Country diary: The wolf moon makes sky gazers of us all

Cringle Moor, North York Moors: No torches tonight. We have this terawatt dazzler to light our way


The first full moon of the year has fallen like a dream in a clear spell. Its other name – wolf moon – evokes a folk memory of bone-deep hunger and boreal chill, which, if my social media bubble is anything to go by, still has the power to draw us outside, to our back gardens and city streets, to beaches and mountain tops. We are moon gazers still, and this night in particular is feeding an urge to make fire, immerse in water or get high, one way or another. My little family is doing so literally, with a walk on the northern edge of the North York Moors.

It’s not a place I enjoy much by day – too scoured in the name of management – but it has undeniable grandeur tonight. What we really mean when we speak of dark skies is land dark enough to not be a distraction, and south of here is a vast mass of that.

Not that this terawatt moon needs help. Torches are unnecessary. Each slab of the path is so silvered, my son can see well enough to run. Also shining bright and early are Orion and the Plough, and my personal lodestar at this time of year, Sirius, flashing hectically two or three random hues a second. I discovered only recently that not everyone sees these colours (binoculars apparently make it more obvious), but to my eye, it’s garish, blaring and impossible to ignore. Perhaps there’s something in old tales of it driving dogs and women mad.

Ten miles north of the moor edge, dark yields to dazzle. Teesside shimmers like a fantastical treasure hoard: silver, gold and red, trickling and spilling into surrounding villages and towns. It’s eerily silent though, for a view so full of people, as if for a few sparkling minutes, life down there is on hold.

A pulsating blue light appears in the dark below, tracking smoothly east. From this distance, its progress is painfully slow, and I want to reach down with a finger and whizz it towards its destination. It disappears among the pinprick lights of Great Broughton and I find myself muttering an almost-prayer, a plea for light on behalf of anyone who might need it, before we descend again ourselves.

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