With the boys settled back to school & preschool, I signed myself up to do two days of beating this week.
First up was a day on the grouse moors. While it wasn't my first outing, I am still very much a newbie to the beating world and I must straight away confess that I didn't actually join the beating line, instead I was assigned to the flankers (apparently this is the easy job). Flankers, as the name suggests, bring in the sides (flanks) of the patch of moor being covered on each drive and try to stop the birds bailing out to the sides of the line of guns.
So, this is how I find myself standing on the top of the North Yorkshire moors on a sunny Tuesday morning with one of the finest views around. My day started getting a lift to the meeting point in the back of an old army troop carrier, now repurposed to a beaters wagon. After initial sorting into the various groups of beaters, flankers and pickers up, we headed out. For each drive, the team of gamekeepers work together to ensure all parts of the group move at the right time to ensure the best results. I had a previous life in project management, but this still looks to be a very difficult and precise process. The weather and wind conditions need to be considered, as well as ensuring the guns get to their positions on time without being rushed or conversely waiting about too long. I tried not to think about the logistics too much and just made sure to listen up and then keep up!
For each of the drives (three before lunch and two after) we went out into our flanking line positions spread out apart across a wide area. When instructed, we had to move forward keeping formation in a flat line as much as possible. Sounds quite easy on normal ground, but the North Yorkshire moors are a mix of heather, bracken, peat bogs and reed filled marshes. The heather itself varies stretch by stretch into short and recently burnt or bushy and thick (and difficult to negotiate). Then there are the hills and the streams to also contend with. On top of that, you need to keep cracking and waving your flag.
All in all, a lot to think about look left, look right, keep up but don't go too far forward. Keep my spacing left and right. Flag up! Don't fall in a hole! Phew! With all that going on, you'd think it was stressful but conversely, I find it one of the most stress-relieving activities I've ever done. You just don't have the opportunity to worry about anything else but what you are doing right there. I also worked out I'd walked over 10 miles, so pretty good exercise too. The small brown envelope at the end of the day is just the cherry on the top.
And then there are the other people who form the line with you. Camaraderie and banter keep your spirits up, even when the heavens open and do their worst! This came in buckets on the Thursday when Partridge was the order of the day. But that is for next time.
If you would like to read more from Lucy you can find her blog page?here