Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: It was the Countryside Alliance's great privilege to honour the Champions of our Fishing for Schools scheme at Parliament last week. Young anglers came from all over the country to celebrate being their school's Champion, having taken part in The Countryside Alliance Foundation's innovative Fishing for Schools programme.
The atmosphere at our Parliamentary reception was electric. Who amongst us can say that we had achieved something to warrant a trip to the House when we were 14? These Champions were keen to enjoy their moment, supported and applauded by many cross-party Parliamentarians who came to congratulate them.
The event was sponsored by Charles Walker MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling and as keen an angler as you are ever likely to meet. His enthusiastic speech to the reception drew many laughs and nods as he told the young Champions that angling really is the best sport they will ever take part in (we shall gloss over his unfavourable references to golf!) Charles Walker MP was also proud to recount that he himself was inspired to fish by the approach and skill of our own Charles Jardine, who runs the Fishing for Schools course with such zeal.
The reception also had another purpose - with the Olympics about to get underway we presented gold, silver and bronze medals to the three Champions we felt had gained the most from the course. We cannot overestimate what these medals meant to their winners: Freddie Lee Turner of Bower Grove School in Maidstone took gold and was presented with his medal by his local MP, Helen Grant. Michael Taylor of Cathedral Academy, Wakefield was similarly honoured by his MP, Shadow Defra Secretary Mary Creagh, whilst bronze medallist Alex Richards of Morriston Comprehensive in Swansea was cheered on by Welsh MP and former CA Chief Executive Simon Hart. There is not space to recount their stories here, but suffice it to say that through fishing these youngsters now have a confidence and focus and a real sense of achievement.
As a keen angler I am proud that we have introduced these young people to angling: the Countryside Alliance is committed to promoting outdoor education and increasing participation in fieldsports, so it was gratifying to be able to take that message to Parliament with inspiring examples of how beneficial outdoor education can be.