The Wandle Piscators

This morning we awoke to birdsong.  Yes, song.  No more raucous chattering of magpies.  Could the plague have passed?  A different, territorial, conflict took place.  From our window we joined the audience of a wren and a wood pigeon watching a stand-off between two robins.  The victorious combatant joined them on the fence and they were all lined up, respectful distances apart, surveying the terrain.  Maybe congratulating themselves on having survived the various avian threats.  It was a bit like a surviving gladiator joining the spectators in the Colosseum.  During the afternoon a couple of the predators returned to the trees on the embankment.  A wandering cat caused them great consternation and silenced the rest of the birds.  They didn’t silence my rest, though.  They simply disturbed it.

In fact another kind of invasion seems in the offing.  I mentioned in a previous post a man having commandeered the patch of unused land alongside our garden fence.  He is now nailing supports to our fence – not just the posts, but the more flimsy panels in between.  We are simply tenants and don’t have access to the garden which is really the home of the foxes, otherwise I might go and have a word.  However, when he started belting these nails in and shaking the fence I thought I’d better ring the landlord and let her know (I know, I know, the word land lord is not appropriate for a woman, but the two of them seem happy with it).  I got an answerphone on which I left a message.  Later in the evening, not having received a reply, I went to investigate.  His runner bean canes are not actually touching our fence, but what he was nailing in place was a rambling blackberry.

En route to Cannon Hill Common I stopped and chatted to the younger proprietor of the Martin Cafe.  This, of course, meant that I was bound to go in for a fry-up on the way back.  So I duly did.  It seemed only right.

On the common there were masses of dog roses in full bloom festooning other shrubs, and brambles were beginning to bear blossom.

Walking along the lakeside I noticed, attached to a couple of trees, laminated flyers stating that, from tomorrow, fishery in the lake would be managed by The Wandle Piscators, a private club.  Whilst, admittedly, the club invited new members, it would no longer be legal for the general public to fish these waters.  Was this another nail in the privatisation coffin which has been built to contain public service and real freedom to be an individual?  I pondered on this, and whether the ban would extend to free spirited small boys gathering newts, as I continued my walk.

This took me past a group of mothers and toddlers happily feeding the ducks on bread.  I think it was in Regents Park that I once spotted a notice advising people not to give the birds bread and advising of the dangers to them inherent in this.  I thought it best not to mention that.  It is, after all, one of the greatest pleasures of young children and an excellent way of occupying them and providing a social outlet for their mothers.  I don’t think that, however polite and genteel an informant such as I may be, I would have been seen as anything other than a killjoy, if not an interfering old git.

Further along, strapped to a bench inscribed IN LOVING MEMORY OF ALLAN WILLIAM MARSHALL, who died in 2008, there was a vase filled with fresh flowers in clean water.  Someone mourns him still.

Beyond the lake I took a footpath parallel to the common which brought me out onto Grand Drive.  Was this the route taken by those two small boys all those years ago?  Unless Chris remembers I guess I will never know.  Up Grand Drive, left into Southway and I was soon back on the common having a last stroll back along the lake and on to Martin Cafe.  This time I chose to stop and chat to the one solitary angler I had noticed first time round.  I wondered what was his view on the Wandle Piscators?  Well, he was going to join.  He saw no harm in it although he would rather it wasn’t happening.  If it improved the quality of cleanliness and management it could be a positive thing.  He didn’t think £25 per year was too much to pay for any potential improvement.  He confirmed what I had surmised, that this was the club that fished the Wandle in Morden Hall Park.  They were therefore an established organisation.  What I didn’t tell him was that the National Trust litter picker had told me that the fishermen left lots of rubbish.  My companion here was therefore likely to be disappointed in his hope that under new management the litter bins might actually be emptied before they had begin to spill their contents. He, himself, had been fishing here about ten years.  There were others, however, in their fifties and sixties who had regularly fished there since they were seven years old.  They had formed considerable opposition, but to no avail.  I guess progress means regulation.

Tonight’s repast was my sausage casserole, using Sainsbury’s pork and herb sausages and bearing less and less resemblance to Delia’s original.  I finished off the Minervois whilst Jackie had a Peroni.

And so to bed and a few pages of ‘The Remorseful Day’.

15 responses to “The Wandle Piscators”

  1. OK Derrick, I’ll try to rack the memory banks.

    Grand Drive would have been a route we tried but not the normal way.

    Normal way was:
    – Over the fence at the back onto the railway path and turn towards Wimbledon
    – Along the path, passed the stinging nettle patch, until Lower Downs Road
    – Right under the bridge and the continue on Lower Downs Road
    – Passed the corner shop (our first shaving kit) and along Kingston Road where it turns right at the junction with Lower Downs Road
    – Right at the T-junction with Bushey Road
    – Left down Martin Way
    – Right down Whatley Avenue
    – At the bottom of Whatley Avenue there was (is) a path leading off from the left hand corner.
    – Down the path on the left was a recreation ground with slides, swings etc. I used to feel sick on the roundabout.
    – The Common and Lake were to the right of the path. Walking round the lake we would sometimes need to dodge air rifle pellets.

    That’s how I remember it – do you agree.


  2. Hi Derrick,

    I share your concerns about the over regulation of public spaces and the constraint of simple pleasures such as feeding ducks.

    Unfortunately fishing at Cannon Hill Common is under threat from the irresponsible few who leave their rubbish on the bank and verbally abuse other users of the lake and common. Merton Council and others have tried to solve the problem without regulation and have failed. The remaining options are few: to remove the fish from the lake and ban fishing; or to lease the fishing to a club and for the club to manage the fishing.

    The Wandle Piscators was invited to lease the fishing because it is an established and respected angling club that does a lot of conservation and restoration work on the River Wandle. The Wandle Piscators doesn’t lease the fishing within the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park, that is another club: the Morden Hall Park Angling Club. It’s worth noting that the National Trust encouraged the formation of the MHPAC for the same reasons that Merton Council has invited the Wands to lease Cannon Hill Lake, regulation of the fishing reduces poaching, litter and anti-social behaviour.

    The Wandle Piscators has a junior section, angling coaches and is committed to making fishing accessible to everyone.

    It will take a lot of hard work to keep the right to fish at the lake but if we lose it then all the small boys will lose the only pond in Merton that provides the perfect environment to learn to fish.

    There is a public meeting at 7pm this evening (6th June) in the Joseph Hood Pavilion to recruit new members and fishery wardens. If your readers can’t make it they can write to

    All the best


    PS. The overflowing bins are the councils responsibility but the club will be organising fortnightly litter collections around the lake.

  3. It would seem that your trips are not so much down ‘Memory Lane’ more often they are back alleys and railway paths and any other cut throughs that are off the beaten track!

  4. […] a fishing licence but was not a club member and knew nothing of the lease to the Wandle Piscators (see post of 31st. May).  The boys were more interested in making fun of one of their group who, in attempting to retrieve […]

  5. Your writing is a delight to encounter – it might make me somewhat self conscious leaving comments – but I’ll persevere. I see ending each post with a description of your daily meal is characteristic. I must say that I rather like that, too.

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