Keith Wilson our former Honorary Secretary (1971-1987) and current Vice President wrote the following.
IN THE BEGINNING
At the end of World War II the surviving young men, from the Crowborough & Jarvis Brooks Districts, returned home from serving in HM Armed Forces. A number of them once again took up their old practice of Sea Fishing together, in an informal group. They soon began freshwater fishing again, as they had done as boys and young men in the late 1920’s and throughout the 1930’s. Then in 1948 they decided to make their informal angling group into a proper Angling Club with its Headquarters based in The Social Club, Croft Road, Crowborough, and thus Crowborough & District Anglers’ Association was born.
In the early years the Club’s activities were limited to Sunday morning freshwater trips to fish day ticket stretches of the River Medway or Eastern Rother. Alternatively there were saltwater trips to the beaches at Pevensey Bay, Langney Point, Norman’s Bay, Cooden and Dungeness. There was also an annual trip to fish off the Breakwater at the entrance to Dover Harbour. At that time it was very convenient for the Club that it’s first Executive Committee Chairman Mr. Gilbert happened to own an elderly Char-a-banc.
In the early 1950’s the Club gained its first “Grace & Favour” rights to fish from two local members of the aristocracy. Firstly, as Lord Winstone was having his haircut by barber and Honorary Secretary Bert Taylor, the pair discussed local angling facilities, or rather the lack of them. Lord Winstone then offered to “have a word” with the ninth Earl de La Warr on the Club’s behalf. This meeting soon led to the Club gaining the right to fish The Main Lake, Buckhurst Park in conjunction with it’s sister club, The Dorset Arms Angling Club. In addition the Club gained the sole right to fish the “Half-Moon Stream” from the Half-Moon Pub down to the Main Lake. Then through the “good offices” of one of the Club’s founder Members (who was employed on the Rotherfield Estate) Lady Ellis was persuaded to grant the Club the right to fish the two small lakes on the left-hand side of the driveway into Rotherfield Hall. Subsequently, the Club gained from Redlands, a further “Grace & Favour” right to fish the “Brickyard Lake, Jarvis Brook.
The Sunday morning trips continued right into the early 1970’s but by that time the modes of transport had changed to commercially hired coaches for the freshwater trips. A coach was also used for the annual outing to Dover. On the way back it “stopped” at a convenient hostelry and so it would be a very jolly group of Anglers who arrived back outside the Social Club late on a Sunday evening.
EVOLUTION IN THE EARLY 1970’s
So the first two decades of the Club’s history passed with relative tranquility, until the autumn of 1969 when an event took place that some would say “altered the course of the Club” forever. Messrs. PJ Boorman and KJB Wilson were elected to membership of the Club by simply going and having their haircut! At the subsequent 1971 AGM Keith Wilson was “conned” into being elected to the post of Honorary Secretary when in fact he thought he was going to be the Club’s first Assistant Honorary Secretary.
The now former Honorary Secretary Bert Taylor (a Club founder member) continued on as Assistant Honorary Secretary for another year prior to finally retiring at the 1972 AGM, having been in Office for twenty-two consecutive years. He was subsequently appointed the Club’s first Honorary Life Vice-President, which was a post he held until his death in May 2005, thus ending an unbroken run of fifty-seven years of continuous service to the Club. At that same AGM of 1972 Peter Boorman was elected to the post of Assistant Honorary Secretary and thus began a period of continuous service, which has lasted to the current day.
The Club’s long serving and original Honorary Treasurer, Arthur Sellings (another founder member) continued in office until 1973 before finally retiring, having completed twenty-five consecutive years as Treasurer. His record of service to the Club is remembered each year by the awarding of the “Roachman Trophy” (Arthur’s “Nom de Plume” and favourite fish). A young Keith Williams who had joined the Club as a junior member and had “come up through the ranks” succeeded Arthur.
The 1970’s saw major changes in the way the Club was administered, with Sub-Committees being appointed by the main Executive Committee, to take on the tasks overseeing various aspects of the Club’s growing activities, responsibilities and membership size. For the first time two junior representatives, with full voting rights, were elected to sit on the Executive Committee and represent the interests and issues concerning the junior section of the Club.
The growth in the Club’s membership and activities along with the increase in associated costs were not welcomed by all of the Club’s “long time members.” At the 1972 AGM Keith Wilson and Peter Boorman proposed that the Club’s annual subscription be increased by 100%, from two shillings and six pence to five shillings. Two veteran members immediately proposed that they should be taken outside and “hanged!” Present financial Officers please take note.
