Part 1 - The Founding Years 1937 - 1965
The Harrow Angling Society was founded in 1937 by a small body of local anglers including E.W.Siddall, Jack Groves, Len Lane, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Sidwell, also others unnamed, all keen fisherman at that time. They secured the fishing rights of Harefield Pit from the original owners, Rose and Company, and later John Morgan and Company.
The area of water adjoining Moorhall Road which we call No. 1 lake was quite small then, but slowly this began to grow larger as the ballast workers extracted their quarry. Ballast used to be brought by a large flat bottom barge to the entrance at Moorhall Road and taken away.
After a few years, machinery was erected on the site that the present modern plant occupies. The No. 1 lake then began to grow quite large as the workings progressively pulled back. It was most fortunate that the land was cut in irregular pattern, trees were left uncut, bushes and shrubbery grew, the lake began to mature, and a very fine fishery was made by man and nature, stocking of all types of coarse fish had been carried out by the Society. With nature playing its full part, fish bred rather rapidly.
A picture painted by Mr. Sydney Jones of this original No. 1 lake is on show at our Club room at the Windmill. Apart from the mountains in the background, which Mr Jones saw fit to include, this is a true picture of the lake as it was, a very lovely scene. Mr Sydney Jones was a past President and Secretary for many years.
After a period of time a consignment of fertiliser was put into the lake which resulted in fine weed growth taking place, this then was an anglers paradise. I have seen heron standing in shallow water at this lake waiting to lure fish for their feed, kingfisher and several wild birds species being frequent visitors. Robins would perch on the edge of one's bait can and enjoy the feed off the maggots. Sorrowfully this is now lost. Old barges were brought in for destruction and sunk. Much to my horror this happened one Sunday by arrangement with the owners of that time, no notification being given to the Society; back filing on a large scale took place later, and the beautiful wooded section torn apart and uprooted, just three years ago.
This area subsequently filled with water and remains today as it was left. At the beginning section of this lake there used to be what was known as the pool, this was abundant with weed of various types with an island at its centre. Fine catches of tench, pike, rudd, carp, perch and roach could always be obtained here as many members will recall, and if you wandered around the further bank, many attractive spots were available for some fine sport.
A pair of swans used to nest on the island every April, and invariably four cygnets were born, sadly two of these pretty young creatures were usually devoured by pike come late June, this happened year after year.
Referring back I remember one could always choose a swim and know one would catch a fine bag of fish, many's the time I have gone for pike and had great sport. A large amount of the original head of fish have now migrated to the lake known as No. 2.
Approximately thirteen years ago workings commenced at this area, which has now resulted in the huge stretch of water we now have at our disposal. This I believe will mature and become as an attractive fishery as No. 1 in the past. I, together with other members, have patiently waited for the workings to end on this lake in order to tidy up this vast area of fishery the Society controls.
This huge lake will mature as nature and we members play our part. A fine consignment of carp and roach were deposited in this lake three years ago, and other species will be added in the near future. The wooded section all along the west side of this lake has great potential. Weed life should appear in the course of time in the shallows along this section, and now that the ballasting has come to an end on this stretch of water, let us look forward in anticipation, for many years to come, coupled with our willingness to work for, enjoy, and retain our Society's fishery.
Part 2 - The Years 1965 - 1985
Following Mr Ernie Potter's excellent note on the founding and early years of the Harrow Angling Society this is a short account of the progress made during the 20 year period 1965-85. I regret that a report of this nature will inevitably include many names from the past and in particular many dates and the first of these is 1969 when we were all sad to say 'goodbye' to Ernie upon his retirement to Wadebridge. He really was a character and apart from being a good fisherman he was for some years Treasurer of H.A.S.
In June 1967 the Society acquired fishing rights at Rowley Lake closely followed in September 1968 by Langley. About the same time fishing on a short stretch of the River Bourne in Surrey came into our hands. The Bourne is a small stream, rather narrow and very weedy in summer, but holding good chub among other fish. This was the Society's first running water since giving up a length on the Colne some years previously. Also at this time - May 1969 - the News Magazine appeared in its present form, the first editor was Arthur Pitts.
At the AGM in April 1970 a Sea Angling Section was formed and was organised by Denis Sleigh. He, regrettably, is no longer a member having moved from his home at High Wycombe, and after a period of dwindling support the section was wound up. In April 1971 our much respected President and hard working past Secretary Eddie Pragnell retired to Devon. He had taken over the reins in 1960, and two Committee members as well as the writer, who at that time was Curator, served with him. During this period the membership, about 100, was gradually creeping up until what was considered a maximum workable number for a Society with honorary officers would be reached (300-350). Ken Miller replaced Mr Pragnell as Honorary Secretary, a position he held with great distinction and much hard work until he was suddenly taken very ill in December 1975. It was during Ken Miller's many years as Secretary together with Mr Jack Clarke, Chairman and latterly Treasurer too that the Society really made great headway as a well run angling club with five waters and sound finances. Close season working parties, lake maintenance programmes and fishery management under Eric Cooke all contributed to this success.
