IN A deprived corner of Greater London, a refreshing new example of angling serving young people and the community is fast emerging.
Get Hooked On Fishing officially launches its flagship scheme in Ealing on June 22 and it’s set to be the first social enterprise of its kind with classrooms overlooking its existing day ticket fishery for both teaching and use by the general public. It will be the charity’s fifteenth nationwide project and already it’s making a difference to local life.
“When I came here I’d never seen poverty like it,” said regional organiser James Thornhill. “Some people here can’t even afford £10 for a fishing set and one bloke who comes to the lakes hasn’t changed his clothes for six months.
“Before we took control of the park there were big problems with anti-social behaviour and stories of fish being cut up and barbequed. Now there’s a real sense of community and respect about the site. People look after it, do litter picks and volunteer to coach others,” he said.
The Ealing project is unique because everything about it is sustainable and it operates as a non-profit business. Up until recently the six lakes had existed in a state of neglect but GHOF has replanted them and restocked the waters with small carp and various silverfish. It now operates as a day-ticket lake as well as a platform for coaching. The site is overlooked by two huge mounds, which were made using waste rubble from the old Wembley Stadium and the earth dug from the lakes’ construction. Its main classroom holds regular fishing and nature-based talks for school children, and it is also hired out to other local functions and groups.
Although it opened its doors in September 2012, James told Angling Times that it has already generated several success stories.
“Let me give you an example of what fishing does. One of our regulars is Nathan - a 14-year-old who has been expelled from school and has mixed with the wrong people in the past. But to watch him coach others you’d never guess, and last week he came fourth individually in the London Youth Games match. People like this often make the best role models and he’s a fantastic young man.
“Then there’s Charlie, whose apprenticeship at Sparsholt College is being funded by us. He gets good fisheries management and business experience at Ealing, but it’s not just young people we help. The other day I was asked to reunite a young girl with her parents, after six years apart while she was in care. We sat and fished for the afternoon and it was much less awkward than if the three of them were sat round a table,” he said.
Typically coaching programmes consist of five or six lessons, starting with basic tackle and plumbing up and ending in the individual being able to teach another. Its initial 12 month target of introducing 400 young people to the sport is already close to being surpassed with three months to go. None of it would be possibly, however, without the support of the local Ealing Borough Council, funding from other parties such as the Environment Agency, and important donations from tackle companies.
“My own background is in business and in fishing, so I’m keen to show the youngsters we work with that angling can be your career as well as your hobby. Many people round here don’t have a job, or come from families where nobody has had a job for generations. If we can create jobs or help them get jobs in fishing and fisheries, we can turn out some very well rounded young men and women who add even more to the community,” he said.
There is, however, much more to GHOF than just the new Ealing venture. Chief Executive Sarah Collins hopes that this centre will operate as a hub for the South East, where it currently has a lack of schemes, and is looking to create a network of projects in this popular angling area. In 2012 the charity enjoyed its best year ever in terms of numbers of people introduced to the sport, and it is growing all the time.
“We’ve currently got schemes in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Bristol in the pipeline. My ultimate vision is to have a huge nationwide presence and to get GHOF on every street corner. This is so as many as people as possible can experience the social and community benefits which angling brings,” she concluded.
GHOF is always looking for new volunteers and potential coaches. For more information on your local schemes visit the website www.ghof.org.uk. For enquiries contact Sarah Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org
GHOF in numbers
8,539 The total number of new anglers put through GHOF schemes in 2012
31,137 The total number of hour spent coaching in 2012
2,500 GHOF’s most successful project ( Shropshire) coached this many people in
15 There are 15 projects across the UK , run by 13 designated managers
£5 The mere price of a day ticket at GHOF’s Ealing fishery (£3 for concessions)