Pressure mounts on Wildlife Trust to reverse angling ban

Opposition is building to the fishing ban announced by Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) at Bradbourne Lakes on the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.

Members of Bromley & District Angling Society (BDAS) have fished the gravel pits and the nearby river Darent since 1948 turning the formerly barren holes into an ecologically diverse amenity rich in wildlife and habitat.

A public consultation by Kent Wildlife Trust seeking views on the future of the site has attracted hundreds of critical comments.

The growing groundswell of support to retain the fishing at Sevenoaks has seen objections lodged by MPs, local residents, the Angling Trust and neighbouring angling clubs as well as wildlife groups representing bird watchers and beaver and otter conservation along with the former warden of the site.

Now leading mental health expert Dr Mark Wheeler has intervened claiming that in the current Covid-19 pandemic removing ‘beneficial activity’ such as angling could be damaging to community mental health. Local parents have added their voices too including Jonny Sissons, son of the late TV presenter Peter Sissons, who lives nearby and fishes the lakes with his children.

Dr Mark Wheeler has worked in the NHS providing mental health support for traumatised patients including military veterans. His research with Dr Nicholas Cooper into the potential benefits of green exercise in the form of fishing won the Science & Health Impact award in 2018.

Dr Wheeler said:

“With the effects of the pandemic likely to increase the need for support around many people’s mental health it feels counter intuitive to look to deny people a route to some solace through the sport of angling. In fact, the taking away of such a beneficial activity may cause a detrimental effect on those denied access to this activity. It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Kent Wildlife Trust are reducing angling opportunities rather than encouraging them at this current time.”

Jonny Sissons added:

“I have been fishing at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve for nearly 20 years, and it has brought me nothing but joy. I regularly take my six year old son Alfie, and my daughter Emma, who’s four, to the reserve and they love it now as much as I do. Prising youngsters away from their screens can be a tricky business, but the lure of the lakes will always hold sway in our house. Fishing has given them an advanced understanding of the importance of preserving this wonderful habitat. KWT’s decision to terminate all angling at the reserve has left me utterly heartbroken, and needless to say the whole family is devastated.”

Jonny Sissons with his six year old son Alfie and daughter Emma, who’s four, with BDAS Secretary Dennis Puttock at the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve where they all fish regularly.

A young Jonny Sissons (left) on a family holiday with his TV presenter father Peter. Jonny says “not only did he instil upon me the passion for angling that I have today, but it also gave me a love and appreciation for the natural world that I have carried with me ever since.”

The Angling Trust has been supporting BDAS in their bid to save their fishing at Sevenoaks and this week Trust CEO Jamie Cook wrote directly to his opposite number at KWT seeking a top level meeting to find a way forward.

Jamie Cook wrote:

“You will also be aware that there are a good number of wildlife trusts who actually promote angling on their reserves and even sell fishing permits themselves. It is therefore disappointing to hear of the change in attitude at KWT especially when BDAS enjoyed such a positive relationship with your predecessors and with the Jeffrey Harrison Trust with whom they are still in touch.

“I would respectfully suggest that rather than see this dispute escalate we convene an urgent meeting to find a way forward acceptable to all parties.”

Still time to help save fishing at Sevenoaks – respond to the consultation by February 7th

There are a few days left to make our voices heard and we need the wider angling community to stick together and take action. This is the thin end of the wedge and an angling ban on this site in Kent will only embolden the antis to try the same elsewhere.

Please click this link and follow the four simple steps to register your objection to the Kent fishing ban.

We need everyone to urge KWT to withdraw their notice of eviction and enter into constructive discussions with BDAS and the Angling Trust on how best to retain angling on this site for the benefit of future generations.



  • When the Jeffery Harrison Memorial Trust (JHMT), agreed a new head lease in 1979, they worked together with BDAS members in developing and caring for the site in partnership until Kent Wildlife Trust took on the head lease in 2002. JHMT employed full time staff, and the JHMT volunteers with assistance from BDAS members improved and cared for the site over the following years BDAS continued to work together in partnership with the original KWT management and the local birdwatching community on habitat improvement and site management but have now been given two months’ notice to leave for no good reason.
  • A copy of the KWT consultation on their development plans can be found here

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