Sadly his illness forced Mr Miller to give up the Secretaryship and the Society was indeed fortunate to have a member with business experience willing to take over at short notice - Terry Skelton. Terry at the time of writing is still our Secretary and the hope is that he will be able to continue for many years yet.
To go back a little, after Eddie Pragnell, John Tekell took over as President followed by a founder member Leslie Mead in 1972. Upon Mr Meads untimely death, Reg Daws stepped into the President's shoes and he was succeeded by Ken Miller for a brief period, by now happily recovered from illness.
Over the years as Committee members were elected, served and departed two officers continued to give their valuable time to the Society year after year. They were a tower of strength, Jack Clarke as Chairman for many years and Treasurer has already been mentioned and Frank Webb our Curator who also enjoyed a short spell as President, in the 60s.
Although the Society has never gone in for match angling as such, in 1979 three competitions were arranged for that season on a trial basis for members and friends. They were quite well supported and judged a success and are now a regular feature.
In the last twenty years much re-stocking has taken place particularly at Harefield No 2, Rowley and Langley. Weed at the latter two waters was causing concern but energetic measures taken by the Fishery Management Committee and the particular fishery managers involved have, for the time being at least, brought the problem under control.
The River Bourne lease was not renewed for the 1980 season. The only other item of note not mentioned here so far is the advent of the Hillingdon Sailing Base at Harefield No 2. This started in a very small way about 1966 and like Topsy grew and grew , backed by the Borough Council, much to many anglers unease. However relations on the whole are good and mutual complaints of bad behaviour are now rare.
This note is intended to cover only the 20 year period to 1985, but before I close I must record here the sad fact that Jack Clarke died in August 1987 and although he is greatly missed we are fortunate to have secured the services of John Barnes to succeed him as Treasurer.
Lastly I will conclude this review with the hope and belief that under the present vigorous and enthusiastic management and those that follow, H.A.S. will continue to thrive over the next 20 years.
History - Part 3 - The Years 1986 - 2011
One year on and our much revered Curator, Frank Webb, died at 91; his funny stories that always followed his Curator's report at Member's Meetings were sadly missed. He was one of a string of names that come to mind when looking at those officers that have done so much to sustain the Society. Fortunately we have continued to attract Committee members of similar calibre to deal with the numerous problems experienced since. Foot & Mouth and Weils Diseases, horrendous pollution and fish losses at Rowley in both October 1988 and September 1991, a growing Cormorant population denuding the Colne Valley of silver fish, Spring Veraemia and Koi Herpes Viruses, Fly Tipping, excessive weed growth at Langley and Harefield no2, fish stealing and more, have all been sent to test their mettle demanding heavy workloads, often going unseen, when they could have been peacefully fishing. That today's Fish Catch reports look better than ever is a testament to their good work.
There have been a number of changes over these years; the loss of Langley Lake in 1993 through no fault of our own; indeed we enjoyed a good relationship with out Landlords the Bucks. C.C. Unfortunately there was a campaign by local groups whose main desire appeared to be to have the area to themselves. They promoted the idea that angling, however well managed, is not compatible with maintaining a nature reserve. Where were they in the years that followed up until 2008 when the refurbishment of Langley Park and Lake project began on the back of a Lottery Grant received by Bucks.C.C.? The area had fallen into neglected state, trees festooned with poachers tackle, litter and silt build-up that promised to turn the Lake into a marsh. Fortunately we gained some additional water by arranging a ticket exchange scheme with Yiewsley A.C. on a stretch of the Colne that provides river fishing for those members who had expressed an interest.
The style of fishing has also changed. Match Angling has become a regular feature that helps to bring members together, but more significantly has been the growth of interest in Carp, no doubt because of the buzz brought by having a big fish on the line. 40 and more years ago a common aim was to catch specimen weights in as many different species as possible, demanding study of often quite different tactics. Even the view on fish spawning periods has altered with changes in the Close Season. The Society's success in gaining permission to change the season on Harefield No.1 to give all year round fishing to Members and greater site security appears to have met with wide approval.
In this time the work of the Committee has been significantly enhanced by the computer. Love it or hate it, it dominates our lives today, makes our maintenance of efficient financial and membership records easier, provides better communication with Members via email and Vince Sutton's HAS website; and how the Magazine format has benefited. Starting with Vince, who was 15years in the role of Editor, it continued improving as computer programmes advanced in the competent hands of Warren Kencroft, Mr & Mrs D. Cargill and currently Laurence Butters, to give the professional standard now achieved. I have passed the baton of Secretary to Matthew Marchant in 2011, after 36 years in the role taking over in 1975.
Today the Society has a healthy membership that, from the excellent calibre of fish reports, enjoy good fishing. This did not happen by accident. There have been good Chairman leading the way; two of them Mike Read and currently Vince Sutton are still around. In Vince we have an effective chairman who heads a good team, each member willingly carrying out their tasks that contribute so much to the success of the Society. We were very sorry to lose John Barnes when he retired to North Devon; a most valued Treasurer since 1987, and were indeed fortunate that, despite a heavy personal schedule, David Cargill stepped into the breach. With the news that water levels in the South East will be at a seriously low level as witnessed by our lakes unless there is significant 2012 Spring rainfall, it seems the Committee will have no shortage of problems to deal with in the future.
