TWENTY Sheffield children, aged 7 to 11, have been awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to next month’s annual Chatsworth Angling Fair, to be held over the weekend of May 22 and 23 on the famed Chatsworth House estate near Bakewell, Derbyshire.
Their visit is sponsored by the Chatsworth Bursary, offered by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and the fair’s organisers, which aims to provide an introduction to angling for children who might not otherwise have the opportunity.
The children, from four different primary schools in Sheffield’s Walkley Ward, are the largest group ever to receive the award – a gesture helping to mark the fair’s Silver Jubilee this year.
The schools are: Rivelin Primary, Sacred Heart Catholic Primary, St Mary’s C of E Primary, and Walkley Primary.
All four were nominated for the Bursary by the current Lord Mayor, Councillor Mrs Diane Leek, who represents the Ward and has close connections with each of the schools, which are near her own home.
Expressing her personal pleasure at being able to put them forward for such a special day out, the Lord Mayor said: “I know the children will learn a lot from this visit, as well as having an enjoyable day out in the countryside.”
During its 25-year history, the Chatsworth Angling Fair has grown into the world’s largest open-air show devoted solely to all branches of the sport, even including sea angling.
Among the many big names whom the Sheffield youngsters will be able to meet there are TV star John Wilson, four times world match champion Bob Nudd and carp legend Chris Ball.
They will also see several demonstrators, celebrating the “young idea” in angling, who are only a few years older than themselves – including two boys of 14 and an outstanding 15-year-old who is the first girl ever to have been enrolled as a member of the England Youth Fly Fishing team.
Accompanying the children in the minibus taking them to Chatsworth will be Councillor Tony Damms, himself a keen angler, who was Sheffield’s youngest-ever Lord Mayor in 1989-90 and now works for Yorkshire’s “Safe Haven” charity.
“There is no doubt at all that, in addition to the pure enjoyment they get from the sport, angling can make wonderful contributions to young people’s lives,” Mr Damms said.   “We have abundant evidence that it keeps them off the streets, enhances their self-confidence, and gives them a lifelong appreciation of wildlife and the environment.
“One immediate proof of this is provided by the ‘Get Hooked on Fishing’ scheme, started originally by a Co. Durham policeman, PC Mick Watson, as part of his police work to help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.  In its first two years, 65 of the 200 or so youngsters who joined the scheme had been classed by various official bodies as being at risk of falling into crime. After taking up angling, not one of those 65 got into trouble.
“This award-winning project is now backed by the Environment Agency, the Countryside Alliance, the ACA (Anglers’ Conservation Association) and many other key organisations, and it has since spread much farther afield. Today, it has been established as well in Birmingham, Lincoln, North Wales, Nottingham, Scunthorpe and Stoke – and at least 1,000 teenagers a year are being trained under it. That total is certain to increase before long, because the scheme is also to be started up shortly in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“All the youngsters taught through ‘Get Hooked on Fishing’ are trained to become all-rounders, able to catch fish in every season of the year. Four of them, including a 17-year-old girl, will be demonstrating their abilities at Chatsworth as part of the fair’s welcome to the ‘Young Idea’ next month.”