The Green Heart of Poringland


2020 AGM A Quiet Affair – posted 25 February 2020

The 2020 annual general meeting held at Poringland Community was a relatively quiet affair.  Reports from trustees and officers dominated most of the business.

Following a Powerpoint presentation summarising the year, guests heard that 83 of the allotted 100 season tickets had been taken up.  Although day ticket sales were down on the previous year, overall income from season and day tickets combined showed a small increase over the previous twelve months.

Treasurer George Shearer presented the 2019 accounts.  Despite showing a loss of £5,618 on the year, mainly due to the cost of the otter fencing, the Association still had healthy reserves which included a generous donation of £500 from an anonymous donor.  As a result of the Association’s healthy financial position, there will be no increase in season tickets (£50) or day tickets (£5).

Project manager Paul Bonham reported that the electricity and aeration project was nearing completion.  Quotes for the third and final stage (ie redirecting the supply from Norfolk Homes’ compound to the car park kiosk and fitting outlet sockets to the lake fences) had been accepted and work is expected to be completed before the end of March.

Trustee John Causton presented a detailed report on fishing and fishery management including the success of the otter fence, the restocking programme, social matches and the healthy state of the fish stocks.  He confirmed that a further supply of medium sized tench is planned for the Spring.  The importance of day ticket sales, which account for 33% of fishing income, was emphasised and it was hoped more people would come forward to be bailiffs.

The conservation report was jointly presented by Peter Aspinall and Paul Bonham.  The weather and falling water levels has had a serious impact on the tree stock, especially the silver birches.  In order to maintain a safe environment for the public, tree surgeons had been brought in to inspect and make the trees safe, at a cost of £1,800.

The Association has commissioned the Norfolk Fringe Project to produce a site management programme, including a proposed re-planting project.  A substantial stock of young trees has also been sourced by Poringland’s tree warden, Henry Gowman and the association has submitted a bid to the Woodland Trust for a further 420 saplings.

Michael Graver summarised the work of the Participation Sub-Committee, highlighting the continued success of the Kingfisher club.  Seven Saturday morning dates are planned between April and October but numbers will be limited to 12 mainly because of restricted space around the lakes and the limited number of volunteers.

The coaching report was presented by Angling Trust level two coach Mick Morley who explained that several coaching sessions had been held throughout the year ranging from beginners to more experienced anglers returning to the sport and who wanted to bring their fishing skills and knowledge more up to date.  During the year several youngsters had achieved starter or level one Angling Trust  Cast awards and one angler had attained level two.

Fellow coach Mark Casto explained that he would be taking a break from coaching and thanked the trustees for allowing him to coach at the lakes. The chairman thanked Mark for the outstanding contribution he has made to coaching and hoped that it would not be long before his resumed his involvement.

The open forum, including a question and answer session, enabled guests to raise a number of issues including the use of keepnets, provision of toilet facilities and the stocking programme.

One season ticket holder enquired why keepnets are allowed in matches but not during leisure fishing.  Jonny Causton explained the need to keep fish stocks healthy and in prime condition, hence the need to limit the use of keepnets only to matches.  The provision of dipping tanks has been considered but would prove logistically difficult, not just because anglers may not use the facility but that the tanks would need regular servicing.  In addition they present a potential target for vandals.

In reply to a question from the floor about toilet facilities, the chairman pointed out that the community centre was the nearest publicly available toilet to the lakes.  The trustees had considered hiring a uni-sex portable toilet but this presents several problems, primarily in daily cleaning and maintenance.  A portaloo would also present a potential target for vandals.  Quotes had previously been received to hire a portable toilet but the cost, £1,500 was prohibitive.  Covenants prevented any permanent building being erected on site.

Jonny Causton also explained that it is not the intention to stock grass carp as they require a special licence from the Environment Agency which is difficult to obtain.  However the recent restocking with perch was welcomed as this would help reduce the number of small fry in the lakes.

Throughout the meeting, the respective trustees were keen to acknowledge the part volunteers had made in maintaining and developing the site, a sentiment echoed by chairman John Overton who, in closing the procedures, refered to the lakes and its volunteers as “The Jewels in Poringland’s Crown.”

2019 AGM Positively Shapes the Future

The 2019 annual general meeting proved an interesting and informative affair with attendees actively contributing to the discussions and positively shaping the lakes future.

Following the time honoured procedure of officer reports, some considered and constructive debate took place.  The following reflect the main outcomes.

Restocking Pledge

Trustees pledged that the lakes will return better than ever following recent predator attacks.