Hon Secretary - 1976 - 2011
Nothing, it seems, ever stands still. Just as society changes in its habits and achievements with time, so has our Angling Society changed its face in many ways. My early memories of the Club stretch back some 45 years, Britain had just about recovered from WW2, and fishing was a much sought after pastime in the absence of the multitude of activities and sports available today, and applicants for membership faced an interview before acceptance. How I wish Hang-gliding, Scuba diving and the Computer had been so freely available in those days. Whereas much fishing today has specialised in the quest for the large carp, back then the aim centred more on trying to log a good fish in every species, which meant learning different techniques depending on the quarry. Even a 3 ½ oz gudgeon was a prize to some in those days. And of course the face of our waters has changed so much, particularly Denham Quarry.
On my first visit to there around 1971, these deep moody waters seemed to promise much interesting fishing, a promise they were to fulfil in the following years. But how different was the scenery in those days. The Hoveringham Company had taken over from our previous landlords J.Morgan. The workings were just about exhausted, but the company were still busy on site, screening huge piles of gravel into different sizes for the various uses to which it was destined. Like all gravel extracting companies of those years, when they moved on from a site, any equipment that was past its sell-buy date was just left to rot – an eyesore that still lasts to this day, some now hidden by bramble and shrubbery, but still waiting for the time when it will be a prized discovery for some archaeologist.
One benefit that Hoveringham left us however, was their levelling and grading of No.2's bank adjacent to the south end of the marina and the straight road running parallel to the canal, making access and fishing more comfortable. There was barely a piece of greenery to be seen in that whole side of the lake at the time, and look at it today. Mother Nature has moved in, planted trees and shrubs that have matured to the point where today, apart from the tell-tale abandoned debris of gravel digging, one could be fooled into believing these were natural lakes. Walking around the lakes last summer on a warm sunny morning the waters look splendid - a whole variety of birds in evidence, with the occasional surface movement of the larger fish that sent the pulses racing, and made me wish I had come prepared to fish instead of just look.
Gravel extraction exhausted, the G.L.C. took over the site and remained our landlords until its abolition in March 1986, when the property was ‘gifted’ to the London Borough of Hillingdon. Fortunately, the G.L.C. Land Manager that I had dealt with when negotiating fishing leases etc., took up the same responsibility with L.B.H., and so our tenure on the waters continued seamlessly. An important factor then was that the Society had a good reputation with him and his officers for managing the water, a factor that is just as important today. In 1991 L.B.H. decided to create a Community facility and Nature Trail around the lakes with a Picnic site on No.1 and in the process hauled out the two sunken barges onto the bank as a focal point, not received enthusiastically by the Society. This plan included the planting of literally hundreds of trees adjacent to No. 1; many were better suited for a garden than a woodland, they were planted during a dry summer, never watered and so many died.
The late eighties and early nineties were somewhat disastrous for the Society, in that we suffered a high, large carp mortality in Harefield No. 2, believed to have come from a stocking with diseased fish from a rogue company that had produced a false health certificate as required for the moving of fish. If that was not enough, an outbreak of the potentially lethal Spring Viraemia viral disease followed a couple of years later, catalysed by hot dry summers. Both events gave a heavy workload for our Fishery Managers. The benefits of their efforts are seen in the good fishing that we enjoy today.
Rowley was not without its problems, suffering serious pollution resulting in major fish loss in both October 1988 and September 1991. That this water had made such a magnificent recovery is due almost solely to John Miles. His prodigious efforts, not only in virtually camping at the water when required to tend the equipment pumping oxygen into the water day and night to keep the remaining fish alive, but also dealing with a mountain of legal detail for the court case that led to us recovering significant damages for the fish loss etc., were both well beyond the call of duty.
Whilst we have good reason to be thankful for having a dedicated band of Fishery Managers that applies to all the Officers. Through their unselfish and unstinting efforts, we enjoy comfortable and good fishing in delightful surroundings. They are often under-rated, sometimes unjustifiably castigated, but be in no doubt they apply a lot of their time and thought in keeping our waters in good order, when they could be fishing. We have lost several long serving Officers in recent years; John Barnes (Auditor then Treasurer) retired to Devon in 2006, Colin Head (various posts, retiring as President in 2007) Eric Skidmore (Fishery Management) died in 2014 and the tragic loss of our Chairman Vince Sutton aged 54 who, with his wife Jill also 54, was killed by a runaway truck coming off the Calais Ferry. Vince was also a long serving Officer and left a huge gap in the Committee know how and, although I had retired as Secretary in 2012 on the basis of age, rejoined the Committee in a temporary ex officio post to fill in some of his history knowledge where required. When I judged that the Team no longer needed me at Meetings I retired again only to be afforded the privilege of being elected as President so I still haven’t got away. Looking back at previous Presidents it seems that to qualify one had to be old; as I was Secretary before many of our Members were born, I qualified.
Another thing that has not changed over those years is that your cooperation as a member is just as vital today. The waters are there for your benefit; you have paid your fees, so your help in keeping them in good order is important, let us know if you have a query, and I hope they provide many pleasant hours fishing.