Fishing lines; Hook, line and stinker

Click to follow
The Independent Online
I SPENT Thursday fishing in a lavatory.

This is not an excuse for a string of feeble jokes about how it pissed with rain all day, how the ground was boggy or the fishing was crap (an anagram of carp, but we'll pass that by). Nor is it a sneaky journalistic trick to make you read on, with the punchline being that the place was actually called La Vattori if translated into Italian.

All right, there is a slight element of exaggeration involved. If I am to be strictly historically accurate, it was very probably part of a lavatory system. But that's still pretty unusual. And it was in Lord and Lady Guernsey's back garden.

Inevitably, we are talking something a little more grand than a porcelain bowl bearing Thomas Crapper's signature. Hall Pool on the Packington Estate near Coventry actually covers 18 acres and is up to 16ft deep in places. However, its original function has been superseded by sewers and pipes and an altogether more efficient system for dealing with human waste.

Flushing-lavatories were known to the Romans and simple latrines have been found in the ruins of ancient Babylon. But most country houses used nature to deal with nature. A series of connected lakes, often with reed beds between them, filtered polluted water. Weed wasn't just a thing for ducks to eat: it was nature's lavatory paper. By the time the once-polluted water reached the bottom lake, it was clean once again.

I have to confess that in the case of Hall Pool, this could all be pure speculation. But it's not an unreasonable supposition, especially as the lake was once three ponds, designed by Capability Brown and the fourth Earl, who enlarged and improved the 17th-century house.

Ironically, I was fishing there because the water in this particular lake, one of 13 on the estate used for public fishing, is still too dirty. For many years, it had been used as a trout fishery but every summer trillions of algae came to a month-long rave and the crystal-clear water turned into a brownish soupy goo. Experts were baffled. In the end, rather than fighting the problem, fishery manager Steve Barker let coarse fish, which actually would rather not see what they are eating, take over the prime site.

The lake, which officially opened yesterday, is the only one I know in the UK where only boat-fishing is allowed for coarse fish such as carp, roach and tench. The boat-only rule is probably because Lord and Lady Guernsey, who still live in the grand house, don't want scruffy fishermen walking across their manicured lawns, though the official reason is that bankside access is difficult.

There was another, similar, lake I fished years ago with an equally spectacular view of a fine house - Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, the home of the Duke of Marlborough. But I'm told bankside fishing is now allowed here, and that its peaceful waters are occasionally disturbed by the tourist paddle- steamer, which rather ruins the magic.

No such problems at Hall Lake. A drive through the estate takes you past dozens of wild deer, while only six boats are allowed on the lake, so overcrowding is scarcely a problem. I'm assured fishing is usually excellent, though when I went there two hailstorms wrecked chances of a bumper catch. Didn't help the post-fishing barbecue either.

Still, the day passed quickly. I learned from Roy Marlow, the Pru Leith of fish cuisine, all about piscatorial dietary requirements. It's all highly complicated but certainly leaves your hands with a pleasant aroma. Trust me to go fishing in a former lavatory and come back smelling of roses.

More information about fishing Hall Pool from 01676 522754.

Comments