In the past few weeks, several good quality carp have been taken, primarily from Duffield.  Now, following completion of otter fencing, the Association plans to re-invest heavily in a restocking programme.

£2,000 has been made immediately available to replace the lost fish which should provide 30 or so quality carp between 5lb and 10lb.  In addition, trustees have not ruled out further investment later in the year.

Fishery manager, Mick Morley was delighted with the news.  “This should more than compensate for the fish we have lost” he said.  “Despite the set-back we want Poringland to continue to be one of the best fisheries in the county” he added.

Season Tickets to Increase

Following an indicative vote from the floor, the number of season tickets will increase from 75 to 100 from 1 June 2019.

Pressing for an increase, attendees suggested that pegs are always available, even at the height of the season and that a 25% increase could easily be accommodated.

It was hoped that by increasing numbers, the cost of fishing can be kept to a minimum, a sentiment which clearly resonated with the trustees as they announced that there will be no increase in the cost of season or day tickets, prices remaining at £50 and £5 respectively.

Fences Provide Added Security

In order to improve security and reduce anti-social behaviour, gates to the lakes will be locked during the hours of darkness for a three month trial period.

While exact details are still being worked out, bailiffs will open the gates for day visitors early in the morning (possibly around 8am) and lock the gates at dusk.

However season ticket holders will continue to be able to fish from dawn to dusk.  They will be issued with access codes to enable them to enter the site before the official public opening time.

Details will be circulated to all season ticket holders in due course.

More Voluntary Bailiffs Needed

Fishery manager Mick Morley reported that the number of active bailiffs had declined during the year and encouraged others to join the team.

“Ideally there should be more coverage in the afternoon and early evenings as it was felt several hundred pounds of lost income had resulted from the non-presence of bailiffs during these periods” explained Morley.

Anyone interested in joining the bailiff group should contact Mick Morley.

Green Light for Planting Programme

Following the dramatic loss of trees this year, victims of the summer drought and falling water table, trustees have agreed to invest £250 in purchasing some well established replacements including birch, field maple, holly, hazel and Scots pine.

In addition more gorse, broom and buddleia will be introduced in the hope of attracting more pollinators.  Not only will this assist bees, butterflies and other insects but it will help to soften the impact of otter fences.

2018 AGM Rocked by Resignation Shock 

Poringland Lakes has been rocked by a shock resignation. 

Ray Noble (pictured above left with co-founders Dave Gudgeon and George Shearer) has stepped down as a trustee, a post he had held since formation of the Association in 2002. 

The surprise announcement was made by chairman John Overton in his opening address at this morning’s annual general meeting. 

“Ray’s contribution and commitment to the lakes has been truly remarkable” said Overton “He really is irreplaceable.” 

“The time is right” said an emotional Ray.  “I am not getting any younger and my health is not the best, so it’s the right decision” he added. 

Thankfully Ray will not be severing all ties with the lakes.  He will continue to act as a bailiff and willingly offer his advice and guidance as and when needed. 

The trustees will now go about the difficult task of reallocating Noble’s duties including filling the vacancy on the Board of Trustees and recruiting a new head bailiff. 

Major Project Planned 

The lakes management have unveiled their most ambitious project yet, installing a dedicated power supply and providing a portable aeration unit. 

With an estimated cost in the region of £8,500, it presents the biggest investment in the lakes’ history. 

Project team leader Paul Bonham explained that the Association could not rely on the goodwill of neighbours to provide temporary power and that it is imperative that the lakes have their own dedicated supply to enable it to operate pumps, improve security and ultimately run aeration equipment. 

The Association has applied to the Angling Trust for a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of the project.  A further £3,500 will come from the Association’s reserves in the form of match funding. 

A decision by the Angling Trust is expected in late March.  If successful, work will commence immediately. 

Crucians Expected in March 

Head bailiff Ray Noble reported that 50 crucian carp are due to be delivered in March.  It is expected the fish will be big enough to spawn in the hope that in two years time their number will swell to over 200.  In due course it is hoped to introduce some quality rudd and tench into the crucian lake. 

Attack on Canadian Pondweed 

The lakes’ trustees have given their approval for the lakes to be chemically treated to eradicate Canadian pondweed. 

According to lead trustee on fishery management, Ryan Westgarth, the treatment will not affect the fish, water lilies or marginal plants.  Some manual weeding will still be requited but it was hoped that the weed could be largely eradicated within two years. 

The work will be carried out in accordance with the advice of the fishery consultants, Framlingham Fisheries. 

