Turf Blog 10-09-23

During the past week or so I’ve been out turfing at night visiting locations like Aberlady Bay in East Lothian as well sessions on my local patch, namely Dalkeith Country Park, Newbattle Abbey woods and the farmland and trails around Dalhousie Castle hotel. Most were on foot with the exception of Dalkeith Country Park which was on the Swifty Zero kick scooter. On this page I want to try and share why I think turfing in these types of location is so rewarding and not scary at all, honest. Mostly.

First of all, none of these locations are not zone rich and you’d be lucky to bag a dozen zones at any of them. But to my mind there’s more to turfing than simply taking zones. There is so much more. To start, there’s exercise. Be that on foot, on the kick scooter or riding a bicycle, all are worthwhile and good for you. Unless you fall off and skin your shins, graze your arms, crack a rib and so on. But then again you might do any of these crossing the road, so you might as well do them while turfing.

But why at night you ask? Yes indeed, why turf in dark forbidding woodland in the wee small hours? As well as turfing I’ve a number of other interests I can enjoy at the same time. One is watching and listening to birds and other wildlife. It’s not often that I don’t see foxes or badgers on my outings, often both. Owls are always calling, usually tawny but barn owls and long-eared owls as well. On clear nights there’s the skies to watch, planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus are all visible to the naked eye, as are the constellations and some of the annual meteor showers. Not forgetting shooting stars, passing satellites and the occasional UFO. Then there’s the rare wonders of the aurora and noctilucent clouds, if you are very lucky.

Another question you might ask is, is it safe to wander the countryside at night? Well, I’ve been doing just that for about 40 years and I’ve yet to find myself in a dangerous situation. Think about it. It’s mostly dark in the countryside and you generally need a torch to see your way, at least most of the time. That means anyone out there will also need a torch to find their way, and that means you will see them. At times you can actually walk without the aid of artificial lighting, for example, under a bright moor or when low cloud is reflecting urban lighting. Again, you can see anyone approaching. Mind you, I did get seriously spooked late one night in some forestry when a whole convoy of heavy vehicles came my way. Flashing blue lights, police cars, green armoured Land Rovers and the whole shooting match. Turns out to be some joint police/military exercise. Talk about close encounters.

So, what equipment do you need for night turfing? And the answer to that is not a lot other than a decent reliable torch or headlamp. I favour torches over headlamps as I don’t always want the torch beam to be pointing where I’m looking. A hand torch is also easier to control. I would always recommend two torches, one main torch and a second get-you-home torch should your main torch fail, though you might be able to use your mobile phone at a pinch. I use the Ledlenser MT14 as my main torch and the Ledlenser P4R Core as my backup. If using a bicycle or kick scooter, the same applies. One for main use, the other for backup. My choice is for a pair of Hope Vision R2 LED bicycle lights and high-capacity Batteries. It’s also great fun running both full-blast.

A few more things to mention about night turfing in the countryside. One is that judging distance can be challenging, both visually and audibly. Many a time I’ve thought a light appeared to be heading my way only to find it was a static floodlight a mile away. A good example can be seen in Aberlady Bay. There’s a floodlight at Kilspindie golf course and one evening while walking back from the subs I was almost positive it was a cyclist coming directly towards me across the saltmarsh. Of course, it wasn’t. Just an illusion due to the difficulty of judging distance.

So, my advice is to get out there before the freezing cold winter nights are here, grab a torch and go turfing in your local woods. You might be amazed at what you might find. More on this topic in Turf at Night. Back soon.

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