Embrace the Darkness

By Ashleigh Naysmith

It’s that time of year again; the mornings are feeling colder, the evenings are getting darker and you start to consider whether to hibernate until the spring. But just you wait a minute! There is a whole host of wonderful things to do on an autumn or winter evening with just a little help from some thermals, a Filo jacket and a Gamma or Manta

Here in the UK the clocks go back at the end of October and by midwinter we will have lost around 8 hours of daylight each day compared to midsummer. So don't hold back and whether doing something extreme or not, simply go and make the most of your evenings. That could be lying out stargazing during an overnight bivvy, heading out night running, or simply going for a walk around the local nature reserve. To get things going here are just a few alternative or quirky suggestions where a headtorch may come in useful.

For the animal lovers:
There is a vast array of creatures that keep hidden until sundown, and the early evenings are a perfect opportunity to grab a Filo down jacket (and perhaps a MytiMug for coffee) and go seek them out.

Bat Hunts.Bats are most active during warmer months so get in there quick before they snuggle down for winter.There are many bat hunts/ walks that you can just tag along with across the UK. The walks are regularly run at many National Trust sites. However, if you fancy something a bit more informal, take a stroll around your local area, they can be found in towns and cities as well as the countryside. Barns, bridges and trees are popular roosting spots for bats!

Owl Walk.For something a little more feathered, try an owl walk. Many of the walks include some up-close and even hands-on experience with the owls. For an example close to Alpkit HQ, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire is hosting an Owl Walk with a spooky twist on 26th October.

Wolf Howl Nights.For an experimental encounter with wolves, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust runs monthly howl nights which consist of a talk on wolves, focusing on their communication and most specifically their vocalisations. Following this, there will be an opportunity to howl and see how the wolves respond!
There are also various Walks with Wolves that run across the UK which involve a magical walk through woodland and forests with a pack of wolves, led by an expert handler.

For the Adrenaline Junkies:
Night-time Sea Kayakingfor those who already know their way around a kayak during daylight hours, why not step things up a notch and take a trip in the dark! Of course, safety precautions will need to be adhered to but once satisfied then paddling at night will provide a journey with a whole new perspective. Paddling through moon-reflecting waters under a starlit sky - what could be a more idyllic way to spend an evening!

Night-time Surfing or Paddle Boardingis described as ‘utterly incredible and completely terrifying’. Surfing at night can be likened to floating in space, albeit with the sound of crashing waves. If you prefer something a little gentler, Stand Up Paddle Boarding would be a calmer introduction to low light wave riding! Gets more extreme the closer you get to midwinter! Okay, so you might not need the head torch while you're in the water, but it will help while heating a nice warm brew for afterwards.

Night-time Mountain Biking.Think that red trail you whizzed through the other day was easy? Try it after sunset and let me know how you get on! Biking with limited vision adds a whole host of new challenges on technical trails. Good lighting and warm layers are a must.

Night-time Paintballinggives you the thrill of dodging balls of paint when you can’t see them, fantastic! Glow sticks and glow in the dark paintballs are optional.

For the Competitive:
Zombie Night Run is an 8km night trail run up hills, through bogs, mud, water, obstacles and dark forests. Participants choose to either run as a zombie or a survivor. Survivors get a head start and then the zombies are unleashed to chase the survivors and capture their life tags as they run round the course. There is even an After Dead Party following the run.

The Mighty Deerstalker Rat Raceis one of the toughest off road runs in the UK crafted by some sadistic route planners with the dress code consisting of tweed and the occasional pipe. The notorious deerstalker course consists of a 10km run with hills, splash zones and an assortment of natural and manmade obstacles. A Gamma is a necessity!

Night Trailquestis a mountain bike orienteering race in the dark! Competitors can ride solo or in teams of 2, navigating from location to location.

For the family:
Halloween Trails.Enjoy some spooky night-time fun! There are many events to choose from with the National Trust again offering a good selection of ghost stories and walks, to pumpkin and potion trails.

Crow Wood Spooky Trail
Lyme Park, Cheshire, 21 October - 3 November, 11am-3pm

Hallowe'en Half Term Trails
Attingham Park, Shropshire, 26 October - 3 November, 10am-4pm

Spooky Pumpkin Trail
Dunster Castle, Somerset, 26 October - 3 November,11am-3pm

Hallowe'en at the Mill
Houghton Mill, Cambridgeshire, 26 October, 5.30pm - 7.30pm

Witches and Wizards Potion Trail
Lacocky Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village, Wiltshire, 26 October - 3 November, 10.30am-5.30pm

Scary Hallowe'en Trail
Sheringham Park, Norfolk, 26 October - 3 November, 10am-4.15pm

Pumpkin Trail
Stowe, Buckinghamshire, 26 October - 3 November, 10am-6pm

Half-term children's Hallowe'en trails
Treasurer's House, North Yorkshire, 26 October - 3 November,11am-4.30pm (closed Fridays)

Hallowe'en trail
Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire, 28-30 October and 1-3 November, 11am-4pm

Spook patrol
Montacute House, Somerset, 31 October, 4.30pm-5.30pm

Headtorch Scavenger Hunt.Create a list of items for the kids to find in the garden (or other specified outdoor space) after sunset such as leaves, rocks, bugs and flowers. Don’t forget to hide some glow sticks for added magic! Variations such as finding specific colours or species can be used for older children.

Find a Festival.Autumn nights are a wonderful time to share seasonal food around a fire, listening to storytellers or folk music. There are all sorts of undiscovered events all over the UK. A local one to me is Tales and Tunes at the Penny Pot in Edale which in includes feasting and folk music in the heart of the Peak. Can’t wait!

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