In my recent article regarding beating and Autumn etc. I expressed the wish that our first day’s beating would be a fine one. Well, the Gods were not with us and it poured down. Matters were made even worse by the fact that the rain came at the start of the day which meant the first drive was very wet and we all got a serious soaking. To me this is the most undesirable of circumstances as the rest of the day then has to be endured wearing wet clothing, the ground is wet and everything around is also wet. Moving through woods and along hangers is much more of a challenge and all of the surrounding trees and bushes liberally deposit the water from their leaves upon the beaters below. What I think is called a double whammy.
Unlike the beating days of many years ago,when I was a child in Kingsley, most beaters these days have decent clothing and one could be forgiven for assuming they would, therefore, remain dry. The beaters of yesteryear very often relied upon all sorts of strange cladding to attempt to stay dry. I suppose, by far the favourite, was the hessian sack. These sacks were used for many purposes and were quite thick. They held crops such as potatoes and grain and were widely used for animal feeds. The animal feed one's were generally not favoured as the dust from the feeds, which had been contained within the sacks, got down the neck and into the hair of the wearer, not nice. But needs must and the sacks were draped around shoulders over whatever garment the wearer had on. The sacks were also folded widthways with one corner being pushed up into the other, on the closed end of the sack, to form a hood and a sort of cape. The head of the wearer went into the corner and the rest of the sack hung down the back. A bit like a Red Riding Hood cape. However, the overwhelming problem with this getup was the fact that, a) the sacks were not water proof, and b) they became very heavy as the sacking absorbed the water. Once the sack was saturated the water came through and the wearer got wet and ultimately, cold.
Although far superior to sacks modern wet weather gear is not all it is cracked up to be. Undoubtedly there are garments available which are waterproof, there are garments which are windproof and there are garments which prevent internal condensation but, as yet, I have been unable to find one which effectively does all three. The completely waterproof type of coat or cape is usually made of a plastic material through which water cannot penetrate nor, for that matter, can the wind. The big trouble is the huge amount of condensation which is created within the garment. Apart from soaking the clothing the condensation will lead to chilling and cold which in extreme cases can be quite dangerous for the person clad in such a garment. Not the sort of clothing for serious walkers and really wild places. On the plus side, these garments are not pricey. There are many dozens of intermediate garments which claim to tackle the problems outlined above but all that I have tried fall down in one area or another. Windproof does definitely not mean water proof. The many claims of being "breathable", and therefore preventing condensation, I have also found to be well, suspect shall we say! These garments can range in price from under a hundred pounds to well over that figure.
There are many garments advertised in the sporting press which claim to have almost super qualities in terms of style, design, and serviceability and to be the last word in comfort. Unfortunately, the price tag which comes with such garments, hundreds of pounds, is not within my budget. I am, therefore, unable to comment upon the claims made of such products. No doubt the producers of such excellence will be delighted to learn, in the unlikely event that any of them should read this article, I am happy to test their products for them during the rest of the beating season.
Well, there it is, we beaters continue to endure winter after winter and put up with varying degrees of wet, cold and wind. There are those, one not a million miles from where I write, who think we are quite bonkers.