I’m having my first “wild night out” in 18 months in Devon with the ecologist and author Chris Salisbury. We are here to enjoy the darkness by walking in woods, canoeing on the river and breaking into song (for Salisbury). Far away from the dulling effect of streetlights and strobe lighting, this is a very old-fashioned night out. For most of us, the transition from light to dark is a quiet one, but in the woods on the Dartington estate near Totnes, twilight brings with it a burst of energy. It is 8.30pm and this is rush hour. There is a cacophony of screeching, snuffles and scuffles, as songbirds return to nests for a night of rest, while nocturnal creatures such as badgers and foxes are taking their first tentative steps out, off to find food and mates under the cloak of darkness. Most walkers would consider this time to go home but we are just setting off (no torches allowed), and pass no one else on our four-hour walk through the wood and up the River Dart on a canoe. Tawny owls are the ambassadors of the night in this wood, marking its arrival with sporadic hoots from […]


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