Work Party Dates Announced 

Four dates (Sunday 18 February, Thursday 1 March, Thursday 29 March and Sunday 22 April) had been set aside for organised work parties.  The sessions will start at 9am and finish at 1pm.  Further details will be published on the website and via email.  

Health and Safety Professionally Reviewed

Although the Association has had a H&S policy for several years, trustees were now able to call on an expert to review its current policies and procedures.

John Hodgson, who has had over 40 year experience in the subject, emphasised the importance of H&S and the need to have proper policies and risk assessments.  As a result he had drafted a variety of documentation and recommendations which the trustees will consider at their next meeting in February.

Volunteers Praised and Thanked

One theme that echoed throughout the meeting was the wonderful support of the lakes’ volunteers.  Both the president and chairman extolled the virtues of all those who had helped make the lakes the undoubted success it enjoys today, in particular the bailiffs, fishing champions, Family Fishing and Kingfisher club organisers and the multitude of volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise.

2017 AGM Report

Early morning snow and tricky driving conditions didn’t deter a good turnout at the Association’s annual general meeting held at Poringland Community Centre.

Welcoming guests, president and founder member Dave Gudgeon outlined his involvement with the site and praised the trustees and volunteers for their continued support to conservation at the heart of the village.

Achievements Highlighted

It was a theme continued by chairman John Overton.  Highlighting many of the Association’s achievements in 2016, he singled out the extensive tree planting programme, school nature visits and the tremendous success of the Family Fishing Fun days.

A recent meeting with the Police has resulted in improved liaison and will see warning notices placed at the lakes entrance warning of anti-social behaviour, restricting access to daylight hours and prohibiting littering.  Police patrols will also be stepped up, an initiative that is certain to please local residents and lakes officials alike.

Concluding his report, John announced the recent award of £2,685 from Sports Council Small Grants in support of the Association’s Development Plan and delivery of Family Fishing and Kingfisher Club events.  

2017 Plans Unveiled

The secretary outlined the Association’s ambitious plans for 2017 including restoration of the two conservation ponds, building a new toad and frog breeding pond, installing additional owl and bat boxes (kindly funded by neighbours), and completing the outfall from Mill Close development which would provide a sustainable water source. 

Other plans include installing additional fishing platforms, primarily in Noble lake, exploring permanent aeration, extending educational opportunities with local schools, youth groups etc, support for the Angling Trust Voluntary Bailiff Scheme.

No Changes in Fees  

Treasurer George Shearer presented the Association’s accounts and reported another good year.

In view of the Association’s sound finances, the cost of season and day tickets will remain unaltered at £50 and £5 respectively.

Kingfisher Launch 

Highlight of a busy morning was undoubtedly the official launch of the Kingfisher Club (see Kingfisher Club page for more details).  Head coach Mark Casto gave a very professional presentation augmented by an equally impressive Powerpoint presentation which ended with the prominent message “2017 Promises to be an Exciting Year.” 

Rule Changes Well Received 

What was expected to be a controversial issue turned into something of a damp squid.  Members had asked for the ban of surface fishing, imposed by the Trustees during the season, to be debated but on the day there appeared little resistance to the change, indeed there was positive support for the new rule. 

The suggestion to stock with lakes with barbel and chub was also well received, so will be debated by the Trustees at their next meeting. 

Lively Questions 

The meeting concluded with a lively question and answer session in the form of an open forum.  Among the issues discussed were aeration, tourism signs, season ticket waiting lists, insurance and health and safety issues. 

In reply to a suggestion that a strategically placed tourism sign be placed on the main street, the chairman explained that the Trustees had considered this previously and outlined the problems of increasing traffic in Hillside and ownership issues regarding road maintenance.

Ambitious Tree Planting Programme Unveiled at 2016 AGM 

The PCFLA annual general meeting held at Poringland Community Centre on Sunday was well attended with over 30 guests and supporters in attendance. 

Newly elected chairman, John Overton, was delighted with the turn out which was considerably up on previous years. 

“It just shows the amount of interest there is” enthused John. 

Poringland tree warden Henry Gowman (pictured) opened the meeting by unveiling an ambitious tree planting programme at the lakes. 

“The conservation area is large, so I think it best that we tackle it in sections over a few winter planting seasons” explained Henry.  “I suggest we start by planting the steep  bank between the lakes and Mill Close development with over 80 flowering and fruiting trees such as hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, guelder rose, spindle, wild rose and wild plum” said Henry. 

