The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton has an "epic" nightime wildlife excursion

I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy recently. This is mainly because of the big reduction in time spent outside and on my mountain bike.

Night time mountain biking proves to be an "epic" adventure.

Two things have conspired: my mountain biking soul-mate, aka my eldest son Jack, has left for university, so I’m short of convenient biking friends and, just as bad, the onset of dark nights has truncated the daytime and dramatically reduced the chances of getting out on the hills.

My part of North Yorkshire has some of the best mountain biking anywhere. There is an almost unbroken escarpment of steep slopes from Carlton Bank at the north to beyond Kilburn further south, with lovely, well-draining ground and a mix of open moors and woodland.

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And there’s a treasure trove of trails on the Moors and in Dales if you are ready to explore. For mountain biking, North Yorkshire could rival the Alps, Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, Utah in the US and the coastal hills of northern Italy.

What’s required is a joined-up strategy involving landowners, riders and forestry people to develop the area into something really amazing. It could be the ultimate in diversification, encouraging people out to enjoy the countryside and fresh air of Yorkshire, with cafes for hungry riders, bunk houses to stay in, riding passes for access, bike shops and more.

The possibilities, I think, are endless and would offer an easier and sustainable income from land that is often barely profitable by conventional farming methods.

But much as this might be a brilliant plan for the future, it didn’t solve my immediate problems. What did help was a new set of night lights, so I could ride after dark! Last time I went proper mountain biking in the dark was over 20 years ago, when I was younger and fitter and with more acute eyesight, but also when batteries were huge, rubbish and short-lived.

As large as an oil barrel, but as temporary as a snowman in November, the energy source would quickly dwindle and the brightness dim to a dangerously dark level. Rides had to have a back-up plan and were not really much fun. Nowadays, there is much more power in a rechargeable battery!

I set off, sensibly (I thought) in the dusk of a November Sunday.

Other riders and even dog walkers, were already packing up as I arrived in the car park, unloaded the bike and prepared my equipment. The woods looked beautiful in the late autumn twilight, with gold and orange shades everywhere. The first couple of runs were in daylight and covered in crispy dry fallen leaves rather than mud.

The trails were as exciting as I’d expected, but before my third descent, darkness fell leaving me to test out the lumens of my torch, calculate the optimal descending speed under the new circumstances and take in the crepuscular wildlife.

The power of the lights proved to be amazing, illuminating everything in my path like a beam from a lighthouse. It was exhilarating too and also other-worldly.

With the senses heightened, even at sensible speeds the excursion was epic. And as for the wildlife! With owls hooting, foxes scuttling across the path and a couple of deer skipping over a silvery stream, my evening could have been taken from the scenes in a children’s book. I felt privileged to have been part of the woodland night.

My evening adventure had been super and I’d loved every minute. Lots of people might think this sort of thing is crazy, dangerous and only for lunatics. I can confirm for certain, that the lights were on and I was definitely at home!