The Beginners meetings are held every third Wednesday of each month from September through to June the following year. We do not always have a set June meeting and sometimes have an outing with an astronomical theme. We do not have set meetings for the summer months July and August but the Society does have occasional summer events. We currently meet at St, Mary's Church Hall, Greenham. The Wednesday evening meetings start at 7 o'clock and aim to finish at about 9 o'clock but observing may continue outside if it is clear.

During the evening short presentations or demonstrations are given by members of our own Society and occasionally guest speakers. These talks and demonstrations are pitched at the beginner to astronomy and are therefore kept simple and easy to understand. We have a break at about 8 o'clock for drinks and snack (biscuits or cake) this provides a point where young children can slip away if they need to get to bed. If the sky is clear we will always try to spend time outside with the telescopes doing some practical observing. The atmosphere is always very friendly.

In 1991 the first Junior Section meeting was held at the Bistro Restaurant on Newbury Racecourse. The Bistro had a room which could be used for talks and there was space outside for observing and the meetings thrived. Meetings were held at the Bistro for four years but gradually the number of lights around the venue increased making observing difficult. It also became apparent that many parents and grandparents were coming along with the children until eventually the numbers of adults equalled the children. In 1998 it was decided to re-launch the Junior Section as the Beginners Section and open it more widely to the local community. The organisers also felt that the experience they had gained over the first years would allow them to expand the programme. More emphasis was to be placed on practical observing so a darker site would be needed.

In 1998 the venue was moved to the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre where the indoor facilities were excellent and the view of the night sky across the lake is as good as anywhere in the Newbury area. The Beginners Section numbers increased to around 40 and on occasions up to 55. During the major uplift at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre in 2005 and 2006 the Beginners Section had to move to St Mary's Church Hall, Greenham. On completion of the work at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre the Beginners Section planned to return but the flood of 2006 seriously damaged the new facilities. The Beginners Section had also grown in numbers we were compelled to continue our meetings at St Mary's Church Hall and continue to meet there to date.

A young member using the society's 200mm (8") telescope

Things are looking good for this session with a number of new telescopes available for people to use. We have a programme of short introductory level talks for the session which looks exciting and weather permitting, the observing sessions with views of the planets, promise to be breathtaking. There is no need for formal membership but enrolling as a full member saves some of the cost of attending and entitles the member to attend all society meetings (including the Main Speaker Meetings) with no extra charge. Meetings are open to people of all ages but children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

The Beginners meetings begin at 7:00 and end at around 9:00. They are very informal and friendly with light refreshments provided at no extra charge.


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