Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it… Orion? Court Farm near St Austell is not just a campsite, it is also an ideal place to watch the stars and learn about the fascinating universe we live in as they are host to the Roseland observatory. I’m perhaps a bit spoiled by living in a low light pollution area- I’m used to being able to spot a handful of constellations, and at least one planet from my garden, but if you live in a city and haven’t seen the Milky Way, then don’t miss this opportunity!
There are several gently sloping fields in the campsite, we passed the cluster of campers near the entrance and headed to the field to the left. There we were greeted by beautiful views across the valley. In the morning the mist gathered below us so that the hill opposite seemed to float, and the sheep grazing popped out of the mist and seemed to shimmer in the morning light. Horses paddocked in the field below provided a lot of entertainment to the toddler, who would waddle at top speed down the slope to them at every opportunity.
The facilities are perfectly comfortable. There is a big shower block beside the main drive, along with dishwashing sinks and large fridges for keeping perishable food cool. It is also one of the few campsites I have seen where there really are enough bins. Scattered through the pitches, there must have been one every 20 feet! So hopefully that means no overflowing bags being eyed up by the local wildlife. If you want to enjoy the comforts electricity can bring (ahhh warmth! Light!) and need a hookup then stick to the first field where there are plenty of hookup points.
Pitches are lined up along the edges of the field, so although it isn’t possible to find a totally tucked away corner, you do benefit from having the centre of the field open. It’s like living around a grassy town square, you can easily keep an eye on children from the comfort of your own porch. (I really want to get Tylda this porch, just need to get that roof box first!)
I love stargazing, and camping is a perfect time to get to see the stars. Turn off the fairy lights, let your eyes adjust and sit back praying for clear skies. Of course, we could not actually see Orion this week as it was early evening in late August and we were in Cornwall, but what can you expect to see at this time of year?
You may know Ursa Major and Minor, aka the Big and Little Dipper/ Big Bear and Baby Bear, or as I was taught, the big and little saucepan, as that’s what they look like. The tail of Ursa Minor is Polaris, the North Star. Have you ever seen a slow capture photo of the stars where they all appear to be smeared like dots on a toy spinning top? The one in the middle they all seem to be turning around is Polaris. That’s because it is very close to being in line with the North Pole, so as the Earth turns it keeps a constant position. Beyond Polaris you should be able to easily see the bright M shape of Cassiopeia.
“I have to admit I have never seen a shooting star.”
I could go on, there are lots of constellations, but I get a bit dizzy trying to find them all, looking up into the enormity above me. So I tend to make my own ones up, depending on my mood, so there has been the “Big Squiggle” (I think using some of the constellation Draco), the “Is That Mars Or A Very Slow Plane” and most memorably the “Arrgh That Cat Has Dumped On My Carrots Again”.
If you want to have some help finding stars, I highly recommend the SkyView app. Just point your phone in the direction you are looking at, and constellations come popping onto your screen complete with names and cute drawings. It even works indoors, with the lights on, for those of you who have an extreme fear of the dark, or who live in light polluted cities.
And what about shooting stars? The most romantic of scenes, snuggled with your loved one, making wishes while getting an almighty crick in your neck. Well, you’ve missed the Persoids which are early August, but the next shooting star-creating asteroid shower is the Draconids on the 7th/8th October. I have to admit I have never seen a shooting star. I have often sat, surrounded by friends trying to point them out to me, but I always seem to blink at just the wrong moment.
Have you seen a shooting star? Where are your favourite spots for stargazing?