John Bailey: Oldies, the Wensum clean-up ... and a discarded drain cover
- Credit: Archant
I like to think that in this column I give as much credit as I possibly can to the upcoming angling generation. After all, before I did whatever it is that I do now, I was a teacher for a good few years and I've always had belief in the young.
However, this week, I think it is the veterans who deserve the praise and the Rob Shanks Angling award goes to grandfather Adie Hall.
Adie wrote in to say: "I gave my grandson Callum Harvey his first fishing trip recently as a change from sitting in his bedroom, playing on his XBox. We went to Meadow Lake at Shallowbrook as it holds a good head of smaller fish which would keep him interested. I set him up with a four-metre whip and the lake did not let me down. It's great to have fish in the net, but there is the added bonus of the time fishing gives you with nature. In a quiet moment I asked Cal what he could see and hear. 'Water,' he replied with mild sarcasm. I then pointed out the kingfisher arrowing to his nest and the buzzard soaring overhead. I pointed Cal's gaze to the margins and he was open-mouthed to see a very large pike lying not a foot away. I remember taking my son on his first fishing outing and I feel blessed to have introduced two generations to my passion."
In similar vein, you might not describe Bob Anderson as an "oldie" exactly, but he seems to have been the guiding force at Cobbleacre fishery for just about ever. Which is why it was such a shock to hear that Bob is leaving after so long, after doing such fantastic work. Bob's achievements at Cobbleacre are legendary, but it is for his work with the young that I think he will be chiefly remembered. I cannot even begin to count the anglers that I alone know who credit Bob for starting them on their career. Bob, Adie, what great work you have both done, my friends.
This brings me neatly on to Terry Lawton, Kev Freezer, Paul Cook and Richard Nelson, another team of notable fishers who won't see 40 again... or 50 I'm guessing. Last week they got together to give the River Wensum around Fakenham a good clean-out. A wallet, a mobile phone, 18 tyres, a shoal of plastic bottles and drink cans, 30-odd golf balls and the inevitable supermarket trolley made up the bulk of the 'catch'. As Terry says, so few of us understand the importance of our rivers and their fragility. The Wensum is an SSSI and supposed to be one of the key rivers in Europe and yet so many treat it as a waste dump. It is a fine thing that anglers are doing something positive and actually making a difference for all to see. I guess we must thank North Norfolk District Council for providing bags, litter pickers and for picking up the rubbish at the end of the day. Perhaps now they might consider capitalising on the great trail Terry and team have blazed.
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I say that because I have been on the rivers myself these past few days, right towards the end of the warm spell. Everywhere a road has crossed a river, the kids have been out, it seems. They have brought with them towels, pop bottles, snacks, odd bits of clothing and even a drain cover in one instance. And, guess what? They have left them there. For every caring teenager worried about polar bears there are 20 who couldn't give a tinker's curse about the environment. In one instance a load of refuse was left piled against a sign threatening a £200 fine for littering. Perhaps the NNDC could now set about ensuring penalties are actually enforced rather than scoffed at? This matters. It won't be long before these kids are parents and there will be another generation of oafs who thinks it is a laugh to mess up the world we all have to live in. Wouldn't it be nice if Terry's work was the start of something even more far reaching?
Mind you, these kids are only following the example of their so-called elders and betters. I've just picked up on the fact that Southern Water has been fined £3m for sewage spills on a continuing basis between 2010 and 2017. It appears 300 of their sewage works aren't fit for purpose, but, worst of all, Southern Water lied habitually and went to obscene lengths to cover the whole debacle up. You also have to ask what the Environment Agency, the body charged with keeping our rivers pure, were doing? I've been asking myself what they were doing for SEVEN whole years. This seems especially suspicious as Southern Water have serious form and were done for sewage misdemeanours in 2007. Fourteen per cent of our nation's rivers are reportedly in good health but we don't seem surprised, shocked or bothered even if the remaining 86pc are shambolic open sewers. Perhaps I've got the youth who left the manhole cover bankside at Lyng all wrong. Perhaps it was all a piece of subtle irony after all.
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Finally, can I set the record straight? My friends are rejoicing in a report that appeared in The Sun the other week. The paper misquoted Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse as saying I had booked them into a Norfolk sex hotel on a recent fishing trip. Absolutely not true. As was that paper's allegation that I am aged 76. Outrageous. I'm 80 if I'm a day.