ENLARGING THE PORTFOLIO
It was at this time that the Club started to rent waters and under its first Water Management Officer, Don Plummer, the Club created its first fishery at Scaland Wood in 1978. It took a great deal of work to make the water fishable, but under Don’s leadership a wonderful fishery was created.
Under Don’s successor, Henry Russell, the Club created its second fishery at Wirgol. The first pond was opened in 1985, with the second following a year later. As with Scaland Wood it took a great deal of work to make the water fishable. It was also during Henry’s watch as Water Management Officer that the Club gained the “Grace & Favour” right to fish the Sandhill Farm stretch of the Eridge Stream. Fortunately for the Club, the owner of the river was also Henry’s boss. Henry and a few of his Water Management Team used to pay the Club’s “rent” for this fishery by helping out at Sandhill Farm during harvest time.
The Club also joined the Rother Fisheries Association and this provided access to fourteen miles of the River Rother as well as some stretches of the Royal Military Canal. So as the 1980’s came to an end the Club had a portfolio of waters that totalled twelve. Whilst it had taken a great deal of effort to compile the portfolio, the Club was firm in the belief, that it offered something for everyone. And while the portfolio has changed over the years, the Executive Committee remains sure that the Club still offers something for everyone.
During the 1980’s the Club began to take an active participation in the wider angling world, joining the Kent and Sussex Fisheries Consultative Associations, the Wealden District Sports Council and the Anglers Co-operative Association, which in due course eventually became the Angling Trust.
When the Eridge Stream was polluted five times in fifteen years it was the Anglers Co-operative Association who provided the advice the Club needed to ensure the Redgate Mill works improved their standards. The Club had also built up a very good working relationship with the senior fishery personnel at the Kent and Sussex offices of the Environment Agency (as well as all of those organisations predecessors). This meant that each time the Eridge Stream was re-stocked, it was at no cost to the Club. During the 1980’s the Club joined forces with the residents of the St.Johns area of Crowborough to protest at the pollution of the Half Moon Stream on Bunkers Hill. As a result, the sewer had to be replaced.
In 1970 the Club fished its first match against another Club, which in this case was the Dorset Arms Angling Club. The Warren Shield has been fished for every year since. Since then the Club has branched out and fished matches against other Clubs and sometimes, members companies.
Throughout the Club’s history, membership gradually grew from less than 100 members in 1970 to peak around 350 members in the mid to late 1990’s. It’s a little lower these days, but remains healthy and vibrant. As the Club grew in size, the Executive Committee enlarged accordingly and even though at times, the running of the Club impinged on peoples time, many remain to this day, as keen as they were, twenty, thirty or forty years ago.
AS ONE ERA ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS
The 1987 AGM saw the next milestone in the Club’s administrative history when Keith Wilson retired from the office of Honorary Secretary to take up the less demanding post
of Vice-President. Subsequently, following the death of the tenth Earl De La Warr and the resignation, after a year in the office of President, of the eleventh Earl De La Warr, Keith was
appointed the Club’s third President. Meanwhile at the 1987 AGM David Errey was voted into the post of Honorary Secretary and he would serve until 2003.
It was on David’s watch that the Club obtained the rights to the very popular and now much missed, Holts Lakes. Newick Lane Lake and Underhill were also acquisitions gained under Dave’s stewardship. In the mid 1990’s the Club embarked on its largest fishery development project to date. Roger Funnell and his small team of dedicated assistants successfully masterminded the successful application for a National Lottery Grant to help finance the creation and subsequent stocking of Pennybridge Lake. The project took around two years to complete and was ready for the start of the 1997 season. Many years later Pennybridge remains a jewel in the Club’s crown and many members are just happy to sit and take it all in, and if they are lucky enough to catch a fish, so much the better.
The Club continued to prosper throughout the 1990’s and while the portfolio of waters evolved over time, the Committee remained strong with many of the same old faces still turning up month after month and year after year to keep things ticking over. Linda Colvin became Honorary Treasurer; John Manktelow had become the Fund Raising Officer, Dave Cottington had evolved into the Water Management Officer and Robert Veitch who happened to be sat in the wrong place one evening in 1991 when Linda Colvin pointed at him and said “you can take the minutes tonight” became the Minutes Secretary – he’s still doing them!
In 1998 the Club reached its Golden Jubilee, which was a scenario many of the founding members may never have expected. In 1999 the Honorary Treasurer Linda Colvin, and her husband the Freshwater Match Steward Graham decided to sell up and move to South Wales. For many years they had run the original Crowborough Tackle shop together and it had become an unofficial home for Club members to chat, gossip and exaggerate about their catches, over a cup of tea.
