I went on my first-night walk when I was 15. It was during that horrible interval between sitting my O level exams and then getting the results many weeks later in the summer holidays. Feeling I needed something to distract me during this anxiety-inducing wait, I went out one night at about 11pm, walking a couple of miles through the dark Kentish woods and on to the graveyard at the village church, before returning home beneath more open starry skies, framed on each side by the silhouettes of high hedges and fruit trees.
I found the experience exhilarating and inspiring. Now, many years later, noctambulism has become integral to my practice as an artist and sculptor. One of the reasons I settled in Brighton at the end of my degree is the easy access to the generous open curves of the South Downs. A favorite location for my night walks is High and Over, looking down the River Cuckmere. Not only is this an excellent spot for filming the moonlit mist flowing down the valley, but it offers incredibly atmospheric soundscapes by day and especially at night.
I was thrilled to discover relatively recently that my grandparents had their honeymoon in Alfriston, and spent blissful days walking this landscape a couple of years before the war. Mary was a painter and Frank was a stained glass artist, and also, a couple of years later, a fireman in the Blitz. They found this landscape very sustaining, Frank describing the Sussex air as “meaty”.
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