Planetarium planned for underground Victorian reservoir

Image source, Sherwood Observatory
Image caption,
If the planetarium receives funding, it would open in 2023

An underground Victorian reservoir could become the site of a new planetarium in plans revealed by a Nottinghamshire observatory.

The Sherwood Observatory, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, has drawn up £4.25m plans to use the 23m (75ft) cavern as an exhibition and teaching space with a planetarium above ground.

The volunteer-run centre has been in talks with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If funding is obtained, the site could open in 2023.

'Big, circular space'

"The plan would be to raise some of the funds ourselves and we are in discussions with other potential backers," said project manager Steve Wallace.

"The next stage will be to firm up a detailed design and submit a bid."

He said if the plans go ahead the site, which before the coronavirus lockdown was attracting 3,000 visitors a year, would become one of a few UK destinations to combine a planetarium with an observatory.

Image source, Sherwood Observatory
Image caption,
The underground reservoir used to hold water for the area in Victorian times

"The reservoir used to hold water for Kirkby and Sutton-in-Ashfield," he said.

"It was dug in the 1880s and the whole thing was mounded over with soil.

"It's a big, circular space, currently standing empty.

"The idea is that we have half of it as an exhibition space and use the other half to create classrooms for teaching."

The 10m (32ft) wide planetarium dome would sit above ground.

Image source, Sherwood Observatory
Image caption,
The underground reservoir would be transformed into teaching and exhibition spaces

"It would bring back into use a piece of disused Victorian infrastructure and could be really good for tourism in the county," Mr Wallace added.

The attraction received £36,000 emergency funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund over the summer following damage caused by a landslip on the site, following torrential rain.

Ros Kerslake, the fund's chief executive, said: "We are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as Sherwood Observatory during this uncertain time."

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