It is only relatively recently that artificial light has pushed the boundaries of our day into the darkness of the night. Wills describes the thrill of arriving somewhere in the early morning at a place that bears no relation to the night before as perhaps the nearest most of us come to performing a magic trick. His journeys through moorland, mountain and forest shine a light into Britain’s dark hours and include a night in the Galloway Hills, at the heart of Britain’s first Dark Sky Park, and a hike to creepy and creaking oak trees high on the slopes of Dartmoor.
Dixe spent a long, memorable evening with the extraordinary Manx shearwaters out on Skomer and couldn’t resist an old Welsh legend that says a night on top of Cadair Idris will turn you into either a poet or a madman. A thunderstorm in Sherwood Forest meant some of his time was spent in pitch-black bus shelters and, while Robin Hood would have been warm and cosy inside a tree, Dixe ended up staring straight into the eyes of a startled otter.
He then chugged between Fort William and Euston on the Caledonian Sleeper, cycled overnight to watch dawn over the North Sea and wandered right across London in the footsteps of a nocturnal Charles Dickens. Darkness can be eerie and disorientating, but it offers unusual sights, sounds and smells as well as unexplained flashing lights and, at times, the occasional mythical beast.
AT NIGHT: A Journey Round Britain from Dusk to Dawn by Dixe Wills; AA Publishing; £16.99 (hardback)
This review was published in the August 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine