Tag Archives: fishing

The Pinnacle of Procrastination

Boxed Lord Byron Medallion by Ron Dutton

I have a list of jobs to do. Some of them are quite important. None of them are particularly interesting. So I’m going to write another blog post and pretend it’s important because I am being “a writer”. It’s a bit like the old saying “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but give him a fishing rod and you won’t see him all weekend.” It works with computers too. Give a man a computer and he’s suddenly “a writer” or “a poet” or “a blogger”. And he’s nowhere to be seen when there is work to be done.

Butlins Veleta Competition Medallion 1954

Butlins Veleta Competition Medallion 1954

I can’t speak for everyone but I’m just a man with a computer who finds it easier to procrastinate if he can say he’s writing something. It’s not really writing, it’s just producing words and avoiding work.It is, as the title says, the Pinnacle of Procrastination.

If I was still mobile I’d be looking at fishing tackle catalogues and planning a retirement where Julia hardly ever saw me. My first purchase would be one of those waistcoats with loads of pockets and  I’d then dream my life away riffling through catalogues and muttering about test curves and breaking strain as I accumulated a mountain of gear.

Magistrates’ Court Medallion

At heart, I believe that most fishermen are also collectors. I had a friend who definitely was. He decided to take up fishing in late middle age (having been a keen fisherman in his youth) and he also decided, within weeks, that he was going to collect fishing reels. With Nottingham being the home of the “Nottingham Reel” it seemed a logical thing to do.

Collectors, you see, come in all shapes and sizes and are never short of an excuse to start a new collection. If they aren’t collecting things they are buying things to keep them in, or books to learn about them. And if all else fails, I can always claim to be cataloguing my collection. It’s not such a high level gambit as “writing” but it still suffices to deflect actual work.

Flying Horse of Gansu medallion & leaflet

The Piers of Lowestoft

There are two piers at Lowestoft – the South Pier and the Claremont Pier. The Claremont Pier is, I assume, named after something or someone named Claremont, but none of the published sources seem to mention who it is. Confusingly, the South Pier is, according to my map, north of the Claremont.

This called for some heavy-duty lucubration. (Yes, I’ve been reading that website again).

Things fell into place with a quick look on Google Maps. The South Pier, though North of the Claremont Pier, is actually South of the North Pier. The North and South Piers are the concrete breakwaters that form the harbour.

Like so many words, we expect quite a lot of it and it means at least three things.

This becomes clearer when you start to walk along the South Pier, which, in some ways,  isn’t a pier – it’s just concrete. There are no legs, no boards and no sight of the sea underfoot. Chris Foote Wood, in Walking Over the Waves, is considers that it isn’t really a pier at all. However, as he points out, the National Piers Society says it is, and they have the final word on the subject.

The South Pier is quite good, apart from the puzzling name and the lack of legs and stuff. When you drive up to it, it appears to be quite an elegant Edwardian building situated conveniently close to a large car park. As you park, you notice that the elegant pavilion isn’t part of the pier. It’s actually the East Point Pavilion and, according to the internet is only 25 years old.

Ah well!

The South Pier has a traditionally garish front (I speak only for my lifetime – obviously if I was Victorian I’d have a different idea of tradition) with plenty of amusements. It then has a concrete deck, a notice about lobster pots, a lifeboat shop and a trawler that is open to the public. We wondered about the lobster pots, and when we saw someone throwing what looked like a keep net into the water Julia asked him about it.

That morning he had caught prawns and shrimps (which I thought were the same thing) and some crabs. He does catch lobsters now and then, which was a surprise as I’d never thought of them being caught off the east coast. He uses bacon as bait. This would work for me too, as I’d be happy to crawl into a net for bacon.

From the pier you can see a massive crane on the other side of the dock. This, according to the internet, is based on the North Pier and is doing construction work.

Unlike many east coast piers, which had sections removed to stop them being used by the Germans (see previous comments) the South Pier couldn’t be breached, though it was damaged by German bombing. Around 20 bombs fell on the harbour, with one falling next to the pier and one destroying the reading room/pavilion.

Lowestoft was bombed 90 times during the war and suffered 261 fatalities. It isn’t much compared to the bombing of London or Germany, but it must have been a massive contrast to the holiday season of 1939 when the town was crammed with holidaymakers and the pier was full of happy faces.

The South Pier is linked to the Claremont Pier by a road train along the sea front. It’s based on Thomas the Tank Engine, though I suspect that Thomas is considerably faster – we used it and had trouble overtaking pedestrians. A pair of joggers actually overtook us.

I was surprised how many people waved at us as we went by. People aren’t normally that pleased to see me. The proprietors of “all you can eat” buffets are particularly not pleased to see me.

