Our myriad pits and ponds are keepers of some great secrets
- Credit: Archant
Just a half century back, our region was scattered with small pits and ponds as numerous, it seemed, as stars in a bright night sky.
Farm ponds, duck ponds, horse ponds, storage ponds, marl pits and sand pits made it seem our ancestors forever had a shovel in their hands. These ponds were the places where I as a child, along with all my mates, started on our fishing careers. They were as invaluable to us all as all their electronic stuff is to kids today. Happily, a spring drive of some 50 north Norfolk by-road miles showed me there are still scores left clinging onto life today.
It was Wilf who first alerted me to the power of the pond from a serious, adult angling point of view. I met him around the turn of the 70s, when he seemed impossibly old to me then, but was probably only 20 years ahead. I suspect, then, he could well be alive and kicking so, if you read this, thank you. Wilf, you see, put me onto my best ever perch at the time from a pool of less than half an acre. The fish was eye-bogglingly closer to four pounds than three and I was sufficiently gobsmacked never to underestimate fishing in Lilliput again.
Wilf's last gift came perhaps just 15 or so years ago. He told me of some big roach he'd had Guestwick way. I found the place, a puddle no more, and a swim where he had cut back the bramble to create room to cast a float. I fished there two or three times and though I didn't get one of Wilf's 'twos' I had roach to 1lb 10oz which looked miraculous with that tiny watery backdrop.
We know these little oases have had a hard time over recent decades. Farming practices mean they are not cleaned out like they were and are more often filled in. Pollution, predation, abstraction and silting have all had a hand, too, in damaging an endless resource of aquatic life. It's not just fish we mourn, but frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, grass snakes, slow-worms, kingfishers, herons, water voles and waterfowl of all descriptions.
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Bodham Pit is a great example of how a community can salvage and manage a pit for the good of all, though I have to say I have had my piscatorial problems there in the recent past. Richard, that wisest of farmers up near Holt, has rescued many of his own ponds and even re-energised several so-called 'ghost ponds'. These are ponds that have recently died, but still possess some ethereal essence that gives them away. Perhaps they harbour a pocket of mist in a suspicious meadow dip, highlighted by dew. Perhaps they are just depressions sprouting sedge or bulrush, but Richard can sniff them out and restore them. I've fished half a dozen of these bath-sized piece of water through the last week with mixed results. I've recorded four blanks, a one pound tench and a very battered pike double that size. I have, though, enjoyed each experience and realise it wouldn't take much to reclaim them for the good of all and often for the village kids. And, as I have said repeatedly, Poringland residents have restored their waters with joyfully promising results for many children. If the will is there, it doesn't take forever in time or never-ending funds. But I might be missing something of course. The other day, an old boy, probably my age, cycled past me and stopped to look at my motionless float. He evidently didn't think much of me when I admitted I had drawn a blank. Just last summer, he told, a chap had a 17lb tench there! I can't decide if I'm a rubbish angler or a cynical one.
I won't be cynical on May 5. I've been invited to have lunch, courtesy of Sally Acloque and the Countryside Alliance Foundation, to celebrate the work of Fishing For Schools. Charles Jardine is the guest of honour and I have known him for years as a friend, as an international fly angler, an artist and a campaigner for the countryside. Sally, Charles and the team have already achieved great things but I know there is more to come. I can only repeat that there is so much will out there if we give it our support.
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