilities on offer for visitors.

A number of businesses are already reporting an increase in trade from people wanting to come and experience the Park’s deep dark skies and the fabulous Kielder Observatory.

A series of workshops has been arranged for any business that would like to know more about how to provide an unforgettable dark sky experience for their visitors. You can find out more about the workshops here.

Star Trails over Kielder Observatory

As you can see my role here is varied, fun and challenging. Over the coming months I’m looking forward to meeting everyone that’s involved in helping to make Kielder and the surrounding area such a special place and being part of some exciting projects in a spectacular location.

In addition, to remind you just how great the Park is, keep reading our blog page where we will be letting a ‘guest’ blogger loose with words every month – from forest rangers, to local schools!

Lynn Turner

Director, Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust


We’re currently on the hunt for a new guest blogger. Check back soon when we will be able to keep you up to date with all the exciting goings on at the Park!