A fishing club which has catered for pensioners and disabled people for five decades is facing eviction, with a member saying he “felt sick” at the news.
Jim Allen, who has spent 36 years at Tunnel Angling Club as club secretary, said it was “very hurtful” when he heard about an eviction notice from landowner Ingrebourne Valley.
The Recorder has seen a letter to Tunnel Angling Club from property consultant Whirledge and Nott of behalf of Ingrebourne, in which the angling society was told its fishing rights on Ellis Lake, Launders Lane, Rainham, would come to an end on May 25 in 2024.
“If I told you my legs wobbled and I felt sick – that’s the sort of impact that it actually had,” Jim said.
The 67-year-old said the Rainham fishing club, which has been there since 1973, offered vital respite after his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of dementia around seven years ago.
“It’s like a little community, it’s not just a fishing club for fishing – it is for anyone who has problems,” he said. “My wife was sectioned in 2015 and going over there was my escape.”
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Rainham resident James Catlin, treasurer and enrolment secretary at the club, said the premises was just a hole in the ground when they arrived 50 years ago, and volunteers had worked hard to maintain it.
He said members were “gutted” when he told them via email.
“My phone has been burning off the hook with people asking what’s going on.”
James said it was terrible telling other members and not being able to inform them more on the plans for the fishery.
He said the move would hit disabled members hardest.
The lake was just a ‘hole in the ground’ when the club arrived, Jim Catlin said (Image: Jim Catlin)
“They’re going to be totally gutted,” he said. “There’s not another lake round here a disabled person can go and fish.
“I don’t have a clue why they’re [Ingrebourne] doing this,” he added.
James said that most of the members are from Rainham, a few from Dagenham, and mainly old age pensioners who would be at a loss without the club.
Jim Popkin, 77, who has been chairman for around 15 years, joined his fellow trustees in condemning the move.
“My response was great, great sadness,” he said. “Those disabled and elderly people will be at a loss.
“It’s like a religion to them – some guys go there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and it’s probably the highlight of their week.”
He also claimed the club’s membership fees would not be matched by commercial fisheries, leaving members with few alternatives.
Jim Allen added that the community would be dearly missed.
“It’s like a community and to have that taken away, it was a below the belt blow, it really was,” he said. “There was an elderly member over there crying his eyes out.”
Ingrebourne Valley was approached for comment.