Bathampton Angling Association 1936 to 1986
The following history of the Association was written for our Golden Jubilee year of 1986 and was part of the booklet that was printed to commemorate those fifty years.
In The Beginning
In the village of Bathampton at “The George Inn” on the date of May 23rd 1936 a Committee with a Mr. Baverstock as Chairman formerly launched the Bathampton Anglers as an Association. Cash in hand at the time totalled £8.14.0d. The Committee comprised of the following gentlemen:
F. Dolman E. Dolman C. Jobbins
R. Slade C. Kent W. Pritchard
Porter Cox Keen Wheeler
Mr. Yates (Hon. Secretary).
Membership had to be applied for in the early years and by the end of 1945 had reached a figure of 150. With the introduction of new waters at Claverton, Warleigh, and the fishing rights on the Kennet and Avon Canal extended to cover from Dundas Aquaduct through to Widcombe, the membership grew to 402 by the end of 1948. The Committee continued their quest for new waters and members were rewarded by their efforts with additions of Newbridge, Saltford and Kelston on the lower Avon. Woodborough and Hunstrete Lakes were soon to follow, as was Trout fishing on Lamb Brook and Box Brook, a total of approximately 14 miles.
The introduction of Barbel into the upper Avon in the early 1950’s, which the Association can take quite a lot of credit for, further enhanced the fishing on our waters and by the end of 1966 membership totalled over 3000.
The search for new waters still went on and in 1969 a series of ponds at Bridgwater called “The Beeches” were added, providing excellent carp and Tench fishing and for three years members enjoyed the pleasure of taking good catches from Bowood Lake, sadly lost in 1975 through some members leaving their litter and discarded tackle behind, a problem that unfortunately exists.
The Committee, ever mindful of the pressures of holding onto fishing rights adopted the policy of purchasing waters whenever the opportunity arose. They were successful in 1975 in negotiating the purchase of Hunstrete Lake and in 1978 of Long Meadow on the upper Avon at Claverton.
This is the club record, all 8lbs 10ozs of it, caught at Hunstrete Main Lake in 1967 by Alan Dart of Bristol. It was also the national record for several years. At the time it brought national prestige to the Association.
In 1974 we were accepted as members of the National Federation of Anglers and then became a voice in the adoption of policies in the interests of angling. Members of our Committee still contribute on your behalf at National level.
With the loss of some waters, the ever increasing cost of angling and the pressures experienced over the last five years involving our sport, membership was no exception but still stands at a healthy 2,800 approximately. WE LOOK TO YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT.
One of the Best
Reading through the Minutes of Committee Meetings that have taken place over 50 years cannot help but fill one with admiration for the men that have guided this Association into becoming one of the largest in the country. The disappointments are far outweighed by the numerous achievements and I am sure you will join me in thanking Committee Members of the past for their efforts and hard work and to the present Committee for their continued dedication.
In the past twenty years there have been some very significant changes in the sport, most having a marked effect on our club.
Perhaps the most important has been the abolition of the close season on stillwaters allowing our members to fish the canal and lakes all year.
This has meant a big increase in the numbers of “commercial-type” fisheries and we had no alternative than to provide similar type fishing, or see the demise of the club.
We did so, initially with Newton Park and it has been a “winner” in all ways. After dredging, landscaping and stocking with Carp of 1 to 4 pounds it was opened in June 1991. [Work started in 1988 and it was stocked in 1990].
It has given consistently good sport ever since in both summer and winter. The Carp have grown well, they fight brilliantly and the lake now has the deserved reputation as among the best of its type in the country.
The Hunstrete Project
The success of Newton Park then gave the impetus for the successful completion of the Hunstrete Project.
These words cannot give justice to the time and effort put in by many club officers, committee members and regular members. Their efforts have provided a fabulous facility for future generations; they know who they are, and can be safe with the knowledge that their efforts will be used by thousands of anglers in years to come.
