For a year, Matt Gaw hiked across the country at night – savouring the planets, the midnight light and the sense of earthly troubles shrinking into the universe
I still remember that first night walk in King’s Forest near my Suffolk home, two years ago. The clouds were smoking-room-thick, so there had been no visible sunset. The cold, white sky did not even blush. Instead, the light thickened and clotted as darkness began to form, seeping out from between stands of pines. It puffed from the shadows of my footsteps on the track and welled up from the deep ruts made by 4x4s.
I’m not sure why I kept walking that night. Partly it was just the rhythm: the metronome swing of the legs, the freedom of having nowhere to be and no place to go. But also, I’d been rallied by my 10-year-old son who, in his campaign for an ever-later bedtime, argued that an average human spends 26 years of their time on Earth asleep. His words had wormed their way into my brain. When was the last time I had been out at night? Not camping or running or toddling home from the pub, but really out into the dark. Was my life being only half-lived?