I love an adventure, but the trouble with adventures is that its hard to fit them in when you have a family, a busy worklife and a limited resource of time and money, so like many people I know I have been inspired by the book Microadventures . Its author Alistair Humphreys is a fully fledged moutaineering, Amazon-canoeing, rufty tufty type of guy, but here he advocates for a simpler, closer to home sort of adventure, taking the spirit of new, exhilerating experiences and distilling them into the weekend, day or even few hours that you may have at your disposal. Sounds perfect!
So in January a few of us, met in the pub and committed to a year of Microadventuring; twelve do-able mini adventures that would take us out of our comfort zone and open ourselves up to simple challenge and new discoveries. We made a list of ideas including wild camping, wild swimming and mapless exploring (and some other ideas which maybe don’t quite stand up in the sober light of day!) and got our diaries out. Perhaps the easiest on the list was a full moon walk, so we checked the calendar and arranged to meet at St Ives estate at the next full moon, 3 February.
As eight excited adults and children standing in the car park, we were a little disappointed that the only light in the sky was the orange glow from nearby Bingley and Bradford beyond it. We all know this woodland well, being the site of many of our dog walks, family bike rides and some of Get Out More’s forest school programmes. Even so setting off into the woods it felt eerily different; far quieter and still than in the daylight hours. A hazy moon peeped out of the clouds just long enough to feel like a good omen. With eyes not used to the dark, we found our feet were feeling their way, understanding the path from the rise and fall of the ground. We stopped to listen to the woodland sounds but there was still too much traffic noise and giggling to feel we had immersed ourselves in the nocturnal woodland just yet. But later on as we crossed a snow filled field up towards an abandoned barn, a hooting owl silenced us and soon there seemed to a woodland full of owls screeching and hooting to each other, perhaps warning each other of our presence. Familiar sights became strange shapes looming out of the darkness; the silhoettes of horses, a vast electricity pylon. Walking along a rough track we saw the lights of a car and stepped to the side to allow it past, but it spookily made no noise as it approached. Only as it passed us was it clear it was a couple cyclists riding two abreast, looking surprised to see families out walking at night.
We tried to tell the children stories of the ghosts, giants and the legend behind St Ives’ peculiar stone coffin, but they ran ahead to wave at us from a bridge, when suddenly the moon cleared the clouds and cast clear shadows on the ground, creating a cheer from the group. We stopped to admire its reflection on the ice of the coppice pond and shared a warming nip of last of September’s plum vodka. The children were happy with a handful of sherbet pips and making strange pinging sounds by skimming pebbles across the ice.
By now with our night accustomed eyes and the bright light of the full moon, we had become totally confident walking through the woods, taking the darker path back to the car park and admiring the shapes and colours of the moon shining through the branches of the bare winter trees. Back at the van, we tracked the movement of stars with our fingers and identified the constellations we knew as we waited for the kettle to boil and cook the Pot Noodles which we had brought as our post-adventure feast. As adventures go it may be of the micro micro variety, but it still felt like an exhilerating and refreshing thing to do on a Tuesday evening in winter. It made me realise than the dark nights of winter do not have to mean hibernating indoors; an evening’s stroll at night helps me to see the ordinary world in a different light and feel all the more alive for doing it.