So the Club celebrated the Millennium along with the rest of the World, having great hopes and expectations for the decade ahead. Unfortunately, like so many other Clubs, CDAA started to see a decline in membership as the rise and rise of the day ticket fishery lured the anglers’ eye in their direction. For a year or two the Club had to do the unthinkable and for the first time in its history, use the cash reserves to cover a small trading loss on the year. Life was certainly challenging for the new Honorary Treasurer Peter Gammon.
More change was just around the corner in 2001 when Keith Wilson retired as President, to be replaced by Peter Boorman. Cris Millis who was keen to leave the Committee in the late 1970’s became Chairman and remains so, to this day.
At the 2003 AGM Honorary Secretary David Errey announced his retirement after having served with great dedication and devotion for sixteen years. His successor Geoff Wicks had the rather odd distinction of becoming Secretary on the same day he was elected to the Committee. Geoff would go on to serve until 2012.
For the Honorary Treasurer Peter Gammon life was tough, but at his suggestion the Club undertook some cost cutting and let go of Hole Farm Cackle Street. In addition, Roger Funnell instigated a successful membership campaign and set up the Clubs first website. Fund Raising Officer of the day John Kelly then organised a very successful New Year raffle in 2004. By the time of the 2004 AGM the Club was back on track with a trading profit.
During 2004 a new tackle stand opened up at the Lye Green Nursery, but soon it moved to Jarvis Brook and then to it’s current home in the centre of Crowborough. Under the entrepreneurial Sandra Lawrence the shop became the second Crowborough Tackle and just like it’s predecessor, an unofficial home for the Club and a place where the kettle is always on.
Around this time the Club’s annual Junior Day began to grow from a small-scale event to the annually oversubscribed event of today. Such is the popularity of the event that even the Environment Agency coaches the Club use, pencil it in to their diaries one year ahead. From this developed the current summer series of junior matches. If you read the Angling Mail or watch Carl and Alex Smith online, this is where they started!
In 2006 the Club obtained the rights to the charming Danesfield Wood and although the dam has had to be reconstructed and the water restocked it’s become an idyllic hideaway for those who fish it. The rest of the portfolio from the turn of the century was retained and with the addition of Weirwood Reservoir, the Club still had something to offer everyone.
At the AGM that year, the man responsible for putting the Club back on a sound financial footing Peter Gammon retired. He was succeeded by the Clubs second female Treasurer and seventh in total, Sandra Lawrence.
In 2008 the Club celebrated its Diamond Anniversary and to mark the occasion Keith Wilson wrote a book about the Clubs history. It was titled “Once Upon a Line… And Other Stories” and Keith was presented with the first copy, signed by all of the Executive Committee at the AGM that year.
That same year the Executive Committee heard that the 94 year-old owner of Scaland Wood Mr. Dodds was planning to sell up and emigrate to New Zealand. After much discussion the Committee decided to try to purchase the lake and in the process, secure the long-term future of the Club. Under the leadership of Honorary Secretary Geoff Wicks the Club was successful and in 2009 the Club became landowners. Since then many improvements have taken place on site and no doubt there will be more in the future.
At the 2012 AGM Geoff Wicks stood down as Honorary Secretary. He was presented with the President’s Trophy and became only the third recipient of the award since its’ inception in 1987. Dave Stanbridge replaced Geoff and in the process became the Clubs fifth Honorary Secretary. By the autumn Dave had got himself off to a great start as the Club obtained the rights to Gabriel’s Fishery and the 40lb+ Carp water the Committee had searched for, for so many years. As Christmas approached the Club then undertook the creation of its second (and some would say new and improved) website.
During 2013 the Club installed it's first on site toilet at Pennybridge, in time for the 11th Junior Day that June. That same year saw the Club host a pack of Crowborough Scouts and help them in their attempts to pass their angling badge. In October, Scaland Wood underwent it's greatest transformation since 1992. Under the guidance of Dave Cottington and Dave Flint the banksides were improved beyond recognition in an attempt to improve both the general environment and the water quality. By the summer of 2014 the improvements were regarded as a great success.
Not content with one transformation, the Club then embarked on attaining the fishing rights to Mill House Farm at Maresfield and spent many long hours clearing the bankside and making the water a viable fishery. It was opened to the membership in 2015. By the beginning of the 2016-17 season the Club had moved forward once more, with agreements in place to fish at More House Farm Fishery and Bough Beech Reservoir. On a sadder note Honorary Secretary Dave Stanbridge announced his intention to stand down at the 2017 AGM, after completing five successful years as Secretary.