During the 1914-1915 season the entire team of Clapton Orient signed up to the front line, forty one in total, the highest en-masse conscription in the country from a football team. The final game saw a 20,000 strong crowd to see off ‘their boys’, George Scott, William Jonas and Richard McFadden made the ultimate sacrifice, while many of the Clapton Orient men were unable to play football again. The original Clapton stadium was located just 200 yards from where I now live and yards from the River Lea. Later Clapton Orient moved to the Speedway site off Lea Bridge Road and then soon after moved to Leyton where the club changed its name to Leyton Orient. Lest we forget.
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!