In the Beginning
Originally the site was an old sand and gravel pit. Evidence from a Norfolk County Council map dated 1897, confirms that minerals (or scrapings as they were known) were removed from the site to repair local roads.
In the mid-1930s sand and gravel was extracted and used to build the radar station at Stoke Holy Cross and the runway at Seething Airfield as well as remedial works on local roads.
Originally the land was part of the Crown Point Estate but on 11th November 1941, it was sold to William John Robert Spruce, a member of the well known local Spruce family.
Although the land was owned by Spruce, subsequently the site was worked by P J Keeler Haulage Contractors of Brooke who dug out gravel and paid Spruce a royalty based on tonnage extracted.
William Spruce sold the land to P J Keeler Limited on 29th March 1957. In July 1969 P J Keeler Limited were taken over by Pointer Group Holdings of Guardian Road, Norwich. Pointer Group Holdings in turn were acquired by RMC/Atlas Aggregates in September 1969.
Sand and gravel extraction ceased in 1972 although the licence to extract did not expire until 1974. It is believed 100,000 tonnes of commercial sand and gravel remain unworked at the site.
In 1998 RMC employees, the late Glenn Duffield and Ray Noble were asked to be custodians of the site on behalf of the company.
At that time, in winter the lakes overflowed, in effect making one giant lake. The excess water, which flowed each year from November to April, ran into the dyke at the western corner of the site. Together Ray and Glenn later bunded up the banks of the lake to prevent over-flooding.
Poringland Lakes pictured from a micro-light in March 2010
Purchasing the Site
At the turn of the new Millennium, Dave Gudgeon (pictured below), the local district councillor at the time, was asked to visit the site after local reports that diggers were in danger of destroying the wildlife habitat.
Although there was evidence of some minor brush clearance, Dave considered it was a lovely, peaceful spot with lots to recommend it as a conservation/recreation site for the local community to enjoy.
Although he’d lived in the area for about twelve years before that day, Dave hadn’t known the site existed. Even today there are many local residents who are unaware of the five and a half acre jewel in the heart of the village. However, it took only that first view to encourage Dave to investigate the possibility of buying the site and safeguarding it as an important community asset.
After making some initial enquiries he discovered that Glenn Duffield, Ray Noble (pictured above) and his son Paul, were already running some fishing activities. Dave contacted Ray to ask if he had any objection to him making inquiries about buying the site, assuring him that if the owners could be persuaded to sell and it was possible to raise the cash, then the fishing operation would continue.
Dave Gudgeon then contacted RMC Aggregates. Following lengthy negotiations, in July 2002 RMC Aggregates agreed to sell the land at market value to a community group.
Following the agreement with RMC, Dave hand-delivered a letter to every business, Parish Council, and charity organisations in the Five Villages asking for donations toward the purchase price.
Several local people were approached to form a committee and become Trustees of the site. These included Dave Gudgeon, George Shearer, Ray Noble – all of whom still play a key part in the management of the site today, some eighteen years later. Sadly Glenn Duffield has passed away while other founder members, Richard Gooderham and Maureen Henson no longer sit on the management committee but remain keenly interested in the work of the Association.
A formal constitution was agreed at a meeting held on 20th December 2002 and the Poringland Conservation and Fishing Lakes Association (PCFLA) was born.
During the next three years, determinedly led by Dave Gudgeon, fund raising continued, primarily through grants and voluntary donations. Local councils, charitable organisations and Trusts, village businesses and the local community responded magnificently.
The principal benefactors were Poringland Parish Council (£4,000), Poringland Fuel Allotment Trust (£1,000), Highway Nursery (£1,000), Wychwood Charitable Trust (£750), Poringland Sand and Gravel Trust (£500), Elvins Garage (£500) and Framingham Parish Council (£250). In addition there were many smaller public, donations including one generous donation from Henry Pye (£500), taking the total donations to just over £9,000, enough to acquire the site.
On 7th January 2005, PCFLA finally took possession of the Lakes.