The StarDisc is a 21st century stone circle, a 40ft, (12 metre) diameter star chart etched into black granite. Sitting high above the Ecclesbourne Valley and Wirksworth village atop a hill, the StarDisc is a perfect location for stunning views on a good day and by night, the constellation chart will guide you as you stargaze at the night sky.
After dusk the stone circle is gently illuminated and makes a perfect spot to admire and study the stars above you. The StarDisc was the creation of renowned visual artist Aiden Shingler and opened on the 10th of September 2011.
The launch evening was attended by more than a thousand well-wishers. It was opened by BBC Sky at Night presenter Pete Lawrence and esteemed amateur astronomer and co Presenter Sir Patrick Moore.
The celebrations included an under the stars, screening of Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The location is close to Stoney Woods, and this is a beautiful way to reach the top of the hill because the woodland contains some interesting installations too which you can visit on your way up to ascend to the stars.
The location has been a lovely setting for many community events since its opening and many more to come.
Stardisc’s three fold ethos is:
- Champion the unification of Art, Science, and Spirituality.
- Celebrate diversity, common humanity, and shared cultural heritage.
- Cherish our home planet, the gift of life, and our place amongst the stars.
Aidan Shingler was born in London and now lives in Derbyshire. He has worked as an artist, writer, and activist (or as he prefers to describe himself, Reality Tester) for four decades. Through his work he celebrates life and the universe.
His exhibitions have toured the United Kingdom. He was curator of the 1990 Visions show at the Royal College of Art and is creator of StarDisc, a 21st century stone circle and celestial amphitheater located in the Derbyshire Dales.
Aidan is the co-founder of the StarDisc Trust, and his art is included in permanent collections:
- Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art
- The University of Nottingham, School of Medicine
- County Hall, Derbyshire
Star Gazing Tips
Some people might think that they need to purchase quite expensive equipment to try stargazing or they might need expert advice, but to start with it can be just as satisfying to go outside and just look up and admire the night sky in all its glory.
Of course, wrap up warm so that you’ll enjoy the experience without feeling the cold of the night air. At certain times of the year, you have a high chance of seeing shooting stars in the night sky which can be quite exciting to experience.
Try if you can, to find a place without too much light pollution which will obscure the full view of the sky and it will make it hard to see the stars with enough clarity.
Let your eyes adapt to the darkness for a while, leave your phone in your pocket and turn off any headlamps or torches so that you can naturally adapt to the low night light once you are at the location you want to star gaze from.
Looking up into the sky you will see that some stars look brighter than others. Every star is a distant Sun, which is a strange thought really.
Star trails and other night photography are another interesting past time too but will need different equipment to get the right results.
A constellation is an area on the celestial sphere in which a group of visible stars forms a perceived outline or pattern, typically representing an animal, mythological subject, or inanimate object. The origins of the earliest constellations likely go back to prehistory.
The most prominent figure in the sky is probably the Big Dipper (Note: The Big Dipper is not a constellation). These bright stars, four forming the “bowl,” three more tracing out the “handle” create one of the most recognizable patterns in the night sky, an ideal guide for locating surrounding constellations.
Polaris is the brightest star in Ursa Minor the Little Bear, which contains the Little Dipper, and like its big brother, the Little Dipper is made up of seven stars — four in the bowl, and three in the handle. Because four of its stars are dim, the Little Dipper is hard to see in light-polluted skies which often the main problem for star gazing.
Try to trace a line from the bowl of the Big Dipper past the North Star and continue it an equal distance beyond, you’ll arrive at an eye-catching group of stars that form a distinct letter M or W. This is Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia.
Orion is the focal point of a stunning gathering of bright stars and constellations. The belt points down and to the left to a brilliant white star: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, leader of the constellation Canis Major the Great Dog. Sirius always dazzles, but the star especially captivates when positioned near the horizon.
Wirksworth village is an inspiring place, with impressive stone buildings and steeped in history and heritage, there are little lanes, and country foot paths, it is such a picturesque village.
The village was also admired by the writer DH Laurance who spent some time living and writing here. Its fortunes were built on the mining of lead, quarrying, and textiles, which were introduced by industrial pioneer Sir Richard Arkwright at Haarlem Mill, it is considered by some to be the mill in George Eliot’s novel The Mill on the Floss.
Eliot is also thought to have based the fictional town of Snowfield in another novel, Adam Bede, on Wirksworth.
There is a lot to take in on a visit to Wirksworth, with a lot of places to see and activities to do.
The Wirksworth village area is close to the Tissington Trail where you can walk through the Derbyshire countryside for miles and discover much of the area’s mining and railway heritage through the information plaques along the trail and see remains of the train track and parts of the disused limestone quarries along the route.
Nearby is the National Stone Centre, the Mount Cook Adventure Centre and the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway which runs from Wirksworth to Duffield and the railway has a Station Café that is
Set in a converted railway carriage, the Station Café at Wirksworth is open every operating day serving freshly made sandwiches, hot snacks, savouries, confectionary and drinks.
The National Stone Centre
The National Stone Centre is run by a small group of volunteers and is set within six former limestone quarries in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, right on the edge of the Peak District National Park, and close to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, the National Stone Centre (NSC) is a 40-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), for its geological formations. There are also outdoor fossil trails around the site which is free to access. There is a visitor centre with shop, café and “Building Britain” Exhibition, Geo walks and picnic areas, and a children’s play area.
Location of the Star Disc in Wirksworth
The location is at Stoney Wood, Wirksworth, Derbyshire, UK, Planet Earth
Post Code: DE4 4EN
Latitude: 53.0859 N Longitude: 1.5781 W
Grid Reference SK 28356 54381
The StarDisc is free to visit and is open to anyone and everyone, 24hrs a day, all year round.
There is free parking available in Wirksworth Village from the main road, two good sized car parks are sign posted from the road side and public foot paths from each car park lead to the StarDisc and to the Tissington Trail, access is also available to the National Stone Centre which is just a short distance away.
There is a lot to take in throughout the area and I can assure you that you will fall in love with the area and want to return to the Star Disc over again to see the views in the day time and star gaze at night.