Community pond shows power of volunteers in keeping boys out of trouble - Dr Alan Billings

It was a warm and sunny day when I visited one of the projects we are supporting with a community grant. This is money seized from criminals that we recycle back into the communities that have been impacted by crime.
Bolton Brickyard Ponds in Goldthorpe. PIC: Simon HulmeBolton Brickyard Ponds in Goldthorpe. PIC: Simon Hulme
Bolton Brickyard Ponds in Goldthorpe. PIC: Simon Hulme

Angling for All takes place at the Bolton Brickyard Pond, a park between Bolton-upon-Dearne and Goldthorpe.

As the name suggests, the pond was originally a deep pit at a brickworks which was flooded and turned into a fishing lake by local mineworkers when the works closed. After the coal mines also closed some fishing kept going but much of the pond became overgrown and out of use.

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In recent years a number of ponds have been created and brought back into use by dedicated local people. I was meeting one of them, Lenny Fowler, who leads the project we are supporting.

Briefly, each evening, and during the day in the holiday period, he meets any young people that want to learn how to fish and shows them the basics.

For some time he and other volunteers have cleared away the brambles and lakeside vegetation, suppressed the lilies that would otherwise entirely cover the ponds and provided short platforms on which the young anglers can stand to fish.

Now he coaches them, providing some with rods, though most of those I met seem to have saved and bought their own.

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My interest, of course, was in what this project is doing for young (mainly) boys who might otherwise be getting into trouble.

The grandmother of one came up and spoke. She told me how the young lad had some issues at school. He seemed unable to focus.

A mother said her son ‘couldn’t keep still for more than a few minutes’ – and went on to describe patterns of behaviour that we would probably call ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Yet here they were fishing. For hours they would stand with their fishing rods, affixing wriggling and brightly coloured maggots, casting their lines, scooping up the catch in a keep-net – and doing all the things anglers do.

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Whatever ADHD is, it seems highly contextual. These boys had no difficulty focusing on fishing, taking instruction and getting on with one another.

A lady who comes regularly to the ponds with a group of dog walkers told me what a difference the presence of the young anglers had made to the area.

It had once been a haunt of youths who were ‘up to no good’ and who frequently intimidated those who walked along the paths.

Now it was a pleasure to take an evening stroll and watch the young people.

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The day I was there seemed idyllic with swans and other birdlife, a beautiful lakeside setting – and several bream were caught.

The leader gives his time voluntarily. By day he works in a referral unit, so knows how to handle those who do not find school an easy place to be.

I have no doubt that as the years go by, many young people will have cause to thank him for the work he is doing.

I also have no doubt that if we can’t support people and projects such as this, there are those in the community who are watching and will lead these young people in a very different direction.

A shortened version of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire’s latest blog post.