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Hello from a place near Southampton

Panda Alvin

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Hi there – fresh blood here planning to get started in astronomy. Please feel free to refer me as Alvin.

I have always been interested in the stars since I was little, but have also been the black sheep of my friends and family when it comes to space and astronomy.  Now that I have some spending money, I would like to have a go and pursue this hobby on my own and maybe with my wife.  I have been doing basic researching for over a year (and trying to hold dearly onto my wallet), and now at the point where I think it is almost time to buy a telescope.

Got to admit, I had changed my mind a few times on what telescope / OTA I want during this period.  I have now mostly settled on the Skymax 127 + AZ GTI for grab and go. It also fits my definition of an “all-rounder” at the budget I can currently afford.

As I have mentioned, for the past year I looked around many different sources for information and have mostly understood the basics of astronomy. However fear not, there are still plenty more of stoopid questions coming from me for you guys to laugh over ?, and I look forward to meeting and chatting to you all.



Oh, if there are South Hants / Eastern Dorset locals here I have a question for you. (Sorry if this should be another post / sub forum, let me know and I’ll move). I have started scouting potential dark sites as part of my criteria on my final telescope decision, and wondering if you guys have any nearby that you would share ?

I live in Eastleigh which is around 5 - 6 on the bortle scale and surrounded by street lights. I am trying to look for a darker site within 30 minutes’ drive (around 15 miles) with low tree / shrubs cover. I would like to have a dabble looking at fainter deep sky objects (I am aware of restricted FOV on the Mak 127).

The only decent dark sites I managed to find was a series of open carparks around the north east of New Forest, which is a class 4. However, this parts gets really interesting - I initially thought my main obstacles in that area were the herds of deer’s, ponies, cattle and maybe a stray pig roaming around, passing by and knocking over the equipment… and man was I so wrong my hands are all the way down.

Driving around the area, I noticed some carparks had quite a few vehicles in them (and this was around 11pm – 1am). I initially thought these were resting stops, and I parked at a quieter one to acclimatise my eyes. However, a stranger from neighbouring cars parked about 15 meters away walked up to the rear side of my car.

I asked if I could help, the person thought my car had a "couple" because somehow I showed a wrong signal. Few minuites later, another car came from the road and parked near me. The second man who is much much older walked up, I spoke to him but he mumbled something and walked off. Needless to say, I got the general idea of the situation and drove off. Eventually I found a parking with no vehicles, but wow, still these people are persistent and will drive between sites to sites looking for opportunities (and it’s certainly not to look at the beautiful night sky).

When I finally get a telescope, I don’t want end up attracting unwanted attention while waving my “attractive” red torch about trying to set my scope up. Imagine the fun trying to explain to these initially enthusiastic misled strangers what is going on.

Me and my wife are also fairly introverted. I was slightly unrested from the ordeal, she would probably have a shock if she comes and ends up gets approached. If that happens she would probably lose any interest and probably bar me from going there.

Any advice would be much appreciated !

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Welcome Alvin,

I lived in Market Street Eastleigh for many years, (made famous by Benny Hill's song Ernie - the fastest milkman in the west, "He galloped into Market Street, His Gold Top In His Hand").

Shame about the "goings on" in the New Forest! ?

I know south Hants like the back of my hand and I would suggest CheeseFoot Head car park on the A272 east of Winchester as a great dark site reasonably near to you.

Take a look at Google Street Level view.....


Hope this helps.


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Thanks Geoff – If you don’t live nearby anymore, they actually got a street named after him in one of the newer residential estates near town. There’s also a plaque for him near the shopping centre. I actually didn’t know him before I moved to Eastleigh but it’s hard not to now !

Regarding Cheesefoot head, have you had any experience setting up over there before ? I actually went there the day before and I struggled to find suitable spot to deploy. The grass and shrubs near the car park was very tall, and the fields were planted + fenced off. Not sure what the situation is like in the winter. Could attempt to park at the end and set up the scope on tarmac at front or back of car, but the trees directly to the east will probably cover and block a good 60 - 90 degrees of the sky.

I also went to the old Winchester hill near West Meon, have to say the sight was amazing on the hill fort as I went there first and the sun had just set; maybe a good spot for a picnic in the future. Unfortunately the site was also quite a trek and path is covered with tree / bushed from car park. Can be done but very awkward carrying equipment around at such distance.

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No unfortunately I never had a scope when I lived there. Now in Oz since 2006 and have a new 12 inch Dobsonian.

I was back home in the area in 2015 and saw the old Pirelli factory site is now a housing estate with Benny's street name. Most of my family are still in Southampton area.

To be honest there are numerous dark sites all around the area between Winchester and say Bishops Waltham, Owslebury, Corhampton etc. Just need a decent size lay-by to pull into and away you go.

Clear skies!

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Welcome to the forum, Alvin.  Your experiences of attempting to find accessible dark sky sites that aren’t populated by assorted druggies, weirdos and creeps mirror my own?...  I thought maybe it was just my locale but perhaps it’s the same everywhere.  The only solution is to try and get into a like-minded group and turn up at a site mob-handed.  And even that sometimes fails to deter the nutters....

This forum often gives details of “star parties”.  Whilst the thought of camping is anathema to me personally, it does seem like a great way to get experience of observing from dark skies in the company of the like minded and supportive.

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4 minutes ago, cletrac1922 said:

Welcome Alvin from Land Down Under

Geoff, if you make it up my way, drop in on one of our club meets




Very kind of you John, it's a shame you're not exactly just up the road!

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Welcome to this friendly forum, Alvin, from a German stargazer (purely visual).

Just in case, you didn't come across this up to now, have a look at this:


Hope this helps; enjoy, and good luck with the search for a spot (and the scope); keep asking here.



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Sorry for the delay in getting back to you with this - in truth, I forgot!

Anyway, it was at a place called Turf Hill. There is a track that leads down to a carpark, which is away from the road. The main problem is that between the 'carpark' area and the grassy area that is great for setting up scopes is what was known as the "ditch of death", with which you need to be very careful in the dark.

I hope this link works.

EDIT: It seems to!

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Thanks for the warm welcome again people.

Cheers Demonperformer, and no worries about it at all haha. Turf Hill is actually one on my list to scout next, the other being Telegraph hill and Deadman hill which is next door. Its certainly given me a confidence boost that I am looking at a better area.

Also thanks for the heads up, ill watch my step when I'm there.  Sky permitting, I will probably visit these lot this or next weekend, will report back when I'm done. ?

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Hi Alvin,

Did you by any chance end up at Stoney Cross when you had your unsettling experience? Steer clear of the car parks at Stoney Cross as our observing group (Fordingbridge Astronomers) have had reports of such goings on in that area.

There was a group observing regularly at Turf Hill but I don't know if they still do.

Fordingbridge Astronomers observe at Hyde Common near Fordingbridge.

Further west, Cranborne Chase has very good dark skies.

I believe that there is also a group with an observatory on the downs north of Portsmouth.

I'm in Poole myself so tend to observe on Cranborne Chase and near Swanage when I want a dark site.

I would imagine that up on the downs around Winchester would be good and not too far from you.

@Rob and @Jonk might have some suggestions in the more immediate area.

Two of the problems with the New Forest are the Southampton Light Dome to the east and then the light dome from Fawley Refinery towards the south east. I grew up in the New Forest but I remember much darker skies that what I see now. ?

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