David Nicholas Jones
During the summer holidays I would go and spend several weeks at my other grandparent’s home in the village of West Hallam not far from Ilkeston. This was a very different kind of adventure. The home where my Grandparents lived seemed to have its own happy atmosphere and I often seemed to be having a silent conversation with happy spirits that my imagination created. I can remember the pantry with its 23 steps to its basement and huge storage jars stuffed with damsons from the previous year’s fruit harvest. The garden was enormous with chickens at the bottom part of the plot and every sort of vegetable and fruit grown that one could have imagined.
My grandparents maintained this and full time jobs, and still had time for me. The feather bed I slept in seemed so comfortable and I always looked forward to that when I went to stay.
The important point of the home was its location and close proximity to Ilkeston where my grandparents worked. My Grandma would set off every day around 4am to the main post office in Ilkeston via a leafy lane next to her house. Many postal workers carried out two postal rounds per shift in all weathers. There were no luxuries in the postal service of the 1950’s and deliveries were on foot and by bicycle often miles away. Running alongside this route to Ilkeston one passed the dusty workings of a coal distribution site and clanking coal trucks. Coal slag heaps were everywhere and an eyesore all around yet today there is little evidence of that past. The route to Ilkeston also passed a large expanse of water called ‘Manor Floods’. This is still a very popular coarse fishing venue.
My Grandad worked at Mapperley coal pit outside Ilkeston and there was also another water known better as’ Mapperley reservoir’ nearby. The reservoir was built in 1820 as a feeder for the supply of water to the local Nutbrook and Erewash Canals. The ‘Fishing Gazette’ of August 16th 1930 reported that on the 24th July 1930 Albert Buckley landed a Carp of 261bs from this water, a British rod caught record at that time. It was not only true but some of the Carp he caught were on exhibit in Wollaton Park Natural History Museum just outside Ilkeston. Recent information has highlighted that the original Carp died as a result of being spawn bound and was set up in a glass case.
For some years this exhibit was on show at a local Ilkeston fishing shop ‘Walkers of Trowell’. A shop I often visited later on for help and advice.
The Mapperley historical society has much information on the venue and the history of Mapperley village. It was not until I began fishing in earnest that I realised the importance of this water.
My visits there were a result of my grandpa having a pint with his friends at a nearby public house. Sometimes we would have a walk around this expanse of water before getting the bus home.
My imagination ran wild with what huge fish there were in these local waters. One of our Sunday walks took us along the banks of Erewash canal where there was an endless line of fishermen enjoying a regular Sunday fishing match. It seemed something like the bus queue I often experienced when leaving Derbyshire county cricket ground. Attendance at the cricket fixtures became mandatory for me especially if it was a home match. Unfortunately I never got the time to enquire what was being caught as the walk had definite objectives the final one being given lemonade and packet of crisps at a public house by a large lock on the canal. Grandpa had his usual stout, and if I was lucky and he was in a good mood he let me have a sip of it. I never understood what the attraction was of such foul tasting liquid refreshment.
On other occasions we went to see my Aunt in Derby and that always ended with a trip on a trolley bus to Markeaten Park where there was an enormous lake. Here we were able to hire a rowing boat and have a trip on the water. Sometimes I found isolated dead fish floating upside down.
The smell did not really bother me but what they were did. This was my first sighting of Roach. This was another new species to add to my list of coarse fish.
On the banks of the lake there was the odd fisherman fishing with a pole but no fishing reel. I thought how strange this was but of course now realise ‘Pole fishing’ in its own right has become a well-defined method to catch fish with. It was a fairly rare method of fishing in those early days of my childhood during the late 1950’s.
Bank holidays would bring trips further afield often to ornamental gardens where huge Koi Carp glided about sucking in free offerings from the public’s picnics.
We travelled by train to lots of locations and it was interesting to observe numerous rivers, canals, and lakes from the comfort of the speeding steam train. My mind again slipped into a different mode wondering just what sort of fish lived in these waters. The banks were often lined with huge green umbrellas each protecting the angler from the torrential midland rain. All these events now seem to have had a purpose as someone was showing me a world that I really wanted to know more of.
Visits to my Grandparents house came to a sad end when my father was offered a new job in Devon. I felt something inside of me suddenly died and I wanted to stay in Derbyshire and live with my Grandparents to make my fishing dreams become a reality. My Grandma even took me to the post office one Saturday where I met the head postmaster. I was told that if I worked hard at school I would be able to become a telegram boy with my own motorbike and enter a worthwhile career. However my own parents quickly ended any thoughts I may have had on that idea.
There didn’t even seem to be enough time to consider running away from home and go to my grandparent’s house.
My lovely early childhood years seemed to come to a sudden end and we left Derbyshire in January 1960 moving to Galmpton village not far from Brixham in Devon and also only 2 miles from a River called the Dart.
I was endlessly re-assured by my parents that my grandma and grandpa would come and visit us but I felt utterly lost and so sad that I was leaving my best friends behind. I had enjoyed so many wonderful moments but little did I realise at that time that this would be the start of the next phase of my education to become a proper fisherman.
© D.N. Jones 2017-No part of this manuscript maybe used without the author’s written permission