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Earlier this year the Wandle Piscators made a major contribution to the success of the Wandle Trust’s annual Trout in the Classroom programme by supporting a school trout tank at Benedict Primary School in Mitcham.

Reflecting on another successful education season, the Wandle Trust’s Trout in the Classroom programme director, Gideon Reeve, recently sent us these thoughts, and asked us to share them with all Members of the Wandle Piscators:

On behalf of the Wandle Trust I would like to thank all of your members for their support and for the generous donation of £750 to ensure that we were able to run our environmental and educational programme, Trout in the Classroom, at Benedict Primary School for the first time this year.

Benedict is on Church Road in Mitcham, 500 metres away from the Wandle where it meanders through Ravensbury Park. 246 children, aged from 5 to 11 years, attend the school.

This project is extremely inspiring to children of all age groups, particularly because they have to nurture their own brown trout specimens (the eggs are sourced from brood stock in the Itchen in Hampshire) from eggs to swim up fry, which creates a strong bond between children and fish. The youngsters invest emotionally and intellectually in their fish and therefore they learn the value of a healthy river and the importance of maintaining it. Benedict’s pupils were no exception to this and were not immune to the lure of the trout!

The Wandle Piscators and the Wandle Trust are committed to restoring the Wandle to health and so it’s perhaps not surprising that over the years many people have been involved with the activities both of our organisations. 

This year the Wandle Trust was indebted to Wands’ members Jim Dillon and Jez Mallinson who each reared their own batch of trout at home, using hatcheries very similar to those at the schools.  In the spring we used some of these ‘reserve fish’ to restock one of our other hatcheries in Sutton, where the children got into difficulty and had a large fish kill.  Like the children I think both Jez and Jim enjoyed observing the trout at close quarters on a daily basis.

Benedict’s pupils and staff enjoyed this project very much although their experience was not without incident.  On several occasions their filter cut out causing some of the fish to suffocate.  We were running powerful pond filters to keep the water pristine and this caused blockages in the system at times. Jez and Jim have already started working on prototype designs and solutions to overcome this problem for next year.

Another unforeseen hitch was that with just a few days notice the education authority informed Benedict that they had to have an OFSTED inspection. This was to fall on the same day as our big release day on the river, where all the schools would be coming together to celebrate and release their fish.  We decided to run a special event for Benedict which took place just over a week later.  The subsequent day went off without a hitch on Thursday 7 April at Hackbridge, and the excited children released their 70 surviving fry into the river.  Later on we went for a nature and history walk up to Shepley Mill, where the kids couldn’t resist hanging over the wall of the weir pool to peer at the many species of fish below, and then on past Wilderness Island. We try to teach the children that trout are just one of the many species that make up a healthy and diverse riverine environment.

Finally, I would also like to extend my thanks to other Wands associates and members who helped with the project this year as they do most years, including; Erica Evans, John O’Brien, Sally Pike, Theo Pike, Roger Stevens and Jo Storry. 

If you’d like to help support Trout in the Classroom next year, please contact the Wandle Trust or get in touch via the Wandle Piscators’ Members’ Forum.

(Image credits: Fred Smart and Jez Mallinson)

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