“Being so accepted by a community made up of such a diverse group of people was really humbling,” says Sharon, who joined in on her first ever beating season last autumn on one of the moors involved in the Powys Moorland Partnership project which operate a shoot. She has also just done a season lambing too.
Coming from a farming background in Somerset, Sharon – who left home at 18 and trained to be a chartered accountant in London for 15 years – has always wanted to get better connected to her surrounding landscape in Hay, and now that her children are older, she has rolled up her sleeves and got involved.
Although she wasn’t sure what to expect, she can’t emphasise enough how welcomed she was made to feel from the beating community – who flush birds in the direction of the guns on a shoot day – and who come from all walks of life.
“Their lives, stores, their jobs – many of which I never knew existed – has been absolutely fascinating,” she says, adding how touched she was in how interested they were in her.
“They explained everything to me and helped me understand what happened during the day. I quickly saw how they were often immersed in sometimes the cruelest of weather,” she says, adding that to many it’s a way of life, and a way of keeping a safe food supply ready in the freezer. “Also inspiring to see many youngsters out too,” she says.
The stunning ever-changing landscapes are amazing, explains Sharon, who witnessed the constantly changing views as the clouds danced in the skies as they covered miles of ground across the heather moorland.
“Being outside all day in all weathers with no protection makes you feel alive, aware of all your senses. One day I was sunburnt, with dust in my eyes, the next I was drenched in rain and covered in mud. You feel part of the elements, she says. It’s a powerful feeling that takes your mind somewhere else. And then it was the feeling when you got home. The exhaustion, the permission to sit down and relax, such a treat. A welcome feeling.
Sharon admits that shooting birds isn’t something she is comfortable with, but getting involved has opened her eyes as to why it happens and why income from the guns is needed. It’s quite brutal out there with all the challenging from the predators for both the ground nesting birds and the sheep and I guess the need to strive for a balanced countryside is well illustrated.
“I know, after helping with the lambing, how heartbreaking it is to lose lambs when you spend so much time with them to help them get a good start.
“I was again made very welcome on the farms I helped lambing on this spring and again so humbled to be trusted to help with so many of the jobs. The hours that they work and the little sleep that they had was an eye opener,” says Sharon, who is so pleased that farmers have been recognised as key workers in the current coronaVirus situation.
Sharon now feels that she has two markers in her diary, autumn and spring. “It makes me feel closer to the seasons and feel part of the landscapes around me where so much is going on. I feel connected, even liberated. I feel that my life has more depth thanks to the farmers and the gamekeepers. I also feel fitter and I even look forward to putting my head back into the books to do the accounts!”