In a nutshell
The Lovell telescope, centrepiece of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, which has dominated the Cheshire countryside since it was constructed in 1957, was listed as a UK candidate for Unesco world heritage site status this month. As well as the world’s first fully steerable radio telescope, Jodrell Bank is home to a science discovery centre and for the past two summers has hosted the Bluedot festival of electronic music.
According to the clocks in the cafe, the minute hand takes 61.65 minutes to complete the hour on Martian time, hence a Martian day lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds.
Best thing about it
Plenty to do. There’s the permanent exhibition, plus a series of events for school holidays. My girls liked displays recreating the sound of the big bang and a simulation of being sucked into a black hole using two wooden marbles in the Space Pavilion. The youngest liked the outdoor whispering dishes, an experiment with sound waves. The gardens are lovely (with autumn colours at the moment) and there’s a play area for younger kids.
Try live science demonstrations and meet-the-expert events with centre staff this half term (until November 5). There are also daily walking tours around the base of the Lovell Telescope (aimed at ages 11-plus). Free weekend activities include drop-in craft sessions but the Family Stargazing Night is already sold out.
What about lunch?
The Planet Pavilion Café, overlooking the Lovell Telescope, serves hot food until 3pm – kids’ hotdog and chips (£4) and baked potatoes with cheesy beans (£4.50) for adults – plus sandwiches, cakes and snacks. Get in early — it gets crowded — and wonder at the time on the planets around the solar system displayed on the wall clocks.
Exit through the gift shop?
The gift shop is between the cafe and the ticket office, and has a good mix of fun and educational souvenirs, ranging from T-shirts to a lunch box with the Periodic Table. A book about women in science piqued the interest of my older daughter.
The Centre is just off the A535 near Holmes Chapel. Take junction 18 from the M6 and follow the signs for six miles. Macclesfield train station, on the West Coast Mainline from London Euston to Manchester, is the main station — but it’s a 20-minute taxi ride to the Centre.
Value for money?
Not bad but it’s probably a half-day attraction. Entry is from £7.30 adults, £5.40 kids (ages 4-16), family ticket £24 (2+2) or £28 (2+3). Book online in advance for 10% discount.
Daily from 10am to 5pm with the last admission at 4pm. Closed December 18-26, New Year’s Eve and Day.
8 out of 10. My daughters are not big science fans but there was enough here to get them searching clips of Tomorrow’s World on YouTube.
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