Norfolk lakes and EDP angling writer John Bailey follow in the footsteps of Mr Crabtree
PUBLISHED: 08:52 28 May 2012
© Archant Norfolk 2012
Beneath a glorious blue Saturday afternoon sky and beside a serene lake deep in the heart of Norfolk, something rather quaint, rather charming is happening.
A seasoned campaigner in the angling game is sitting on the grassy bank beside a young lad, imparting his wisdom about the skills of rod and line and the infinite wiles of freshwater fish in eluding them.
No mobiles and Xboxes to be seen here – just the simple outdoor pleasures of an age-old relaxation being passed down from generation to generation.
If you’re getting long in the tooth, such a scene might just remind you of a certain Mr Crabtree and his son Peter, strip-cartoon figures who appeared not only in one of the most successful sporting books of all time but in the post-war pages of the Daily Mirror newspaper.
And, if it does, that suits the makers of a new television series just fine.
A crew from Northamptonshire-based independent production company Toast Entertainment Group has been on location at Kingfisher Lakes and Apartments, at Lyng, shooting scenes for a new series entitled Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree.
It will capture the spirit of the fictitious star of the book, Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing, which sold for five bob (25p in today’s money) and shifted more than two million copies in the 1940s and 50s.
What’s more, the series is the production team’s homage to Crabtree’s creator, prolific author, artist and illustrator Bernard Venables, whom some of them knew. He died in 2001, well into his 90s.
For the TV series, the 21st-century Mr Crabtree guise – minus briar pipe and possibly the necktie of the original character – is assumed throughout by EDP angling writer John Bailey.
John grew up angling along the canals of the Manchester area before embarking on a lifetime’s fishing journey that has taken him to some 63 countries worldwide. He says he owes much of that enthusiasm to Mr Crabtree and to his creator.
“I think Bernard’s legacy was to inspire four generations of people to become anglers and remain anglers. In fact, you could say he was an inspiration to three million, four million people – at least,” he said.
John will also pen the book of the series.
Various youngsters will take on the role of Mr Crabtree’s angling pupil in different episodes, including girls – who will retain the name “Peter” in a gesture of faith to the wise man’s son of the cartoons. They were picked from thousands of hopefuls in a national competition.
For the Lyng scenes, 12-year-old Sam Gallagher, from Aldridge, near Walsall in the West Midlands, was the lucky lad. His dad, Dan, said Sam was a mad-keen match angler and enthusiast of pike, carp, roach, tench and chub fishing when he was not at school.
“He’s so excited about the series – really, really excited,” he said.
Executive producer Lester Holcombe said the idea to revive the Mr Crabtree ideal had arisen from a dinner party conversation several years ago at which the name cropped up. In due course, the rights to Mr Venables’s work were secured, thereby paving the way to the production.
He added: “We never thought it would make any money – and we still don’t. It was just that we’re talking about the crown jewels of angling here and it is worth doing. To generations of anglers, I can’t think of anything that compares with Mr Crabtree.”
Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree will be broadcast in the autumn, although the channel on which the series will be screened is being kept under wraps for now.
Mr Holcombe, who learnt his own angling skills from his dad and his uncle while growing up in the Cambridgeshire Fens, hopes it will become compulsive viewing for all ages. “We know that anglers will love it, but what we really want to do is achieve a cross-over of people who might never have looked at angling before and would like to sit down as a family and see what it’s all about,” he said.
And co-producer Paula Battle said: “We call it our ‘Lark Rise to Crabtree’. The production team regards it as very much a passion project.”
Other locations will include different stretches of the River Wensum, as well as part of the Great Ouse system near King’s Lynn.