Trip to Newbury

I had a busy day yesterday and spent the afternoon an evening in my beloved Kennet valley without even wetting a line. The Wasing Estate syndicate had their AGM in the evening, more about that later, and I wanted to look at a fishery in Kingsclere in the afternoon. I have been asked by Connexions e2e to provide four days coaching in May for a group of young people and as they are based in the Reading/Newbury area, Twynersh is to far to travel.

I found Frobury Farm S.C. in a free fisheries guide I got from Improve Your Coarse Angling magazine. I had a bit of trouble finding the place but then I am not familliar with the area. It used to be a farm but it has now taken on the appearence of a rural industrial eatate with a rather nice house in the middle. It is owned and run by Paul ‘Alfie’ Oldring, British Champion and ‘British Mini- Commonwealth’ Gold medallist clay pigeon shooter. He has represented England for 26 years, competing in European and World Championships for Great Britain for 15 years. No shooting is done on the site and it comprises seven ponds, the largest being about one acre.

Mr Oldring was out when I arrived so I had a walk round and completed my risk assessment. It is not a pretty place and I would not normally fish it myself, but it fitted the bill perfectly for my proposed purpose. It has plenty of space for coaching, lots of fish of several species and easy car parking. Several carp were caught during my visit.

Tony Cooper with carp

Another Martin with carp

Speaking to several anglers and to Mr Oldring I heard that large quantities of roach, rudd and small tench are also present. Just what I need for the young people.

In the evening I made my way to the Liberty Ballroom in New Greenham Park for the AGM. This place used to be the base for the american cruise missile in the eighties and I have memories of being bussed down from London to assist the local police to “control” the “peace women” who were camped here in apparent squalour as a protest. All this has changed and our american cousins have gone home and all that is left is a large sprawling industrial estate.

I have one fond memory of this place from my time in the police force. When we were sent away from our usual station, the regulations required that we were given a meal to prevent us from claiming expenses. Since the quality of this meal could vary from average to dreadful and was not something you looked forward to, these meals were refered to as “force feeding”, i.e. being fed by the police force. Often the more obvious meaning was closer to the truth.

The first time we were sent as “aid to Thames Valley” as it was called, we were surprised to be taken to Newbury Race Course at lunch time. Here our hosts, unfamilliar with feeding large numbers of visiting police officers, had laid on private caterers. In their inexperience they had presumably booked the caterers usually used by the race course and we were fed like kings. I remember in particular one meal of braised steak casserole with onions and vegetables. The steak was so tender you could eat it with a spoon and the taste stays with me to this day.

As you can imagine, everyone volunteered to go back again next time but after about a week the finance department must have received the bills and, surprise, surprise, the Metropolitan Police started to supply their own caterers. All good things come to an end.

Anyway, last night’s Wasing AGM was held in a ballroom built during the American era and the toilets were still marked “GI Joes” and “GI Janes”. After an introduction and reports, presentations were made for specimen fish caught in the previous season. Next followed a talk and slide show by the current British barbel record holder, Tony Gibson.

Record breaking barbel

This guy is not just a barbel fisherman and some of the slides he showed of the other fish he has caught were almost as impressive as the one above. This fish weighed twenty pounds six ounces, that’s huge when you think that fifteen years ago the record was fourteen pounds six ounces and that had stood for a hundred years.

After an excellent buffet another talk and slide show was given by Martin James who I know from the Barbel Society. As well as being a highly respected author and broadcaster, he is also a great raconteur. Crownmead Angling Centre from Thatcham were also in attendance and managed to get me to part with some money for blood worm hook pellets which I will try for the tench next week, if it warms up a bit.