West Park Sundial and Planet Garden

How we built the West Park Sundial plus DIY suggestions

Erewash Borough Council asked the Friends of West Park to redevelop the old putting green, a space 150 metres east to west & 82 metres south to north surrounded by varying amounts of trees. The sundial was placed midway east to west but biased towards the northern boundary, at 25 metres. The ideal site would have infinite horizons but this is seldom available. At our site the altitude of the sun is just under 14 degrees at the winter solstice but the trees on the southern perimeter are deciduous & loose their leaves for several months.

Having decided the location the next problem was to establish a very accurate north - south line for the alignment of the gnomon, by using the shadow of the sun. For this you need to know how many minutes your site is, in front or behind Greenwich, in solar time. Find the longitude of your site (e.g. using Google Earth or a Satnav). Our site is 1.27 degrees west of Greenwich. The sun moves across the sky at a rate of 15 degrees of longitude each hour, i.e. 1 degree every 4 minutes. 1.27 x 4 equals approximately 5 minutes behind Greenwich for our site at West Park, Long Eaton. You then need to consult the 'Equation of Time' graph or look up the daily variation on this page at "Sundials on the Internet". A nail was hammered into the end of a length of straight 50mm x 50mm timber (the taller the better in summer) & guy ropes tied to the nail. The pole was erected vertically & adjusted with great care using a spirit level. Record the position of the shadow with pegs ( 13.00 BST or 12.00 GMT adjusted for the previous two factors). Using a string extend this line well beyond the working area, using extra pegs, in case the original pegs are disturbed ( Video - Sundials and Latitude ).

( Graph of Earth's Tilt and Ellipical Orbit. Taken from: National Maritime Musuem - Shadows and Sundials ).

Our grateful thanks to AGA Rangemaster who made the gnomon at their Long Eaton factory free of charge. It was made from 100mm stainless steel tube & the internal angle between the gnomon & the horizontal brace was set accurately at 52.90 degrees, the latitude of our site. The picture below shows it assembled but awaiting the brushed finish.

Our installation engineer installed the concrete base using a template to position 4 pairs of threaded anchor rods.

The timber formwork was added to mould the plinth. At this stage the gnomon was aligned accurately in 3 dimensions, along the north - south line using the pegs & vertically using metal shims under the four anchoring points. Our thanks to Pettits. The angle of the slope was set by using a spririt level on the horizontal brace.

The positon of the gnomon was permanently set by concreting in the plinth. Our thanks to Acton Timber yard & Arkwell Fasteners for supplies.

After the plinth had matured a 6 metre circle was excavated around the sundial. An edging of 12 lengths of tanalised timber was set in place.

The diagram below (sundial lines for the latitude of West Park, Long Eaton) was transposed onto a larger piece of cardboard, on both sides. Note that the cardboard is positioned correctly for a solid, triangular gnomon. But our template was adjusted a little to the right such that the marks lined up to the centre of the tube rather than the leading edge. ( Sundial Line Calculator ) ( Alternative Sundial Line Calculator ).

The lines on the cardboard were extended to the timber edging, adjusted by 5 minutes (behind Greenwich), the hour markers put in place & the aggregate consolidated. I strongly recommend that you wait for a sunny period to check that you have the alignment correct using the 'Equation of Time' graph or Online Ephemeris. We had several sunless days and I misaligned the hour markers initially! The concrete hour stones were cast in an inverted washing up bowl with the base cut out. Our thanks to Wickes for the concrete mixture. The mosaics set into the hour stones came from Mosaic Heaven at Peterborough, the black mosaics are counted for GMT & the yellow one added for BST.

The sundial has a new noon marker. The marker now includes a summer solstice line calibrated to the suns shadow on June 21st. Our thanks to Ernest Smith (Nottm) Ltd, the monumental masons.

The sundial has a new winter solstice pyramid due north of the sundial. The suns shadow rises up the pyramid during December reaching the top around the 21st of December. Our thanks to Stanton Bonna.

Our thanks to John Whiteman Engineers (Long Eaton) who manufactured the equinox arch FOC. The equinox arch faces due east & west. It frames the sunrise & sunset around March 20th & September 22nd.

Equinox Arch Planting List (Climbing Roses)

Bridge of Sighs,
Blooming Marvellous,
Paul's Scarlet.

Click on any planet in the diagram below, for a photograph of it and a planting list:

Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto

The shrubs, perennials and grasses have been specified by Long Eaton Horticultural Society/Erewash in Bloom to best represent the colours of the planets and provide scent for the unsighted. Committed sponsors shown as at March 2011.

The original concept has been modified by the Erewash Borough Council garden designer:

Information Plinth. Our thanks to Long Eaton Glass.

The sundial has a new interpretation board designed by Depixion Studios, Long Eaton.

The British Sundial Society added a 3 page article on the project. The article may be read here.

The palm garden was the first project by the Friends of West Park & was conceived & the varieties specified, by the late Keith Breakwell. 15 were planted in 2008. Two very severe winters followed that decimated the less hardy varieties. Therefore those recommended for our area are Trachycarpus Fortunei & Chamaerops Humilis. Keith had originally planted a Cordyline Australis which had grown to 5 metres in 2008, only to be cut back by the frosts. But with the dead trunk removed it sprouted again to three metres high, only to be set on fire by yobs. Undaunted it is growing again. Snow should be removed from palms to aid survival.

Other Attractions in West Park

Astronomical Observatory at The Long Eaton School

West Park Outdoor Gym

For further information email Stuart at: westparksundial@btinternet.com