Scouting at night
When the lights go off, the stars come out and the forest wakes up. Just because the sun’s gone, doesn’t mean the adventure is over. In fact, Scouting can be quite magical at night.
Looking out from under the climbing tower at Hawkhirst Scout Activity Centre in Northumberland, the view is breathtaking. The tops of the trees glow with the sunset haze and the sky is washed with a merging of blues, greens and yellows as the sun slowly sinks behind the trees.
‘I can’t believe I finally did it!’ exclaims Owen, slightly breathless after running up the stairs following his abseiling descent. Owen recently started in Explorer Scouts and earlier in the day made his dislike for abseiling clear; now he enthusiastically re-joins the queue of Explorers for another go.
When not making fun of each other’s abseiling techniques, the guys survey the night sky. Although darkness is upon them, the Scouting activities are only just about to begin. Tonight the Explorers explore the type of adventures Scouts can have in the dark, proving that when you’re part of Scouting, the adventure doesn’t stop once the sun goes down or the weather turns cold.
On the itinerary is cooking, abseiling, hiking and stargazing – activities perfect for after-dark Scouting, especially at somewhere as atmospheric and impressive as Hawkhirst Scout Activity Centre.
The mystery of the dark
Josh, 15, loves to hike at night. ‘Doing activities in the dark is great,’ he says. ‘You get to do more stuff, especially if you’re not afraid of the dark. You have to rely on each other a lot more at night; there’s a lot more talking to each other and looking out for each other.’
Scouting activities don’t have to end at a night-hike; there are so many activities with minimal risk, cost and even planning, which can take place at night. For example, wide games, which are a favourite with Cory, an Explorer Scout who is celebrating his 16th birthday: ‘I think there are a lot more games that work a lot better in the dark, anything where you’re trying to find people or trying to run away. The dark adds a bit of mystery to it. If you’re playing hide-and-seek during the day, you can see somebody 100 metres away, but if you’re playing in the dark you have to be right in front of their face before you find them.’
After abseiling, it’s time to refuel with some food. Earlier that evening the Scouts try to cook over an open fire down by the jetty, but because of the dampness of the wood caused by a storm it takes too long to get a long-lasting fire going. They do, however, manage to fry the onions for their Thai green curry before retreating back to their lodge to finish cooking their dinner free from midges.
The sky at night
Before abseiling starts, the Scouts visit the Kielder observatory in preparation for stargazing. At the observatory they learn the difference between stars and asteroids, satellites and shooting stars. The Scouts are handed pieces of moon rock, Mars and a piece of the famous shooting star that dazzled Russia in 2013. Kielder is the world’s third largest black spot in Europe and the Scouts have the opportunity to see for themselves the galaxies that had been discussed beforehand.
Michael, an Explorer Scout, sits looking up, mesmerised by the sky while the others huddle together, pointing out the stars and galaxies. ‘When you look up at the stars and you realise how many there actually are, it makes you feel small and it’s just amazing how many planets and moons and satellites are out there,’ he says. ‘The amazing thing about it is that you can actually see them.’
‘Being able to see some of the constellations that you wouldn’t be able to see in the city is great,’ says Cory. ‘You don’t get to see constellations like Cassiopeia. It’s a really calming experience being able to look up at the stars and reflect over everything that has happened during the day.’
In the very small hours of the morning, the Scouts round off stargazing with campfire songs and roasting marshmallows – the perfect end to a night full of activities. As they trudge back to base in the slippery mud, Owen reflects on why he enjoys activities at night so much: ‘It’s just great for team bonding. You really get to know each other a lot better.’
Why not organise your own night-time adventure? Check out these amazing places to spend a night under the stars for some inspiation.
Check out the Scouting at night video below: