Looking back it seems we all experienced the local pond in some form or other, whether it was a village pond or a lake in a park. In hindsight to those of a certain age I think the illustrations in Ladybird books had a lot to do with such halcyon memories, launching wooden toy yachts or fishing for fry with a net, but for me I remember quite vividly trying to catch the goldfish from Lindfield Pond in Sussex until a prim old lady from the local parish and resident of the private road that ran along side the pond, would come over and tick me off then send me packing.
These ponds seem to have certain features, an island and a willow tree, a few mallards, possibly a pair of swans and occasionally an unwanted pet terrapin would break the surface for air. In the winter the pond would seem quiet, almost lifeless but as spring warmed, frog spawn would appear in the shallows, while water boatmen would skit about on the surface film. The spring would also bring fry darting about in the margins, while roach, rudd, orfe and goldfish (often discarded pets) would swim in shoals in the deeper water. As a boy these signs of life were potential targets, armed with the most basic of equipment and a worm or a blob of bread, this is where many boys dreams began, hunting for fish and larger monsters of the deep. Chris Yates In ‘Casting at the Sun’ writes of his first encounter with the local village pond in Burgh Heath, Surrey and his attempt to capture a golden carp with his ‘boys’ fishing kit. These experiences seem to be the spark for so many life-long anglers.
Two years ago we moved to a new area (although not completely alien to me) Lower Clapton in North East London where just up from our house is a small pond. Lower Clapton Pond was dug in the 1600’s during the reign of James I, originally a watering hole for livestock and then later a reservoir for the supply of water to the local area. In 1898 the ponds were saved from being filled in and re-landscaped by the local Hackney Vestry with gravel paths, a footbridge, miniature islands, trees and a small fence. In the 1970’s the ponds were re-modelled again but then fell into the hands of drug addicts, alcoholics and other unsavoury characters, Lower Clapton Pond was a bit of a no go area. Then in 2002 the Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group was set up and once again the ponds became a safe haven for locals to enjoy after another re-design.
And now, in 2014 I peer down and see goldfish, orfe, a lone terrapin and more surprisingly under the weeping willow a single large carp of around eights pounds! How these one off loners get into such ponds is a mystery to me but a good one to ponder over, no pun intended!
HI, I lived in Lindfield as a teenager, and remember the village pond, and some of the prim old ladies you mention. If I remember right there was much debate between the pro-swan brigade and the duck supporters party, when it was discovered that the nesting swans were drowning the ducklings one year.
I never managed to take fish from the village pond, but was more successful at the old millpond to the north of the village.
The tuesday swim said:
What era are we talking? I do remember the swan removal debate, probably an ongoing issue?
Mill pond north of the village, I can’t think where that would be? On the road to Ardingly, I’m intrigued.
Well, the family moved there after my 11 plus, but before I started at Lewes Grammar, so I suppose that would be 1962, give or take a year.
We lived just off the Ardingly road, not the one through the village, but the one further west, that runs/ran through the golf course. I recall a lane between those two roads that ran through the woods to this pond. I don’t remember a mill as such, but there was a weir, and it was known as the Mill Pond. To my young eyes it was a lovely sight, surrounded by woodland, a really nice lake.
The tuesday swim said:
Interesting, I can’t think where that lake would be, could it be where Ardingly reservoir now stands? There are Hammer woods near by which could indicate an old Hammer pond.
I just had a squint at the arch-enemy (Google). There is a possible candidate on the north-west edge of Town Wood, a long patch of blue that might be part of an old river.
The tuesday swim said:
If it is the same bit of water I can see is it on the land of the farm above Town Wood, I will have to take a look, my godfather lives right on the edge of the woods
Great article and very nice blog generally.
I’m originally from Barcombe and grew up fishing the Ouse, both in Barcombe and the tidal section. I’ve driven past Lindfield pond many times and always wondered what fish might be in it.
Coincidentally I’ve driven past the Upper Clapton ponds many times as well, as I now live fairly close to them. As you wrote, they seem to have been mucked around with in terms of water level and quality a lot over the years, but glad to hear there are now fish in them.
My closest waters are the Clissold Park lakes. Never fished them, although they used to allow fishing until about 15 years or so ago. Again, majorly messed around with. One lake now has a lot of carp, while the other one was drained a few years ago and then refilled and now appears to hold one solitary fish which somehow survived.