“These are all native species which will not only screen the development but will provide valuable habitat for insects and birds” he added.  “It’s intended to plant the trees and shrubs in a series of mixed species copses at different heights across the south facing slope. 

“However planting 80 plus trees on that slope will take some physical effort and will mean a lot of work for volunteers” warned Henry. 

It is expected South Norfolk Council will assist in financing and procuring the tree and that planting will start within the next fortnight. 

Sustainable Water Source Secured 

The likelihood of the lakes ever drying out again has been significantly reduced following an agreement with local developers. 

Following the dramatic loss of water a couple of years ago, the Association has secured an agreement with Wright Builders to take the run-off rainwater from the roofs of the neighbouring Mill Close development. 

Fears that the water may be contaminated and damage fish and wildlife were allayed by lakes president Dave Gudgeon. 

“We have signed a legal agreement which requires the developers to incorporate a filtration system into the drainage design” assured Dave. 

Treasurer Reports a Record Year 

Despite record levels of expenditure this year, Association treasurer Dr George Shearer reported that the lakes finances are in a healthy state. 

Significant expenditure on items such as the secure storage unit, tools and equipment, water sustainability and promotion had been primarily funded by grants totalling over £12,000 compliments of the Norse Group, Saffron Housing and South Norfolk Council. 

Annual revenue expenditure, including insurances and general admin costs had increased significantly but these had been more than offset by season and day tickets, donations and continued commercial support. 

“We have enjoyed our most successful financial year ever” said a delighted treasurer.  “As a result we are pleased to announce that there will be no increases in season and day ticket charges this year which will remain at £50 and £5 respectively.” 

Season Tickets Extended 

Now that anglers can access all the lakes’ perimeters, it was unanimously agreed to increase the number of season tickets holders from 33 to 40. 

Fishery manager Ray Noble was confident that increased membership would not impact on the quiet enjoyment of anglers or be detrimental to the fish. 

 “We can confidently accommodate a few more season tickets without the lakes becoming crowded” reassured Ray. 

Predation, Conservation, Recruitment and Stocking 

Neil Edwards, who is studying for a degree in fishery management and sustainable aquaculture, gave two interesting presentations – balancing conservation with predation and recruitment and stocking. 

He explained the damage that otters and mink can cause to fisheries and what fishery managers can do to reduce predation.  Neil also stressed the importance of good water quality and the danger of overstocking. 

“While the lakes are regularly monitored for ammonia and oxygen levels, fish management must continue to be given high priority” said Neil.  “At sometime in the future we will need to net the lakes to take out the smaller fish and relocate them” he added. 

However conservationist warned against drag netting, pointing out that netting should be the last option as this would mean disturbing plant and water life on the lake bed. 

Family Fishing Days Plans ‘Well Advanced’ 

Plans are well advanced to hold four Family Fishing Days at Poringland Lakes. 

Head bailiff Ray Noble confirmed that four taster sessions will be held on successive Saturdays, 26 March, 2 April, 9 April and 16 April.  All sessions will be held between 10am and 12.30pm. 

“Although aimed primarily at youngsters wishing to take up the sport, everyone is welcome, either trying fishing for the first time or returning after a break” explained Ray.  “However all children must be accompanied throughout by a parent or guardian. 

The exciting initiative has already attracted some wide spread publicity including an article in the Eastern Evening News and a live broadcast by Radio Norfolk direct from the lakes.  It is also hoped Mustard TV will cover one of the earlier sessions. 

Local schools and youth groups, including the Scouts, will be targeted ahead of the events.  

Capping It All 

Poringland Lakes anglers promise to be some of the best turned out in the region. 

After some locals purchased their own caps complete with ‘Poringland Lakes’ insignia, earning admiring glances from their fellow piscatorials, newly appointed trustee Andy Dewar suggested extending the scheme to provide fleeces and t-shirts as well as the popular caps. 

Watch this space for more news coming soon.  In the meantime it was confirmed that arrangements are in hand to commission a professionally designed PCFLA logo. 

Lively Discussion re Car Parking 

One of the most heated discussions came at the end of the meeting during a lively questions and answers session when the vexed question of car parking was raised. 

A wide variety of opinion was aired.  Some members emphasised the difficulty older members in particular had in transporting their fishing gear to the banks while others thought parking vehicles in the conservation area was unsightly and damaged the grassed area. 

It was agreed to maintain the status quo at present and review parking arrangements once Norfolk Homes had carried further restoration work requiring vehicular and plant access.