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Chasing 'A Passion for Angling' ~

'A Passion for Angling' was a series of six hour-long episodes that was broadcast by the BBC sometime in the early 1990s. Written by and starring the now-infamous trio of Bob James, Chris Yates and expert photographer Hugh Miles it was arguably one of best pieces of television ever to capture the true meaning of angling. In my opinion, no angling programme has bettered it since (although John "Come on my son" Wilson has done a proud job). The first episode of the series is called 'Childhood Dreams', and shows one of our intrepid heroes (this time Bob James) fishing a rather picturesque stretch of water known as Frensham Small Pond. Quite widely known amongst anglers as being something of a treasure trove for its carp and tench, this small pond (actually several acres in size) is somewhat off the beaten track and is thankfully under the protection of the National Trust, so its a nice place to visit for a walk or to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

Bob James is seen catching a golden rudd from this water before returning for a cheeky lunchtime bottle of wine with Chris Yates under the shade of a silver birch tree; meanwhile Bob's dogs Rapps and Chester watch his rod as a pair of kingfishers fly in to inspect proceedings. It's all artistically shot by Hugh and the location looks idyllic. The "pond" is surrounded by a series of small pathways that provide access to a handful of fishing pegs. The soil is sand based, with the shoreline almost like a beach on the North side. Most angling is done here, but on the South side lies the infamous fishing spot I was chasing. A section in the series companion book written by Chris Yates seems to confirm this.

The mystery fishing peg

Imagine my surprise a few years later to discover that Frensham Small Pond was only a few miles up the road from where I lived; so with camera in hand I went to see if I could locate exactly where the scene was filmed and take a few pictures so that any other interested individuals would have some idea of where to look. My starting point was the video footage itself of the fishing peg; its a very distinctive swim that lays between a gap in the reeds and has the distinctive silver birch tree directly behind it. Using this as my starting point I slowly took my time walking round the pond noting possible locations; it became very apparent that the swim in question is located at the South side of the pond, here there are several swims that mirror the criteria. The North side of the pond (closest to the car park area) is where the sand underfoot is the most apparent as it runs straight down to the waters edge; according to the various people I spoke to during my visits to the place this is the main area where anglers seem to congregate, however its certainly not the spot I was looking for. The following pictures (@ copyright Hugh Miles, Wild Wise Productions) are screen grabs showing the scene in question:  

Clue #1: The crooked tree branch

The first clue is the distinctive silver birch branch that curves in a distinct 'S' bend and behind it a smaller birch tree with a similar, albeit smaller, shaped curved branch. There is also evidence of a pathway directly behind our heroes; these clues offered a good starting point. Thankfully the video footage also provides a good shot of the swim:

Clue #2: The three trunked tree

From this angle it can be seen that the tree Chris Yates (man to the right) is leaning on is the tree with the larger 'S' shaped curve from the earlier picture, the tree to his left has three large trunks and the smaller curved branch can be see better. The trunked tree was likely to offer a better location pin pointer given its size, but clearly there are identifying elements that can be searched for. As mentioned earlier, there are several swims/pegs that have the distinctive gap in the reeds but it became pretty obvious that only one matched everything perfectly. I think I've found Bob James' peg and here are my findings:

The curly branch?

That's it I hear you cry! Well, erm no actually - my first impression was that I had found the curly branch and I have to admit that I was pretty much convinced that this was the branch you can see Chris Yates leaning against, but it wasn't until I had a closer look that I discovered that things weren't quite what they seem; a view from the rear of the tree showed some interesting developments...

The three trunked tree?

Now I'm convinced! The three trunked tree is a dead giveaway particularly when you see the swim behind it; there has been some changes over time as can be seen by the 3rd trunk being trimmed down but probably the biggest change is the fact that the tree that Chris Yates was leaning on has long since vanished, only the remains of the stump can be seen on the right. Amazingly the smaller curly branch seems to have survived the ravages of time! It's also interesting to note that the waters edge has been dug backwards either intentionally so or through erosion, therefore if you were thinking of recreating the scene (complete with white wine maybe) then you'll get your feet wet these days!

Locating the peg

So how do you find it? Well, there are two direct ways of getting there and I've added some pictures and details below, but essentially the routes are: 1) Northern route: arrive at the main car park and go in through the entrance to the right of the pond-keepers house, following the path (and ponds edge) in an anti-clockwise fashion; and 2) Southern route: head left from the car park past the pond-keepers house so that it brings you to a path near the road side, this path will eventually lead you past a sluice and stone wall heading clockwise towards the South side.

Route (1) is probably the simplest way to get there if you haven't been before, and continuing to follow the path round the pond will give you some idea of how to get to the peg using route (2). The maps and Global Positioning System (GPS) co-ordinates below should help:

Latitude: N 51 09' 51.8"
Longitude: W 0 46' 25.4"

Rough map of the peg location

Route (1): The North side route (with pictures):

Go through the main entrance to the right of the pond-keepers house, walk straight through and continue straight on following the ponds edge in an anti-clockwise direction. This is a nice walk round if you've time to spare and you get to see the pond in all its glory including the lovely sandy bank where day trippers and over-excited dogs seem to congregate. It's supposedly quite a nice fishing point although it tends to be the first point of call for visitors so I'd avoid it personally; speaking of which Sundays seem to be incredibly popular with dog walkers, runners and hikers - whoever said this was a secluded little gem needs to rethink its description! Anyhow, if you follow this path you get some nice views and as you reach the start of the Northern side you'll pass a wooden observation hut on your left hand side for bird watchers (note as of 2010 this may be gone as it was in bad condition at the time of the photographs), keep following the path and the first peg you come across where the reeds are cut is the Bob James peg (look for the three-trunked tree). Open a bottle of wine and give a toast to our man Isaac Walton! A bit of trivia: Isaac's grave is in Winchester Cathedral and well worth a visit given the opportunity.


(Left): The sandy bank on the Southern side, and (Right): the birdwatchers hut

Route (2): The South side route (with pictures):

Once you reach the pond-keepers house, keep heading left along the side of the road (be careful of cars here!) and you should eventually see a path that takes you in the direction of the sluice gate (at least that's what I'm calling it - probably isn't in truth). Go past the sluice gate and the stone wall that you will eventually reach and continue to follow the path in the direction of the ponds edge (its a bit difficult to visualise where you are at times but keep heading clockwise and you shouldn't really go to far adrift). Eventually you'll stumble across the South side of the pond and you'll see a series of pegs (three actually) cut into the reeds that resemble the one we're after. The first peg on the Southern side is handily cristened 'Sir Henry' thanks to a carving into a nearby tree, ignore this one and the next peg that follows it - the very last peg that is cut into the reeds (or the second after Sir Henry) is the Bob James peg (again, look for the three-trunked tree)!


(Left): The 'sluice gate', and (Right): the stone wall

The 'Sir Henry' peg marker

The three peg locations

Irrespective of which route you happen to take, its always worth a trip out to Fresham Small Pond as its a beautiful little place in its own right. Now then, where did I leave my bottle opener....

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