Members of GWFFA & Invicta committees together with Kristian Kent from the Angling Trust yesterday (Wednesday 2 March) met with Anglian Water to hold a season review, but in particular to discuss the current situation on the Grafham Dam. Jake Williams, head of Parks and Conservation, led the AW presentation followed by discussion supported by Will Kirstein Parks Manager Grafham & Rutland and Angela Tarry Parks Manager Pitsford. (Angela was previously responsible for Grafham Water).
Although considerable discussion was held, Jake Williams made it clear that they would not compromise on the position as outlined in their letter to the clubs on the 21st December 2021. Detail of that decision follows below. Jake Williams made it clear that this decision was not taken lightly but they had a moral duty to ensure the protection of the public and only allow normal access when there was no risk of contact. This will be dependent upon the water levels dropping to a defined safe height.
“Decision: Given the potential severity of a similar incident and the increased likelihood of its occurrence we have concluded that the following controls need to be implemented to mitigate the risk going forward: The dam will always remain closed to fishing between 9am and dusk and this closure will be extended to a total closure during public holidays, weekends and school holiday periods. To ensure the closure during these times we will erect gates and signage at the fishing access points to avoid confusion. Early morning fishing will be allowed from the dam before 9am and outside of the holiday closed periods. To further mitigate the risk, we will erect appropriate signage and demarcation on the dam top to warn other users to stay within a ‘safe zone’ during periods fishing from the dam is allowed. This is deemed feasible due to the low expected numbers of other users on the park during the limited permitted fishing time. Fishing from the dam will not reopen until these further mitigations have been complete. While I appreciate this is a significant curtailment to current access to the dam and will not engender support from most of our fishing community, I hope you will understand how we have come to this difficult decision”
Jake William did clarify that the gates to the dam would be opened to allow fishing from dawn to 9am within the parameters as laid down above. This could however be varied if for example there was a special event where numbers of people would be expected to be present before 9am. Where possible notice would be given of such events. We discussed at length the return of unfettered access to the dam when the water levels dropped to a safe height. AW would not commit to a date when this would be known but agreed that they would actively pursue this as soon as water levels dropped. Once the level had been set a line would be drawn on the dam to define the safe height and thereafter it would be a clear go no go situation. If the water level is below the ‘safe height’ we would have full access, above this only access prior to 9am as above.
We then after lengthy discussion moved onto discuss other bank improvements listed below which AW agreed to look into. Some such as Item 3, access to July bank may not be possible due to ownership of land and restrictions on parking. It is acknowledged that none of these would be compensation for our members for loss of the dam but would provide improved access to bank fishing and parking.
- Improvement and re-building of the stone jetty known as Harts Bluff
- Access points along stoned banks to allow safe access to the water
- Bank angling access to July Bank – Parking for July Bank
- Creation of Gaps in hedge/tree line from Stumps to Savages Creek
- Provision of car parking for access to the Seat in the area inside the gate at the settlement lagoons or through the gate to the orchard to the left-hand side of Duberly Close. This already has an angler’s lock.
- Reinstatement of the gaps along water frontage to the right of the Seat towards and round Sludge Point these were formerly known as ‘Mark Gaps’ who was a previous Ranger
We will going forward continue to push for the definition of safe height of water level to gain full access to the dam. In the meantime, the Dam is open to fishing from the start of the season from dawn up until 9am within the constraints previously stated. The gates and signage are in manufacture although not currently installed. Clearly this we see the status as ongoing and for review as water levels drop and will keep members informed of progress.
Chairman Grafham Water Fly Fishers