Wessex Astronomical Society


Durlston's Astronomical Background

On the southeast tip of Purbeck, 1 mile from Swanage in Dorset, this superb site, owned and managed by Dorset County Council, is governed by the ethos of 'Conservation for Public Enjoyment'.

Durlston is a gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site which runs from Exmouth in the west to Old Harry Rocks at Ballard Down. Durlston is also designated as Heritage Coast, Special Area of Conservation, Site of Special Scientific Interest, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the offshore waters are part of the Marine Research Area.

In the 19th Century Victorian entreprenuer George Burt developed part of the area of the current park and has left his mark mainly in the form of a large building known as "Durlston Castle" which is now to be restored to serve as a visitor centre for the entrance to the Jurassic Coast. He created numerous features pointing to an interest in astronomy and geography as seen in the photographs below of the great globe and of features on the Castle wall - the carving shows the times around the world and the duration of the longest day

So George Burt would surely have welcomed the thought of Durlston being used for modern astronomy. In his day practically everywhere would have had dark skies that modern astronomers would die for. Today the skies above Durlston offer the next best thing being especially good in all directions except the north east. It is above and to the south that the astronomer most wants a good sky.

Finally, for astronomy events attended by the public, and for school and adult education groups, the parking and other visitor facilities, including space for talks and lectures, are very conveniently placed, with the new observatory close by.

Durlston Country Park, Rangers - 01929 424443 or
Durlston Country Park, Rangers (on the day of an event) - 01929 427965
Alan Jefferis - 01929 422961 or