The History Of Bridgwater Angling Association, Part 2.

As already stated the 1930’s was a time of steady enlargement of the association where membership was concerned. But all this was brought to a halt by the out break of world war two in September 1939. Very soon, even those not eligible for service in the forces, found themselves occupied with various wartime activities which sadly reduced opportunities for fishing or serving the affairs of the association.

In spite of these pressures there were some who were able to find chances of getting out with their rods. Very soon they were confronted by shortages of tackle and bait. The resources of the tackle manufacturers were being diverted to war work. It was hooks and line which presented the greatest difficulties. Various ingenious expedients were adopted to overcome these. It was not long before it was realised that the suture silk used in the course of treatment of wounds was identical with the fishing lines of those days. Some hospitals noticed a mysterious disappearance of this material.

In the later part of this turbulent period, during which of course, Ray Perrett was secretary, developments of momentous portent were taking place. A large scale programme of improvements to the drainage of the moors around the Sedgemoor area was getting underway. The Huntspill river was cut and was completed in February 1943. It could be mentioned that the general belief that this waterway was created for the purpose of supplying water to the Royal Ordnance factory at Puriton is not true. It may have had importance in this direction but its main purpose was to drain the land up towards Glastonbury. This function had been seen long before the war. Furtherance of the agricultural potential of the land was made more essential by the German U boat campaign.

The Kings Sedgemoor Drain was widen extensively throughout its length, and subsequently other channels such as the North and South Drains and the West Sedge Moor Drain appeared. The transactions relative to the former two occupied some months but while these were taking place Raymond Parrett backed by a guy by the name of Paul Hellard, refused in spite of many protests , to call the committee together . They held off taking this proper course of action until they were able to present a fait accompli. No doubt this simplified the negotiations but it was a highly unconstitutional procedure which would not be tolerated in present times.

These acquisitions, with the increasing popularity of angling appearing after the war, soon took the membership from hundreds to thousands and brought the funds to beyond the wildest dreams of those who controlled the association in former days.

The large measure of opinion questioning this apparent progress soon became evident. It has been mentioned that it was felt that it went beyond the requirements of the local anglers. To meet the expenses incurred, encouragement had to be given to anglers from farther afield, including in particular those from the Bristol area, towards whom a feeling of friction had grown up. This was thought to contrary to the interests of the local angler. The contention was that the Bridgwater Angling Association had been set up to meet the needs of those living in the locality, and that it should give priority to this aspect of it functions. It was a view that lingered on for quite some time.

A suggestion put forward was that another and separate association might be floated. It could embrace the waters further removed from Bridgwater and accommodate the visiting anglers whilst the associations original waters could cater for the locals. It may have been worthy of consideration then but its practicability may be doubtful now.

The advent of the improved drains marked a turning point in the Associations fortunes and built the reputation of Somerset fishing. All England championship contests on the Huntspill and Kings Sedgemoor Drain made these and other waters in the vicinity known and indeed famous throughout the country. Membership spread widely and especially into industrial areas. The consequent influx of visitors in holiday times must have made an appreciable contribution to the local tourism. It could be said that Association was on the angling map. Three national championships were held and written about on this blog.

Although constructed essentially as channels for the free passage of flood water, the drains have supported excellent fisheries and some of the local angling clubs are now largely dependent on them for their fishing. It was the quality of the bream and tench which made them so popular and valuable. It was very good fortune that they came to the fore front when the rivers of Somerset had declined somewhat from their former glory.

The depreciaton of the fisheries in the drains and other waters during recent years through pollutions and excessive weed growth is very obviously a great tragedy, but it must be realised that but for the efforts of many dedicated members in spurring authority on to taking action taking action as far it was possible the consequences may have been far worse.

Also the effects of weed growth which has made so many of the lesser drains useless in summer is to be regretted. So often these little waters have been considered unimportant and it has not been seen sufficiently clearly that they had have added variety to the local fisheries and have provided the kind of quietude coveted by many fishermen.

The 1950s and the 1960s brought a variety of challenges to the Association and one of the biggest problems was pollution which will be one of the main subjects in part three.

Tight lines

Pete C

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