Night hike! Along the Ouse to Little Thetford

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

Little Thetford moorings
Little Thetford moorings (image by Hugh and borrowed from

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.

The night sky over the River Great Ouse
The night sky over the River Great Ouse

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.

7 thoughts on “Night hike! Along the Ouse to Little Thetford

  1. Good planning, the bottle of Green King! And actually the photo is pretty good – the only problem being that it is a bit grainy. I do night walks in the summer, always at full moon – if there’s no cloud a head torch isn’t always necessary.

  2. I thought the photo was beautiful. Loved your mad axe murderer of Ely – it reminded me of one of your and Lucy’s games when trekking in the Lake District. Do you remember? You always said you were playing the Mad Rapist of Hampstead Heath – a headline you had picked up from one of the racier local papers.

  3. @Steve – a bottle of beer always plays a part in my hiking plans

    @maggie – yes, I do remember : )

  4. East Anglia and the Fens is just stacked full of fantastic river walks.
    A long time back I did an all night bike ride from London to Dunwich,
    finished with breakfast on the beach, and a sore backside.

  5. I love night hikes! Once I get over reacting to every little sound, I settle in and begin to enjoy myself. For me the most disturbing thing on a night walk is shining my headlamp into the woods and seeing a pair of eyes reflect back at me. More than likely a docile animal, like a deer, but it always motivates me to quicken my pace.

    1. I think there is an instinctual fear of being in the woods at night, I spend a lot of time trying to rationalise my thoughts and calm my mind. It takes a little while to do this but the rewards are great!

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