Walking by moonlight

Walking by moonlight

To walk under a bright Moon at night is quite different to walking the same route by day.

For a couple of days around Full Moon, when the Moon is 90% or more illuminated, it shines with an intensity that few town dwellers appreciate. It is bright enough that I can see colours, it’s not all pale greys, and at its peak I can even read by it, just.

When the Moon is nearly overhead at Full Moon, during the winter months, the landscape can look like it is lit by a strange pale Sun. It is a little less high in autumn or spring so you get more shadows and in summer it is very low, but between May and July we have no true night in southern England so the combination of Moon and twilight is enough to see by.

If you walk from day to night the texture of the landscape changes. The rich deep blues, reds and oranges and the green and brown of foliage fade into a mass of dark background. White, yellow and pale blue stand out from the darkness.

If you want to take a walk at night here are some practicalities:

Do not walk anywhere you feel insecure and it is strongly recommended you walk with someone else (following current social distancing restrictions). Take a torch and a charged mobile phone, check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the conditions.

If you intend to walk by Moonlight, chose an open route - woodland can be very shaded even in winter when there are no leaves. Allow 15+ minutes in the dark to adapt, this is a chemical process so can’t be rushed. Take it slowly; trip hazards are easy to miss.

If you use a torch, try and use a red light as it does not destroy your night vision like white light. It also seems to cause less disturbance to wildlife. Do take a regular torch anyway, you may find the clouds roll in and it is darker than you expected. Safety first every time.

What to look out for:

There will be lots of wildlife active at night, so pay attention for their sounds and movement. The white of a barn owl flying close by, the rustle of small mammals in the undergrowth and the bark of a fox. In spring and summer you may also see bats and badgers.

Remember it is not about how many miles the journey is, but how enjoyable the whole experience is.