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From the very first

A Fifty Year Ramble
A story of the journey from being a Cockney Kid and Street Rake to a love of the countryside and the joys of the habitat and wildlife therein. Plus getting muddy!

Firstly a few links to help with pictures, maps etc.  Wildlife in Southern Epping Forest  Wanstead Flats and Park  Pictures

To help the non-Cockneys and younger ones.  Money explained
Tanner  =  6d = 2.5p
A Bob = 1/- = 5p
Half a Crown = 2/6 = 12.5p
A Quid = £1
Half a Quid = 10/- = 50p
Right, all got the idea now.

Are you sitting comfortably? So let’s begin.

I suppose it all started when I was about 6. Dad got a 6d fishing net from the local toy shop and equipped with a jam jar with string handle we departed for Wanstead Flats Model Boat Pond. The quarry that day was Tiddlers, a collective name for anything small or daft enough to end up in the net. It didn’t take long to fill the jar to overflowing and there was still the bread, feeding Ducks for the use of, to go. Now being the height of summer it was quite hot and after being side tracked by throwing bread at ducks the jam jar was forgotten about. The bread all gone, home time beckoned and with net and jam jar collected we hop onto the hot bus for the 15min. ride home. Fill up a bowl with water and empty the days catch into it, Daaaddd these fish don’t do a lot do they, just float about on the top and some are the wrong way up. Think that was the reason, that to this day, I dislike boiled fish but a lesson learnt. Think about animals needs, the next lot weren’t going to die. Like hell they weren’t! Even with only a few and weed in the now much bigger National Dried Milk tin they still died but took longer, at least I got them home swimming. 500 Tiddlers later I gave up trying. We still went over “The Flats” regularly but just to feed the ducks and watch the model yachts get becalmed in the middle for hours.
Christmas was approaching and I started nagging about fishing again. Deep joy, the jolly fat git in the red outfit and beard had left me a Bamboo, 2 piece, rod, Bakelite reel (2” diameter), a float you could moor the Titanic to, some hooks and line etc. Boxing Day came and Dad and Uncle suggest we go to The Ornamental Pond at Wanstead Park as it would probably be more exciting than walking down to the Boleyn to watch West Ham lose again. Must be back by 12 though because they all knew how much I enjoyed sitting on the step outside The White Hart with a bottle of lemonade and an arrowroot biscuit in the middle of winter.
Now this was going to be an adventure as I had never been over this park before. Bread was now bait instead of duck food, a gas mask bag held all my tackle although an empty crisp packet would have done just as well. The walk seemed to take forever, past the Swimming Pond, then the Man Made Lake followed by the Boating Lake. At last the Ornamental, it seemed so dark surrounded by woodland and I can still smell that place now. It was just water, wood and undergrowth combined and I bet you can smell it too.
Rod comes out of bag and reel is attached. What next Dad? Put the line through the holder, guide things I suppose. There’s no line on the reel so I delve into the gas mask bag to discover that the line had been left at home. Walk the reverse route and get home in time to see West Ham lose and freeze to death on the steps of the White Hart. All in all that day was a disaster for me, no fishing, the Hammers lost and I froze my butt off on the pub steps. Not all bad though, I had just learnt my first lesson as an angler. Check your tackle before leaving home, a habit I never lost. As always, or so it seemed, snow, frost and ice followed Christmas and that put pay to anymore outings for what seemed like years, well a month at least.
Mum worked in a newsagents and she brought me home all the angling papers. That was The Angling Times, in glorious black and white. I read that paper from front to back every week and began to learn. February and it’s my birthday, presents to open, cards to read, hoping for money to fall out. Got a few bob and two books, that looking back, started me on the road to ruin. Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing and The Observers Book of Pond Life. With my birthday money burning a hole, I jump on the “Trolley Bus” for my first journey to Homers, our nearest tackle shop. It’s amazing how smells stay with you, Homers was a sort of musty, cool, damp atmosphere, even in summer it was the same. So my shopping spree begins, a couple of quill floats, hooks tied to gut, bait tin and some shot, the beginning of the end of saving for anything other than tackle. Walked home as I had blown my bus fare on tackle but so what it only took 30mins. and the gas mask bag was beginning to fill up. So far I had only been buying, that which I needed, if only it could have stayed like that. Pocket money was invested in Mr. Homers bank account on a regular basis for such items as a landing net (a triangular fold up thing with a bamboo handle about 5ft. long), folding stool, rod rests etc. I had up to this time, banked a grand total of zero fish! It didn’t matter though, I was enjoying it and can still to this day, have a good blank.
I only ever went with some mates once. After about half hour all they wanted to do was play about in the woods or throw stones at things. I wanted to catch my first fish and from that day I went solo. Well not strictly solo, I always sat close to someone, not to chat but to watch and learn. I had found out that although I knew very little, Dad knew even less and Mr. Crabtree and observation were the only way I could progress. I could quote from that book after a few months and after those few months another lesson was learned.
Got to the waters edge, put my tackle down and a voice from behind me says, “Hope you ain’t going fishing son”. It was a Park Ranger and he explained that the season had finished a few days before and that was it, until June 16th. I told him that I was new to this fishing lark and didn’t mean to do anything wrong, he offered to let me walk round the lake with him. What an adventure, he pointed out wildlife I had never noticed before, places to fish and the fact that waterfowl had more names than Swan and Duck. The River Roding running alongside the far end of the lake, the Boat House and Grotto, all unknown to me, as like most kids I only got as far as the nearest unoccupied swim to the footpath, never thought about where may be better and consistently caught nothing. He became a friend and tutor, a situation that lasted for a few years until I began to go elsewhere and only met him on the odd return visit. From him I began to learn how to tie knots that stayed tied, shotting a float properly, reading the water etc. My very own Jack Hargreaves?
Another Christmas comes around, oh joy of joys, a two piece, 8ft. solid glass rod and an Intrepid Standard fixed spool reel, a float wallet with some floats and a £1 gift voucher for Homers. A few quid more came into the coffers from bone idle relations who couldn’t be bothered to actually buy anything, great, more money for Mr. Homer’s retirement fund. First day of opening after the holiday and Bazzer’s on the doorstep. It was books I wanted, must learn more. I don’t know if anyone remembers them, a series of books titled “How to Catch”, I wanted the lot. They were a light blue coloured hardback, about A5 size and perhaps 100 pages long. Remember just a couple of them that I purchased and they were H.T.C. Roach, Chub and I think Perch. One of the few things that stick in my mind was from the Chub one. The correct way to mount and present Frogs or Slugs as bait (?), needless to say I gave that a miss plus I didn’t have access to any water that held Chub. Why did I buy that one? Few bob left over to pay for bus fares, maggies and buy day tickets for over “The Ornie”.
I have still not banked a fish yet.

Don't hold your breath. This get's added to about three lines a year.

Excellent read Bazzer i really enjoyed that mate and yes you won your bet because as i read your post i could have sworn i caught a woft of that ornamental pond as i was right there with you  

Enjoyed reading that Basil..

That was a lovely read bazzer

I think all of us anglers of a certain age owe Mr Crabtree a debt of gratitude.I still have my old, battered copy.

I still have my old, battered copy

Wish I'd still got mine and although well used it was kept in near mint condition.
Years later it was revamped and reprinted but it wasn't the same.

What was his young companions name.

Peter, is the name your looking for bazzer.

Excellent read Bazzer

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