A couple of weeks ago I walked my first ever night hike. Obviously, I’ve walked in the dark before but this is the first time I’ve purposefully set out on such a journey.
One of the benefits of living out in the sticks are the wonderful skies on a clear night and I’ve often stopped in the centre of Paradise playing field on the way home from work on a winter’s evening and gazed up at the moon and stars.
For night hiking it’s best to take a route one already knows, so the Ouse river bank up to Little Thetford was an easy choice, it’s kind of hard to get lost with the river on one side, there is, of course, the danger of stumbling into the river but I felt confident that wasn’t going to happen. Also, there is a bench at the Little Thetford moorings where I could sit and drink a bottle of beer and enjoy the night in relative comfort.
Here’s what the moorings look like in the daytime
So I set off at about 7.30pm, picked up a bottle of Greene King IPA bitter on the way, and was on the river by 7.45.
The sun had set some time ago but there remained a strong glow in the west. A slither of the new moon shone above, followed closely by a bright Venus and fainter Jupiter. I took a few photos but they didn’t come out that well.
One of the interesting things about the hike was the tendency for my mind to start spinning scare stories, i.e. being ambushed by the mad Ely axe murderer or hoodlums in general but this was easy to deal with when noticed and actually became quite funny after a while.
By 8pm it was dark, though not that dark. There were lights from the trains on my right and cars on an A road half a mile to my left. Farm lights and other such enterprises contributed to the light pollution. Most of the noise was provided by birds, either singing or flying or landing on the surface of the river. The most noise came from two angry swans, facing up to each other for a late-night ruck.
I arrived at the bench, opened the beer and stretched out full length with my rucksack as a pillow. There were two boats moored-up, I saw a curtain open in one, the occupant looked out at me, probably a little suspicious, perhaps I was the mad Ely axe murderer mentioned above?
I drank from the bottle and looked up into the sky, toasting Luna and her lovely sister planets and stars. I thought of some lyrics from a Pixies song:
“when you look at the sky in a poetic kind of way
you know when you grope for luna.” (Subbacultcha)
With the last drop of bitter finished I noticed the temperature had dropped somewhat. I slipped into my jacket, pulled the rucksack on and, whistling a Charlie Parker tune, began the walk back home.