THIS is unusual, if not unique: a woman priest who is also an
amateur astronomer who has helped found an observatory in her
parish, in Chester diocese.
The Vicar of High Legh, the Revd Jennifer Croft (left),
is a Senior Research Fellow at Warwick University, was a medical
scientist before she was ordained, and has had a lifelong interest
in astronomy. Together with Mark Holmes, a graduate chemist who
also got hooked on astronomy as a child, and has had it as a
"serious hobby" ever since, she has founded the High Legh Community
Observatory, with the help of a local steering group.
They have received grants from WREN, a not-for-profit
environmental company; Cheshire East Council; and High Legh Parish
Council. The land was offered by Tim and Janet Harrison, at Abbey
Leys Farm, High Legh.
The observatory consists of a fenced area with a dome and warm
room, and there is a Meade 6-inch refractor, a Meade 12-inch
Schmidt-Cassegrain, and a 12-inch Newtonian telescope. The
telescopes allow people to observe the sun safely, the moon, and
the planets of the solar system, as well as deep space.
It is open to all, Miss Croft says, "and will help to promote
science and astronomy. It will engage with the science-and-religion
debate, and will work closely with both primary and secondary
schools. It will help us explore the bigger questions of life and
the universe. It is open to anyone of all abilities and ages."