Monday 15 April 2019

More fishing

Having watched a group of young people, all with their heads down, fiddling with tablets and mobile phones it occurred to me just how different life is today for our youngsters. As a result I got thinking about the stuff I and my friends did in Kingsley when we were of a similar age to the above mentioned group. I suspect the modern youngster walks very little and spends hours sitting with their gadgetry exercising only their fingers. It seems the newspapers are, almost daily, warning us of an obesity crisis among our youth. Trust me, there was no such crisis in my childhood days. Not least because we walked miles every day in order to perform some task or another, fishing, birds nesting, collecting nuts, blackberries, fungi etc. depending upon the season and or time of year. We left home after breakfast and, for the most part, did not return until tea time. Apart from all of the exercise we didn't have anything like the food available to us that the modern child enjoys, the war was not long over and rationing went on for quite a while. 

The fishing aspect of our activities, apart from the village pond, took place in the river at the back of the common and extended from Shortheath Common and Oakhanger all the way down to the rear of the Sleaford garage. That is a lot of walking, no doubt, amounting to many miles. 

Of course, we didn't do the whole length in any given day but we did cover long distances in pursuit of the wild brown trout which was plentiful in the river in those days. 

The other great joy, as far as the river was concerned, was tiddler fishing. This was done in the feeder stream which ran from, north of the village, behind Dean Farm under the B3004 and down hill towards where Mr and Mrs Waters farmed, before entering the river. It was the area behind the Waters farm which was the most popular with us as, in those days, it teamed with small fish. I suppose the close proximity to the main river contributed to this abundance. At the time my best mate, Lewis Batty, lived in the old chapel cottage. The cottage had a tinned roof lean-to and it was in this that we housed our collection of containers holding our fishy captives. The stream in which they had been caught was not a deep one, probably for the most part, about a foot deep. Not having lovely waterproof footwear available to us then we simply took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our trouser legs and paddled, this was in the summer months! In order to capture the tiddlers we used jam jars, bottles and netting, if we could get it. There was, I remember, a significant ridge worn away under the bank of the left hand side of the stream as it flowed to the river. Under this all manner of little fish would take refuge from our efforts to catch them. But catch them we did and we did so by pushing a jar into the ridge cavity downstream and them by means of a hand of foot slide the fish towards the jar causing the tiddlers in front to dart down and into the waiting jar. We caught dozens, in hindsight, far too many. There were bullheads, loach, (these we referred to respectively as dog and cat fish ), sticklebacks, minnows, small trout and very occasionally, fresh water lampreys.

It would interest me greatly to learn if there are still tiddlers in the stream and if so, do today's village boys go fishing for them. Sadly, I suspect the answer to both questions is a no, however, I would be absolutely delighted to be wrong on this assumption. The last time I visited Kingsley, a little over a year ago, I attempted to drive over and have a look at the river, a task that was always possible when I lived in the village, but found the way barred by military barriers. Not only that but whilst I was attempting to turn around a small detachment of rifle carrying troops came jogging up the path. It would appear the military has taken far more control of the common than in days gone by. Apart from occasional maneuvers, and they were very occasional, and the odd military radio lorry, not much was seen of a military presence. People used the common pretty much as they liked, is it still so? I am aware that the common is now designated an S.S.S.I and I wonder if that has had an impact at all? I would be very interested to learn the answers to these question, perhaps some kind soul will let me know.