The whole project took some 12 years to complete; from purchase of the land adjoining Hunstrete Lake [which we already owned] to the opening in 1999.
A planning application was made in 1989 and, at the same time, serious fund raising was being carried out to pay for the project.
Then the National Lottery started in 1995 and we made a successful application for funds. This was first made in January 1996 and we eventually received a grant in November 1998. Looking back, it is almost inconceivable that the amount of work, reports, overcoming delays and so on was completed by club volunteers. A few words here are totally inadequate. Perhaps one day someone will write a history of Hunstrete’s development as a fishery. It will certainly make for interesting reading.
Anyway, the two new lakes were built and “christened” Bridge Pool and Withy Pool and are both providing great sport for members of all ages and skill levels.
The Hunstrete Complex 1999
The Hunstrete Complex Withy Pool
The Hunstrete Complex 2007
The Hunstrete Complex 2007
Also, during the period we have obtained more first class waters for our members to continue our doctrine of giving real Value for Money. These are Weston Pond, Widewater, Dragonfly Pond and a very nice stretch of the River Chew.
Although the trend is towards Stillwater fishing, our fisheries on the River Avon are as good as ever. Claverton has numerous big Barbel with plenty of doubles for this increasingly popular species. The Chub and Pike are prolific and to good size as well.
The Newbridge to Kelston stretch has been exceptional in recent years with massive Bream and big, big Roach; plenty of them!
Other big changes involve the trend to “political correctness”. We now have some obscure looking rules, certainly for a fishing club on the face of it, but we have to include these to be eligible for grants etc. And look at our list of officers. Who would have thought twenty years ago that we would need a Safety Officer and Welfare Officer. If anyone thought running a fishing club is easy and straight forward they couldn’t be more mistaken. The main consolation is that, at least, it’s “interesting”.
We have always had fishing on the Kennet and Avon Canal and the biggest change was the re-opening to boats along its whole length.
This has meant deepening it along much of our fishing and, whilst we have to live with the boats, the overall quality of sport has definitely improved.
The “older hands” will have seen great changes in baits over the years with the biggest impact being caused by the BOILIE; originally produced for Carp, now used for Tench, Barbel etc. Now we have pellets in all shapes and sizes, as well as a multitude of smells and ingredients. Add in pastes, dog biscuits, sweetcorn, cat food etc. which all catch fish, and inexpensive fishing is the result. The biggest spin-off is that most modern baits are highly nutritious and full of good things for fish, resulting in them growing to exceptional size. Who would have thought our club record Tench would ever exceed 10 pounds? And we have at least one 30 pound Carp again in Hunstrete and plenty of twenties. All grown on, due mainly to top quality baits.
All the good aspects of our great sport make a club like ours but, at the same time, there are plenty of downers to take the edge off sometimes.
Litter is still a problem, just as it was forty years ago. The “English Disease” is so disheartening. Is there an answer to it? We thank the proper anglers who take theirs home and curse those who leave it on the waterside.
Then Cormorants started to appear on our waters in 1992 and their numbers have been increasing ever since. They’ve cost the club a lot of time and money – purchasing deterrents, replacing fish and scaring them off and so on.
Foot and Mouth
Thank heavens foot and mouth disease is rare in this country. It happened in 2001 and our locality was badly affected resulting in “no-fishing” signs appearing for several months. This was a time of worry as there was no income for the club but good management saw us through. At least, the various fisheries had a “rest”.
25 Years Service
Bathampton A.A. has a dedicated set of committee members and bailiffs and without their support their would be no club at all. The many problems and challenges faced are dealt with to the best of abilities with the success and continuation of the club always in mind.
An example of such dedication was shown by Dave Crookes (Former General Secretary) on the left and Alan Gilbert (Treasurer/Membership Secretary) on the right being congratulated by N.F.A. President Terry Fell on completing 25 years in their respective positions. Sadly Dave passed away in December and is greatly missed by those who knew him. Alan still remains in his post.