IN his capacity as a climate change advisor to Westminster, the Tory peer John Gummer – he who publicly fed his daughter a beef burger during the BSE crisis – has intimated that street lighting should be phased out in rural villages.

He recently told the housing, communities and local government committee that, “When people move into the countryside you just have to say to them, ‘This is not the town, we do not have street lighting in this village, you have a torch, that’s just how we do it.”

Well, it’s not how things are done in Hoolet, or not yet at least. Only at the village boundary does the dim light cast by lamp-posts give way to a wall of darkness.

In winter, since I don’t like tapping my way across the common like Blind Pew, my late afternoon walks are restricted to wherever is lit up. This is no great hardship, and has the attraction of allowing me to peer into neighbours’ houses as they start chopping carrots for dinner.

Since people do the same with us, I don’t feel too guilty about spying. Our kitchen is almost public property, with morning dog-walkers saluting when they pass, as we tuck into our kedgeree.

READ MORE: Global warming and kids: Be afraid, but not too afraid, Rosemary Goring

Strangers do a double-take when they see us taking lunch at an hour when the denizens of Milngavie, say, are barely out of their beds. Doubtless they assume we are governed by a quaint rustic clock, when in fact we are simply too ravenous by noon to write another sentence without sustenance. Other Hooleteers we know dine so late any passing Spaniards would feel at home. As in the city, we all dance to a different rhythm.

Last Christmas I toyed with the idea of buying Alan a head torch, so he could continue to take a decent stroll when he’d finished work, by which time darkness lay over the land. In the end, after discovering the astonishing range of torches available, and learning the language of lumens, I decided against. A hand-held torch is a lot less eery for anyone you come across out in the woods. A dancing pinprick of light – or powerful laser beam – on someone’s forehead is sinister to encounter in the dark. You can blame a surfeit of Nordic or Tartan Noir for setting the nerves jangling, but we are programmed to be scared of what the night can hold.

Yet if streetlights are abolished, it’s something those of us in the country will be forced to adapt to.

The lights on the village green switch on every evening, although one of the lamp-posts is half hidden by the horse-chestnut, whose branches swing low like Rapunzel’s hair. In the middle of the night, there’s comfort in the soft glow that fills the bedroom from behind the half-closed shutters. But what if the power was switched off completely, and there was nothing to see beyond our windows but blackness?

READ MORE: The end of the great age of universities?

I’m sure it’s something we could get used to. After all, perpetual or instant light is a relatively recent phenomenon. For most of its existence, Hoolet lived by the same timetable as the sky. I sometimes try to imagine what it must have been like in the Middle Ages, when folk went to bed early, after the fire had died, to save the cost of rushlights or candles. Come morning, they rose with the sun, whether it was four a.m. or eight.

Records from the 1500s show that in a household near Hoolet, a reasonably comfortable family possessed one candlestick. They’d carry it from room to room as required, leaving shadows to gather behind them. Candles or cruisie lamps would have been made from animal fat or oil, smelling rather like unwashed frying pans back in the days when suet was king.

We’re fortunate in this country that, when afternoon turns into evening, there is a gradual transition, giving us ample warning. If this were Pakistan, night would fall like an axe. Alan recalls stumbling his way to his hotel, in Peshawar, when he was caught out by the suddenness of night. With no street lights, he couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of his nose and crept back to his room as if he were a mole.

In the depths of winter, dusk in Hoolet descends around half three or four. If Gummer had his way, in the far north, and especially the Orkneys and Shetlands, they’d need a crate of torch batteries to get them from November to April. From that perspective the idea is untenable, at least in those latitudes.

READ MORE: All life must pass

Yet here in the (relative) south, it might be an experiment worth trying. When I stand at the back of the house at night, I can see nothing. Darkness stretches to the woods and the hills, and yet it is not alarming. There’s something calming about it, as if the proper order has been restored.

While people might find it restrictive, or disconcerting, wildlife would thrive, and birds especially. Pure darkness would put an end to those midnight songsters, who are confused by street lighting into believing morning has broken.

And, in the same way that gas and electric light has allowed us to ignore sunset and keep going long into the night, as if we were powered by ever-ready batteries, perhaps we too might benefit from being less illuminated.

For a start, we might begin to appreciate the moon for more than its romantic appeal. In centuries past, the bourgeoisie filled their social diaries around the days of the full moon, when they could attend parties, dinners and dances, knowing their carriage ride would not be undertaken in pitch black.

So too the Borders reivers. As the night-time sky paled, folk herded their beasts into byres, praying the thieves would not find them. But they often did, whipping them off down the valley, along with cartloads of newly gathered harvest.

Some nights in Hoolet the moon is so bright – as are the stars – that it wakes me up. I wonder how the villagers reacted when lamp-posts first appeared. Did it feel as if civilisation had finally reached them, or was it an unwelcome intrusion? Either way, it’s possible that in years to come we’ll have to light our own way between sunset and dawn. The hunt for a headtorch might have to resume.