A STRETCH of one of Britain’s most popular angling rivers has been granted ‘bathing water status’ in a move that’s been warmly welcomed by local angling club officials.
The River Thames at Port Meadow, Oxford, is the second stretch of river in England to gain the status, following the River Wharfe in Ilkley, North Yorkshire, last year.
While the decision is popular with most water users, in the angling community the bathing status issue can polarise opinion. Although some harbour concerns regarding the impact extra swimmers will have on the fishing, others welcome the improved water quality it should bring.
Oxford & District AA controls the fishing at Port Meadow, and Secretary Billy Burnell fits resoundingly into the latter camp.
“We’re happy because it means that Thames Water won’t pump effluent into the river at every opportunity,” he told us. “This is more important to us than bathers, which we have on the river anyway.”
When applying for the designated status, local swimming groups contacted the club for their thoughts, and Billy is keen to keep the dialogue going.
“We want them to know we’re not going to catapult maggots at them, and in return we’d like them to know not to climb into the river during matches,” he explained. “We’d also like to see a designated stretch for the bathers, so they’re out of the way. There are members of the club who don’t like them, but there are many river users and we should all strive to get along,” he added.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow recently called for ‘more applications for popular bathing areas, both inland and coastal, that may be suitable for designation’. So, with more bathing water river sites on the way, whether we like it or not, AT editor James Furness urged anglers who might be against them to consider the bigger picture. He said: “No angler wants someone swimming through their peg, but with pollution running rife, the bathing water issue might be a powerful tool in protecting fish from the utility companies.”