If I haven’t said in a blog before, I have certainly said to others that one of the benefits of this job is that being outdoors almost all the time gives you a good chance to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of the natural world.
I got myself equipped to do this again by sticking what looks like a chef’s hat on to the end of a telescope to create a safe eclipse viewer. Here it is working in the garden at home.
I brought it with me on Friday 20th March 2015 to view the partial solar eclipse and this is what the sky looked like; with the best will in the world, arguably our boiler wasn’t really helping matters…
Ash and I ended up setting off as planned to carry on with our repairs to the fence that surrounds the grazing enclosure. At about 9:10, we were climbing Kidd’s Hill and just as we exited the woodland I saw a light patch of cloud moving and it was getting brighter. It carried on getting brighter and then WE SAW THE ECLIPSE!!!
It was hanging there, this big crescent sun handily masked enough by the cloud so we could view it safely just by looking at it. It’s kind of hard to describe how it felt because it’s just not a shape you’re used to seeing in the sky.
I think we could see it for about 30 seconds, but it could have been less. We pulled into Gills Lap car park and I tried to get the attention of a group of people by shouting and pointing but the message didn’t get through quick enough. I didn’t get a photo of it, but I don’t really mind.
We waited for about 5 minutes and as the cloud was getting nothing but thicker, we moved on to where we were going to be working on the fence near Kings Standing and I perfected the art, as best I could, of mending a fence while looking up.
It then got dark and cold. 9:30 (when the eclipse would have been at its strongest) came and went. This all brought memories back for me of watching the total solar eclipse of 1999 down in Devon, looking up constantly for anything that might be a break in the clouds.
The next time we saw the sun was at about 10:30 and maybe the sun was covered by 2% of the moon by then but that’s being very optimistic. I did rather optimistically try my gadget but the sun wasn’t strong enough for it to work.
When we got back, I had obviously been very pre-occupied because when I took my hat off, I found I’d been carrying round a bit of gorse and hadn’t noticed. Apparently others had!
My telescope/chef’s hat arrangement never did get used for the eclipse but at the end of the day I got it out and used it in our yard so at least it was used on the day, if not for the main event but those 30 seconds had made it a really magic Ashdown Forest day for me!
Editor’s note – some of Tom’s photos from around the Forest are currently on display in the Information Barn