If recent times have been hugely testing, it’s heartening to see angling not only bounce back, but making a big difference to communities across the country. Moreover, efforts to build a brighter future are being strengthened by your fishing licence money via the Angling Improvement Fund (AIF)! Our team met up with Ramsbottom Angling Association recently, to see for ourselves how these vital funds have helped transform grass roots fishing and put smiles back on faces.
From the introduction alone, you can tell that Ramsbottom Angling Association have created something special in their community. It’s not just the typically Northern welcome that stands out on our visit, but the immense amount of pride and hard work.
The raw enthusiasm that comes across from the members of the club isn’t just infectious, it’s highly contagious! Based at The Lido in Clarence Park, Bury, the club’s mixed fishery is punching well above its weight. Thanks in no small part to grants received from the Angling Trust’s Angling Improvement Fund, visitors are able to enjoy the much-improved lake environment, whether dipping a rod in the water, or just walking the dog around its waters.
Making a difference for anglers of all ages
For readers newer to our Lines on the Water blog, we should explain that the Angling Improvement Fund is fishing licence income which is ring-fenced by the Environment Agency, in order to support clubs and fisheries. This is administered by the Angling Trust, to ensure it’s used to maximum effect for those who need it most.
“We were determined to be a part of our local community, not to just pay lip service to it” explains Chairman Allan Dye, and it doesn’t take long to see he means exactly what he says. These days, the club has 200 members from a wide range of ages, and includes over 20 qualified coaches.
The thriving junior coaching evenings, held on a Thursday, are a particularly big success and have attracted over 40 different children from age three and up. Qualified coaches come along to help and guide the youngsters and all equipment is provided at just £3 a session.
“No one walks round with a tick sheet to ensure they have all paid,” explains Allan. “It is a voluntary donation. We want them to enjoy themselves and come back, whether they can afford it or not”.
What is very clear to see is just how much the club have managed to engage the parents, too. They stay with their children during the coaching, and many have gone on to get involved with the club. One parent explained: “They don’t have to sit there rigid and bored. If they want to run off for a bit and burn off some energy in the park, then they can. But once they see their mates catching, they soon come running back! My lad has really built confidence since we started attending. His attention span has improved, and I’ve noticed him listening and learning in a way I haven’t seen him do before”.
He’s not the only success story for the junior section, though, as ‘Rammy’ now boasts five sponsored junior anglers and a former junior national champion among its ranks. This is undoubtedly partly due to the far-reaching list of skills that the junior sessions cover. These include a wide range of topics, including ‘name four baits’, ‘recognise a bite’, ‘know the countryside code’ and equally vitally, ‘pack up equipment and leave a tidy peg’. Brilliant stuff!
Better environment, better fishing
Another aspect of the club that is readily apparent to the onlooker is the social cohesion between generations. Anglers of all ages share a mutual love and respect for their environment, and just as obvious is the vastly enhanced environment the club’s projects have delivered. Pre-planted coir rolls help to provide attractive marginal growth, whilst providing cleaner water and shelter for bird and fish life. Two aerators run permanently in warmer weather, improving oxygen levels in the water and certainly adding something to the ambiance of the park, too.
Recently, underwater cages have also been installed, providing vital cover for fish from cormorant predation, and making areas for fish to spawn more successfully. There is even a fish breeding and conservation area where no fishing is allowed. The ducklings seem to very much enjoy this area too as they learn their way in life, following mum around like a noisy, disorganised tail.
As with so many other successful clubs, Ramsbottom AA has not just relied on a couple of sources to raise much-needed funds it must be said. Grants have come in from the Angling Trust, Environment Agency, Bury Council, Greater Manchester Police, Sports England, Ambition for Ageing and several private sponsors and donations, too. A partnership with the neighbouring Walmer Tennis Club has provided vital shared space, benefiting both parties. Meanwhile, the local fishing tackle shop, Fisherman’s Way, sells day tickets while taking no additional fee for doing so.
Harnessing angling’s endless positives
Today’s local angling scene is clearly thriving, but it certainly hasn’t always been this way, as club secretary Neil Wright describes. “We were dying as a club,” he says. “The only way to turn it around was with youth. They literally are the future, and you ignore them at your peril. A club must have a vision and focus on what it needs, not what it wants. My advice to any other organisation looking to raise funds and grow is to focus on what you can deliver and play to your strengths. Ask people what they want. Don’t tell them”.
Among so much great work, one particular free event at The Lido warrants a special mention for its amazing community impact. Therapy fishing sessions take place every other week and welcome anglers who have been referred by the NHS. Amongst them are Parkinson’s sufferers, stroke victims and people with serious personal emotional challenges. Regardless of their background or ability, all can engage with angling, and the setting and atmosphere provided is one that doctors recognise is of real benefit to physical and mental health.
It’s inspirational stuff and on so many levels Ramsbottom AA are setting a fantastic example of the positive impact angling can have on local communities. Neil’s summary of “Rammy” AA puts it way better than I could manage: “If you could bottle up and sell the good feeling and atmosphere up here, you could solve a lot of the world’s problems”.
Make mine a pint please!
Could the Angling Improvement Fund help your local project?
If you have a project that you think could benefit from a grant from the Angling Improvement Fund or the Environment Agencies Fisheries Improvement Project then go to anglingtrust.net/funding or contact the team directly via firstname.lastname@example.org