Adventuring in the outdoors allows you to discover your senses and experience the wonders of the wilderness, especially at night time. Chris Salisbury’s Wild Nights Out describes the magic of exploring the outdoors after dark and provides thrilling nature experiences that will allow you to connect with the outdoors and your own primitive instincts. Perfect to play with children on a weekend in the woods.

Hawk Eyes

This exercise is a test of your range of peripheral vision. It’s called Hawk Eyes because of the extraordinary capacities of raptors to locate prey from great distances.

Ask the group to spread themselves at least arm’s length apart from each other. Instruct them to extend their arms straight in front of their bodies and point their two index fingers skywards.

Next, ask them to look into the distance between their two upraised fingers, preferably focusing on a distant object like a tree.

Tell them to slowly move their arms apart, keeping them straight and at eye level, wiggling those raised fingers so that their peripheral vision can detect the movement. Encourage them to continue until they have spread their arms to the point where they can just barely see those fingers in the ‘corners’ of their eyes whilst still looking straight ahead. Even when our eyes are fixed upon a distant point, we can still keep our wiggling fingers in our peripheral vision until they reach the edge of our range.

Equipment required: NONE

Ages: 6 and up

Number of participants: 2–30

Notes

Explain that this is the broad range of human vision and it’s surprising how far it extends. We have, as humans, about 150 degrees of peripheral vision per eye. But the visual field has been measured at 181 degrees in some people, which technically, I suppose, is seeing ‘behind’ you! People who wear glasses will notice that their range is slightly restricted when they try this exercise.

Barefoot Walk

For a Barefoot Walk (also called Nightline by some activity leaders) a rope tied between and around trees creates a ‘handrail’ to follow. Holding onto the rope helps participants feel secure and keep their balance, allowing them to immerse themselves in exquisite sensory exploration as bare feet contact the Earth, soil and humus.

Set up the handrail in advance; the terrain must not be threatening so that people can go barefoot without fear of puncture wounds.

Start by explaining that each person will be following the rope in turn. Invite participants to take off their shoes and socks, because it will increase the sensory experience.

Appoint at least two helpers to manage ‘traffic flow’.

One by one, call people forward to start travelling along the rope. To avoid ‘traffic jams’, send those who have opted to keep their shoes on down the trail first, because they will tend to move more quickly. Allow at least 2 metres (7 feet) between participants.

Equipment required: 1 rope, 15–25 metres (50–80 feet) long, blindfolds (optional), natural objects (optional, see Notes and Variants)

Ages: 11 and up

Number of participants: 4–12

Notes and Variants

Wearing a blindfold dramatically heightens the experience and means this can also become a ‘nocturnal activity’ during the daylight hours.

As an extra embellishment, gather some natural objects in advance, such as skulls, feathers, shells and bones. Tie each item to the rope at intervals for people to explore with their fingertips. This has the added bonus of slowing things down.

Bloodhound

Start by asking an assistant to lay out a short trail about 5 metres (15 feet) long on the ground, using a substance that has a very distinct smell, for example vinegar or an essential oil like peppermint or tea tree. This can be done by applying the pungent substance to a rag, then tying the rag to your foot and then stamping your way over open ground to establish a trail.

Choose two people to be ‘bloodhounds’ and blindfold them. Challenge the bloodhounds to attempt to follow the trail, on all fours with their noses to the ground, marking the trail as they go by placing sticks or ground pegs in the ground. The odours will dissipate quickly, especially on a hot day, and so set the bloodhounds on the trail without delay.

For a more advanced challenge, ask two helpers to simultaneously lay out two separate trails of contrasting smells, making sure the two trails cross at some point. Set a pair of bloodhounds to follow each trail, and watch what ensues when one trail crosses over the other. Inevitably there might be some confusion at the point of intersection, but that is the point of the challenge, and this also leads to some of the fun and enjoyment of the exercise. (Detecting the odour trail is slow work, so there is no danger of anyone getting hurt, even if two bloodhounds accidentally collide.)

Equipment required: 2 blindfolds, vinegar and/or some essential oils, rags, sticks or ground pegs

Ages: 8 and up

Number of participants: 2 per trail (any number of trails can be laid)

The above excerpt is from Chris Salisbury’s new book Wild Nights Out – The Magic of Exploring the Outdoors After Dark (Chelsea Green, £14.99) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.