And that’s the end of summertime for another year

Published 31 October 2011

Canary Wharf Clocks

Well that’s that then. British Summer Time is gone for another year and the UK is back to Greenwich Mean Time. And whilst the change is (apparently) very good for the Scottish farmer who has lots of nice light in the morning, it’s a terrible one for the walker.

During September and October I’ve spent a few days walking the North Downs Way (my exploits of which will appear on Rambling Man at some other point) but the way I needed to split up the walk in order to access railway stations and such line, often meant me doing days of 15-17 miles. Even with heading out of London as early as I could (well as early as I could force myself out of bed anyway) I was generally setting off around 10pm, and finishing between four and five in the afternoon. With the sun setting around six in October it wasn’t too bad.

But now with the clocks changing and the nights naturally drawing in such long distances won’t happen. For the walker who doesn’t want to get up at 5am every day, this time of year doesn’t leave many options. Walks need to be kept short. Twelve miles max. By the end of November the sun will be gone by 4pm. Do too long a walk and the chances of the dark plunging down on you are suddenly high.

Funnily enough I’ve only been “benighted” once in my life although whilst on the Pennine Way we came very close. The darkness was just approaching as we stumbled in to Dufton YHA.

In fact the only time I’ve been benighted was in the South East of England on a day walk. It was on a walk from a tome called The Time Out Book of Country Walks, which I keep meaning to blog about and somehow never do. The walk instructions in the book are so detailed that one reviewer proclaimed “I defy you to get lost”, which obviously got emblazoned on the back cover.

Naturally I took this to be a challenge and a not particularly hard one. See, whilst I can follow maps wonderfully, give me a book where every aspect of a walk is detailed minutely (“go along a car wide track for 250m, bearing 208 degrees”) and I’ll soon lose track of where I am in the book, miss a bit or misread something else and bam, I’ve headed off the wrong way. Give me a route mapped on one of the Ordnance Survey’s finest and I’ll follow it and almost never get lost. Give me detailed instructions in text and I’m screwed.

Which is why instead of completing the walk by seeing some beautiful views during a half hour gentle stroll in to town and a railway station, I did it walking alongside a busy dual carriage way in the pitch black with absolutely no idea where I was for about two hours until the path disappeared and I was forced down to an underpass and an unmarked side road to some unknown town.

No, short, easy walks it is for me at this time of the year, if I do any at all. And I’ll probably spend most of the time dreaming of spring. Of March and April when I can finally put the boots on and not have to worry too much about the light.

Roll on Spring. I’ll be waiting.

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