The Claremont Pier doesn’t have a buffet but it does host a selection of eating outlets, which mainly seemed closed. I suppose you have to do whatever pays the bills but restaurants that only open in the evening don’t really make for a cheery atmosphere during the day. Nor does an empty roller-skating rink, despite the flashing lights. It really isn’t my sort of thing (I last wore roller skates around 50 years ago, fell down a lot and ended up bruised and annoyed) so I didn’t feel inclined to have a go. That just leaves the amusements, and it was a bit hot for getting excited in a confined, badly ventilated, space.

The pier’s website shows photos of the eating places and bars, and it does seem to be a much brighter place to be when they are open. If I lived 150 miles closer I’d be seriously tempted by their Sunday Lunch offer, though “beef jus” isn’t really my style. I’m a gravy man. The menu for Scott’s, the restaurant that does fish and chips, looks interesting, and seems to be hammering the local Redpoll population. I notice they do that thing where they miss the £ sign off, as it makes food seem cheaper. Looking at their prices you can see why.  Note also that prices are for fish – you have to buy the chips as an extra. I was a bit miffed that the special at Sutton on Sea didn’t include tea. Guess what I think about chips being treated as an extra.

As part of a developing theme, the bulk of the pier is merely a seagull playground. It’s a shame, as the walk is often the best bit of the pier. It can be particularly memorable when accompanied by spongy boards and the fear of plummeting through the broken deck into the sea. Let’s face it, when you’re my size this can be a consideration even on a well-maintained pier.

Orton Mere

I just realised that although I said I was going to start on the Ely visit next, I still have to finish off the visit to Peterborough. The subject is Orton Mere.

If you travel south on the Great North Road (or A1 as it is now less interestingly known) you turn left at Alwalton and carry on a few miles until you come to a set of traffic lights. On the right is the village of Orton Longueville and on the left is Orton Mere. The village is a lot more interesting than you would think from the Wikipedia entry, though maybe that’s just my view. My childhood memories are, I suppose, of limited interest – probably limited to me and a few of my contemporaries.

For now, turn left and go down the hill to the car park. There are now several  ponds, a flyover and a golf course. In my day there was just the one pond. Where the flyover now towers above you, there used to be tanks where effluent from the British Sugar factory was piped – I’m not quite clear on the process as we rarely went there due to the high sides, scrub and quicksand-like nature of some of the tanks. The golf course was just water meadow.

The reed beds, I recall, used to support a large population of Reed Buntings.

We didn’t use the name Orton Mere, it was “the pond near the Staunch”, and I only heard the name in the 1980s when they started to develop it. The name Orton Mere seems to be used for the wider area these days, as in this news article. Whenever there’s a drowning, and there have been a few over the years, Orton Staunch seems to be known as Orton Mere. (I added this 12.05.20 after revisiting the post and finding that the news article link now goes to a Sheffield Wednesday related page rather than news of a rescue from drowning – I have left it all as it was but removed the hyperlink.)

We used to have rafts down at the pond, which was less reed-fringed in those days and had shallower beaches. Someone had made them from railway sleepers and they just stayed there to be used by generations of kids. My mum used to go mad with me for doing it, as I couldn’t swim in those days. The poles which went with the rafts were about a foot shorter than the depth of the pond, and sometimes called for interesting contortions, with hands underwater, to get back to shore, so she may have had a point.

There used to be a large tench in the pond during the 1980s, after Health and Safety had landscaped the pond and burned the rafts. I recall seeing its dorsal fin breaking the surface once and it was huge. I can’t remember what its reported weight was when it was caught, but it was a good size.

I’m not sure what a staunch actually is, but from what I’ve seen on the river it is a set of vertically acting gates that controls the flow of water. This sets up a series of currents and undertows, which is why a few people have drowned there over the years, and scours out channels down stream of the gates.  These used to attract large numbers of chub, which, according to Wikipedia, are easy to catch. This takes a bit of gloss off my memories of summer evenings spent catching good numbers of chub, but in time I’ll forget Wiki, whereas I will always remember the summer evenings.

The photographs show Orton Mere with no filter, Dramatic filter and Landscape filter. Even with no filter it looks the sort of place you’d find secretive fish and arms raising swords from the depths.

You can’t fish there now because the area is reserved for canoeists.

Looking for links I found this one relating to helping with  eel migration. I remember seeing the glass eels trying to make their way up the stream when I lived there, and had been thinking about them recently after reading an article about declining eel numbers. It’s nice to see something being done for them.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is an overcast day back in 1970. I was walking home from school when I noticed the police had closed off access down to the river. Two brothers from school had been canoeing during a games lesson and had drowned after getting into difficulties. This was in the days before risk assessment. We weren’t close, as I was only 11 and they were in their late teens, but we played rugby together. In those days all ages used to train together, and one or two of us even played in school matches with the big boys – unthinkable in these days. To be honest, the Bukowski brothers were very big boys compared to me, and scared the life out of me, though I tried to hide it.

So there you go. I suppose it’s a sign of getting old when your memories run to this length…