Question: All the schedules I can find indicate that one called on acquaintances at 5 pm or later. And that the “fashionable hour” was from about 4:30 to 7:30 pm. If the Season was basically winter, that means people were shopping and promenading driving in Hyde Park in the dark. In dark and dreary weather. Yet no one says, these things happened in the dark winter hours. What am I missing?
The tradition of promenading and driving in Hyde Park was a long one, dating back at least 140 years by the time Regency ladies and gents were on display (Handbook of London: past and present, Volume 1, 1850).
The Season for driving in Hyde Park ran with the London Season, from roughly April to July. Although some historical romance authors have referred to the “Little Season” during winter, the excellent historian Rachel Knowles has found little evidence of this being a real thing (http://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/05/when-was-london-season.html). Driving between 5:00 and 7:00 would likely have allowed for the spring/summer light to still be fairly bright without being oppressive or too hot.
As for driving in an open carriage in the winter or in the dark….I think its probably unlikely. Concerns of getting wet, cold, or set upon by brigands would natural preclude a promenade during dark and dreary times. It could be that a gentleman might exercise his horse in a quieter Hyde Park during the winter–but with company thin in Town, those winter months would likely have seen Hyde Park pretty empty.