At around 4am on Saturday morning, a very dark, overcast, and rather drizzly night, I was approximately here (link to Bing Maps); somewhere near the "X" formed where the zig-zaggy footpaths cross that descend the steep valley side. I was somewhat wobbly from several bottles of my favourite ales. I don't always walk home this way from my regular Friday night trip to hang out with my little crew of friends at one of their houses, but the time, location, and inebriation are pretty representative of what I would consider a perfectly normal 3-4 mile walk home. The other walking options are similarly cross-country, or involve long stretches of road with no pedestrian footpath. Very heavy rain or snow might make me think twice, but don't normally put me off. On particularly beautiful nights, I have even had an unplanned snooze after sitting down to admire the stars or the dawn-chorus.
My usual trip to the supermarket is somewhat shorter, but similar; there are stretches of road with no pedestrian pavement, and they involve crossing countryside on muddy, unpaved public footpaths, carrying as many supplied as I can on my back.
The commute to my last place of work took in a two and half mile walk along an old railway line (you can see this on the linked map if you switch to Ordinance Survey view), and a 400ft climb to the top of a very exposed hill (over 1000 ft at the summit). That was just to get the bus to Halifax, after which I walked another mile or so to the office. I did this in both directions every work day, in the dark in winter, and in all weathers. I even astonished the boss when I turned up having battled through waist deep snowdrifts; of course, most of my colleagues who lived in Halifax itself had phoned in to say they couldn't make it!
So what's my point? That I'm super-fit and smug that I'm so much hardier than everyone else? Hmm, I'm certainly not all that fit, just very stubborn. There is a certain pride I take in it, but I recognise it as being a rather perverse and masochistic kind of pride. So here are my main reasons why I do this (some might say post-hoc rationalisations, and I would not disagree.)
Reactions to this "lifestyle choice" from friends are very varied. The friends that I visit at our Friday night gatherings don't bat an eyelid, and some of them have quite similar habits (at least a couple of them are almost certainly also autistic; the others don't lead particularly "conventional" lifestyles, either). Other friends react with complete horror, and implore me not to take the risks which they perceive I'm taking. I have only realised very recently that my reaction to their concerns probably seems flippant and ungrateful; but I know what the risks are (years of hiking, caving, etc.), and I accept them as a reasonable compromise so that I can work, shop, and socialise. In the decades that I've lived this way, I have never come to serious physical harm, have never been in trouble with law enforcement (I stick to footpaths and never trespass), and the only time I've been mugged or attacked was in broad daylight in a city-centre park. The fact that I will almost certainly not be able to continue like this as I get older frightens the hell out of me, quite frankly.
So I thought I would throw this open to comments from people here. There are no right answers, and I'm not looking for pity. I've just realised how little I question it and how much I've underestimated how bizarre it can seem to other people. What does anyone think? Am I completely crazy to do this? Are my justifications just perverse rationalisations? Do you do these things too?
I, have never been a regular nightwalker. I enjoy walks in.the city, beside canals, through woods, countryside. But in the daylight.
After dark, I feel uneasy. I can visit city centres when some shops are still open and there are people about. And it's well lit. Outside the city centre I don't want to be caught in the dark .
But at 4am. I want to be indoors with the doors locked.
I have however known some unusual people. Many years ago when I lived in a shared house, one woman went on nighttime walks. Once she woke me up around 3am, banging on my door, asking for dettol, plasters and bandages. She has gone for a nightwalk in her bare feet and now they were cut with bruises and blood.
She had just put a jacket on around her underwear and decided to go for a walk in the middle of the night. Unfortunately we were living in the city with hard pavements, stones, glass and dogshit everywhere.
This conjures up a really vivid picture!
It's quite extreme to walk barefoot on hard pavements littered with rubbish and glass. When I was young and my shoes hurt I sometimes walked home barefoot, but these days I only take my shoes off to walk on sand or grass.
In Germany as a teenager I went on a ramble late at night. We saw shooting stars and everything looked quite different to how it did in daylight. Most of the group disappeared into the darkness so it felt like we were walking in twos and threes. A really great experience.
I met some very unusual people when I lived in a shared house. Thinking about it now they probably thought I was unusual too!
In that shared house, the nightwalkining woman was the only one I made any connection with. The other tenants avoided the two of us.
She was the only one who would talk to me. And she was in as big a mess mentally as me. She openly discussed how after her mental breakdown she'd been sectioned and diagnosed as.a paranoid schizophrenic.
I found living in a shared house quite difficult partly due to having a communal toilet and bathroom and never knowing when they would be free. My boyfriend and I had a room with a Paraffin heater. I had really long hair so I would boil a kettle, wash my hair in a washing up bowl and dry it over the heater to avoid using the shared bathroom (which was grotty).
There was usually something strange going on somewhere in the house. Someone started leaving notes in a peculiar Tolkien-like language. I never worked out who it was. The landlady said she was psychic and that my boyfriend would come to a bad end. Sadly some years later he did. One of the elderly men in the house cooked on an upturned iron in his room. He did not speak - he had a cleft palate. Another elderly man who lived there used to cough up lots of blood in the loo.
In spite of all this we had some happy times there. The landlady was quite eccentric - one day we found her eating Sunday lunch at 11am - she had put her clocks back instead of forward! She also had a cat which she didn't realise was pregnant. When we saw a wriggly thing on the carpet we thought the cat had brought in a rat or a mouse but in fact it was having kittens!