Swindon’s urban lagoon hailed as a hidden haven

Environment Agency News Release

One of Swindon's fishing success stories will be featured in a new BBC television programme to be aired this autumn.

Rodbourne Lagoon, which is sandwiched between the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate and a railway line, will be featured in a new programme fronted by Alan Titchmarsh, Nature of Britain, on BBC One.

The series will feature a section on urban wildlife, and Rodbourne Lagoon was suggested by the Environment Agency as a great example of an improving urban habitat which hosts an increasing abundance of healthy fish.

Fisheries officers carried out an electro-fishing survey of the lagoon during filming, which netted a number of large carp, bream, perch, roach and small fry. Electro-fishing involves using small electric charges to momentarily stun the fish so that they can be caught in nets and then measured. Scale samples are also taken to analyse the growth and health of each species. From these results fisheries officers can tell how well the lagoon is performing.

The lagoon is thriving following a number of measures installed by the Environment Agency in 2005, including floating reed beds. The lagoon is owned by Swindon Borough Council and is now used and maintained by the Raychem Angling Club.

Bob Preston, a fisheries officer at the Environment Agency, said: “This was a great opportunity for us to see how well the lagoon is progressing two years after the reed islands were installed, and it was great to see how many good quality fish are present.

“These fish are thriving, despite the water quality issues faced by a stretch of water like this, such as rain water run-off from the roads and industrial sites.”

Presenter and naturalist Mike Dilger took the chance to measure some of the fish, as well as getting out on the lagoon and seeing the electro-fishing in action.

Mark Jennings, Swindon's new angling development officer, a post joint funded by the Environment Agency and Swindon Borough Council, was also interviewed for the programme. His role is part of a three-year project which aims to reduce anti social behaviour, vandalism and drug abuse by encouraging vulnerable young people to take up angling, and increase their awareness of the environment. Mr Jennings will also work with the Environment Agency to deliver further improvements in habitat quality, fish populations and angling opportunities on all the Swindon lakes.

Mr Jennings said: “My role is to encourage fishing in and around Swindon, and the work carried out at places such as Rodbourne Lagoon only makes things easier, because it gives everyone, both novices and seasoned anglers, somewhere peaceful to come and enjoy this wonderful sport just round the corner from a busy town centre.”

And the Environment Agency is giving everyone the opportunity to have a go at coarse fishing at a special launch event for the Swindon Angling Development Project at Shaftesbury Lake, Shaftesbury Avenue, in Swindon on Saturday 5 May.

The event, which will run between 10am and 4pm, has been organised by the Environment Agency in partnership with Swindon Borough Council, the National Federation of Anglers (NFA) and Shaftesbury Avenue Angling Club.

It will give novices of all ages the opportunity to have a go at fishing under the guidance of an experienced and qualified NFA coach, with fishing tackle, bait and licences provided on the day.  Wiltshire Wildlife Trust will also be present to demonstrate pond dipping and identifying the insects, birds and other wildlife that live in and around the lake.

Mr Jennings said: “This is a great opportunity to kick off your May Bank Holiday weekend while having a go at something new. Angling gives you the chance to get closer to nature while potentially starting a hobby for life, which can be enjoyed for half-an-hour or a whole day, and which is simply great fun.”

Pictured (from left to right) are fisheries officer Bob Preston, presenter Mike Dilger, fisheries officer Jenni Balmer and Swindon's angling development officer Mark Jennings with a ghost carp caught during the electro-fishing.