OK. So it’s happened again. Almost a whole month has slipped by, leaving me chastising myself for not updating my blog and furious at myself for not sharing the content I had promised myself I would in a timely manner. At the start of the month, my work life was being dominated by the #VCSwapShop, then I disappeared off to spend a week in the Barbados sunshine (more on that later), and before I knew it, I’m looking December in the face and wondering where on earth the year has gone.
Just as October came to a close though, I got an incredible opportunity to celebrate Halloween in a completely unique and unconventional manner. I’ve been following the likes of Secret Adventures for a while now. They specialise in hidden escapes from London city. I’ve been on the precipice of heading to one of their wild swims so many times but never quite managed to find a suitable date to take the plunge and I’ve followed their night kayak series with close attention and daydreamed about going on one of their weekend retreats, so when I saw a post on their Facebook page asking for bloggers and photographers to come along on one of their adventures, I grabbed the chance and hung on to it so tightly, I felt I had to apologise for being too keen. Assured by Madoc, founder of Secret Adventures, that there was no such thing as too keen in his book, he gave me the biggest compliment I could have asked for when he said I “seemed adventurous” and invited me along to The London Labyrinth event on Halloween.
I’m not ordinarily a fan of Halloween. I find it trite and commercial. I get frustrated with the focus on “sexy” Halloween costumes that are available for women. I’m uncharacteristically an absolute, card carrying misery come 31st October. But I thought that this, a pot luck dinner party in a set of underground tunnels in London only reachable by boat sounded like it might have been the way to change my feelings about the festival of fear. So off I trotted (having utilised eyeliner and eyebrow colouring for a last minute attempt at face painting) on a unseasonably dry and warm evening in late October to a set of moorings in north London to join the other Secret Adventurers who were to be my companions for the night.
After some introductions, we jumped in a couple of boats and kayaks and began our illicit trip down the water. Lubricated with wine and beers, we cruised past incredible mansions, behind a zoo, through the quietest parts of the city and past plenty of revelers in fancy dress and arrived out our location around 40 mins then slipped under a building into a basin, where we were plunged into complete darkness, albeit from a few head torches some of the more forward thinking of our group had thought to bring along. At this point, I heard someone say “this is how horror stories begin”.
We clambered from our boats through a set of wooden doors at the back of the basin and found ourselves in a mass of connected passages under a thick cloud of darkness. The area was formerly used as a stables for horses and ponies working on the nearby railway, but it has subsequently been abandoned and become an eerie London underworld. We took some time to explore , but being kind of terrified of the dark and quite claustrophobic, I rarely left the comfort of the group for longer than a minute or so, in fear of losing them and getting stuck in the darkness forever.
After a little while, we – a group of people who were predominantly strangers, settled down for our pot luck dinner. They were such a brilliant group of people from such a wide spread of walks of life and I felt really privileged to be part of such an exclusive soiree – especially one that had no pretensions – for a really special, perfectly eerie and exhilaratingly creepy Halloween.
As the evening drew to a close, our candles faded and the food supplies began to dwindle, we hopped back in our boats and made our way back along the canal and headed home.
Check out all of the amazing meetups Secret Adventures have on offer – and go along! I can guarantee you, you won’t regret it.
*Madoc invited me to go along to the London Labyrinth event but this in no way affected my view of the trip, or of Secret Adventures. They’re bloody brilliant.
Pictures from Ana-Maria Bourceanu and Natalie Ward over on the Secret Adventures Meetup page