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When can you practice night navigation

The ability to safely navigate in reduced visibility is a vital skill which all outdoor walkers should (must) have.  This is why we practice at night, as darkness is guaranteed each day.

What time do we practice our night navigation? The answer depends on two things: where you are and what time of year it is. 

So, whilst we’re on the subject, I thought it may be interesting to expand on this slightly and, of courses, answer the question.

We all hope for a gloriously sunny day each time we set off on a walk but, let’s face it, this is the UK and our weather is sometimes unkind: Mist, Fog, Falling Snow, Rain, etc. can all affect our day out in the countryside.  Or you may be walking through a dense forest or your walk may simply take longer than expected – there are many, many reasons this may happen.

As we all know the daylight lasts longer during the summer than the winter.

If we take as an example the center point of England which, contrary to what the tourist information office in Meriden near Coventry would have us believe, is actually a field just outside the village of Fenny Drayton (between Birmingham and Leicester).

Oh if you want to have a quick look at the field at the center of England, put this into the search bar of Google Maps  52°33’39.5″N 1°27’59.6″W  – Ordinance survey grid reference 36373 96143.

There is a formula which can be used to work out the sunrise and sunset for any location.  But as it involves taping a calculator for quite a while I’ll not go into the formula here.

I have calculated these times for Fenny Drayton times for 2020


Month Sunrise Sunset
Jan-01 9:17 AM 5:01 PM
Feb-01 8:48 AM 5:50 PM
Mar-01 7:51 AM 6:45 PM
Apr-01 6:39 AM 7:41 PM
May-01 5:33 AM 8:33 PM
Jun-01 4:48 AM 9:19 PM
Jul-01 4:47 AM 9:32 PM
Aug-01 5:26 AM 8:57 PM
Sep-01 6:17 AM 7:53 PM
Oct-01 7:07 AM 6:42 PM
Nov-01 8:03 AM 5:35 PM
Dec-01 8:54 AM 4:55 PM

We can then run these times through a simple Excel chart and the difference in daylight hours is very noticeable.

We don’t run course in Fenny Drayton (maybe one day?) but we do run them at a many different locations throughout England.

The time at which it gets dark (after Dusk) changes depending on which part of the UK you are in.

As an example the sunset time in the UK today (29/05/20) is:

  • Edinburgh – 21:43
  • Belfast – 21:45
  • London – 21:05
  • Cardiff – 21:17

In 6 months time (29/11/20) the sunset will be earlier

  • Edinburgh – 15:45
  • Belfast – 16:04
  • London – 15:56
  • Cardiff – 16:08

Of course it doesn’t suddenly get dark at sunset, or light at sunrise, as these are just instants / moments – when the edge of the sun rises above, or sets below, the horizon.

So we can’t start our night navigation practice at sunset.  We need to wait until after dusk, when it actually gets dark.  Oh and just as a quick note there are three “types” of dusk (twilight): civil, nautical and astronomical and the length (time) of each is governed by the angle of the center of the sun above or below the horizon – mmmmmm, maybe another blog about that later?

Our course locations – with Fenny Drayton highlighted.


There is mathematical calculation which can be performed to determine the length of dusk which will give us the time we could start our night navigation practice at each of our locations.

To save your calculator batteries I’ve done the calculation for you.

Darkness time + – from Fenny Drayton sunset (see above)
Fenny Drayton 47 mins
North Pennines + 1h 12 mins
Yorkshire Moors + 1 h
Yorkshire Dales + 1 h 2 mins
West Pennines + 56 mins
The Wolds + 51 mins
Shropshire Hills + 53 mins
Forest of Dean – 46 mins
The Chilterns – 40 mins
Bagshot – 38 mins

Note: these calculations are based on today (29/05/20) and they will change slightly throughout the year, but they should give you a rough idea of what time we can start our night navigation.