Could fishing for schools secure our angling – and our society?

Charles Jardine, right, with John Bailey's conservation hero, Robin Combe, of Bayfield.

Charles Jardine, right, with John Bailey's conservation hero, Robin Combe, of Bayfield. - Credit: Archant

Just the other week, I forsook filming on the riverbank for an hour or so to make my way to the Assembly House in Norwich city centre to see what this Fishing for Schools is all about.

Charles Jardine and Sally Acloque are doing fine work with schools in Norfolk.

Charles Jardine and Sally Acloque are doing fine work with schools in Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

The pioneering event had been set up by that most enlightened of Wensum Valley riparian owners, Sally Acloque and the guest of honour was Charles Jardine.

The name will resonate with many of you, especially the game anglers. I've worked with Charles for the BBC, at Game Fairs and at all manner of shows and I've yet to meet a more talented and genuine character. He's the Renaissance man of angling, a skilled writer, a superb artist, a genius fly-tyer, an internationally renowned casting instructor, quite superb at anything he puts his hand to and devastatingly nice to boot.

Fishing for Schools (F4S) is sorely needed both in terms of our sport and perhaps in terms of our society. It is run under the egis of the Countryside Alliance Foundation and the idea is to go into schools and adapt angling to the curriculum. First comes the class work, showing how angling involves geometry, English, maths, science, including biology, and even cooking.

Once the academic boxes have been ticked, the kids can be taken onto the waterside and, blissfully, see what fishing is all about under the watchful eye of fully accredited instructors.

So far, so good and many schools around the country are already signing up to this concept of learning made full of fishing fun, realising it is a brilliant way to get city kids especially introduced to the all-important countryside. The emphasis is on the word 'city'.

When Charles and I managed to natter, he was absolutely adamant that the scheme is not for more privileged children, but those with special needs or physical difficulties and often living in difficult environments. Charles told me that he stopped asking whether the kids had parents who enjoyed angling.

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A big majority of them replied that they didn't have any parents. I think you get the picture and Charles' target audience now.

So far, it's been a rip-roaring success and thank you to Sally for working tirelessly to bring the scheme to Norfolk.

It always humbles me when I meet people like Charles and Sally who work so hard for no economic reward and sometimes scant little praise. Why do it? Charles replied that he believes in youth, that he believes in the UK's future. Charles is a man who can't sit back and let Britain's inner cities fester. Though the scheme is aimed for children between 10 and 16, Charles told me that the most receptive age group is probably up to around 12.

I guess that fishing isn't the sole answer to our city sink estates, but if more guiding lights like Charles and Sally can step up, then who knows how our future might just pan out?

I ought to add the congregation that day was full of similar people working for fishing, society and the environment. Renowned instructor Tim Gaunt-Baker was there along with Terry Lawton, for example, one of the county's great conservationists.

So, too, was Robin Combe, well-known already as my hero for trying to save Bayfield Lake for the youngsters of the area. Charles and Sally are not working alone.

In many unexpected ways, angling is not unlike football and Leicester City demonstrate a massive lesson to the kids that Charles and Sally are aiming to inspire.

You don't have to a so-called star to achieve.

Success can be built on hard work and commitment.

There is still room in sport and in life for the little guy, who might very well have the last laugh in the schoolroom, on the riverbank or in life itself.

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