The first shafts of daylight spread across the fields as the sun climbs above the North Downs. A long bushy-tailed fox shuffles toward his lair after an active night. It was July and the summer heat begins to enfold the rich pastures of East Kent stretching from the English Channel to the North Sea. In the early hours of daybreak the quiet lakes at the Chart Fisheries are disturbed by the appearance of anglers. They are the volunteers from the East Kent Branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity. These anglers commit themselves to improving the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across East Kent by encouraging them to fish.
On Thursday 13th July 2017 the charity held its third event of the year at the Chart Fishery. It is set in the middle of the Kent countryside and is stream-fed from the Greensand Ridge. The water quality here is superb and the coarse fish are a lovely quality too.
The guests of the charity for this event were a party of students from the St Nicholas School in Canterbury. There was also a group from the Meadowfield School in Sittingbourne. Both are special schools for pupils who experience profound, severe and complex needs, including autism. As is customary the team of Casters and helpers, under the direction of the event organiser, swiftly set to work. The equipment and fishing gear was located and placed at the designated fishing swims. After a careful check by the Caster Secretary, everyone patiently waited for the arrival of the students.
On their arrival the students and teachers were welcomed by the School Liaison Officer. They were briefed on the safety instructions before being assigned an experienced caster who would assist and coach each one at the lakeside. Later in the morning the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Peter Williams, was welcomed to the fishery. Peter has a keen interest in the workings of the charity and took it on himself to tour the lake. He spent time talking to the casters and their pupils.
The weather turned into a glorious day providing substantial fish catches. The caterers again provided a lunch of generous proportions which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Following lunch, a short session of fishing continued and, on completion, all participants attended an award ceremony. Peter Williams presented certificates and medals to each student.
The reaction from the schools and students at these events is always encouraging. The students develop a confidence throughout the day which is rewarding and gratifying to see. The East Kent Branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity has a unique way of bringing out the best in the participants. This is perhaps due to the fact that the volunteers do not represent authority and are merely a friend for the day. Their enthusiasm for fishing and never-ending patience expresses itself in fantastic kindness and commitment to the children.
The next meeting will be held at Longshaw Fishery, Sturry near Canterbury, on Thursday 21st September 2017.
Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught
Report: Mike Balkwell