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Get Fishing Blog

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital get into fishing for wellbeing

By Darren Birch, Angling Trust Regional Angling Development Officer for North West England

When I was contacted by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital last year about arranging for some of their patients to have a go at fishing, it was one of those moments when I just knew that fishing would bring positive outcomes for these children’s mental health and wellbeing

In situations like this there are often a few additional things to think about, simply due to the nature of the environment we go fishing in. When practical safety considerations for vulnerable young participants are needed, my role as one the Angling Trust’s 8 Regional Angling Development Officers means being well-versed in how to work with local contacts to make sure that newcomers have the best possible first-experience of angling.

Pretty soon I found myself in touch with the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Safety Officers, searching for a venue where the fishing sessions could safely go ahead. We settled on North West Angling Academy’s excellent base at Brooms Cross Fishery at Thornton, on the rural outskirts of Liverpool. Brooms Cross offers anglers of all ages and abilities a peaceful, safe and secure fishery. With views over the Alt Valley and across the fields to the picturesque Ince Blundell Estate, Brooms Cross was going to be really well-suited to sessions for patients of Alder Hey’s Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Ann Myers is the Head of Coaching and Lead Safeguarding Officer at North West Angling Academy, (NWAA) and one of my go-to contacts for this kind of newcomer angling participation delivery. The Academy is a forward-thinking organisation that was the first to gain the Get Fishing for Well Being Delivery Partner accreditation. The Academy has Mental Health First Aid certification, and everyone there has years of experience using angling to help treat conditions such depression, anxiety ADD, ADHD and PTSS and working with people who have disabilities, special needs and neurodiversity.

North West Angling Academy was the first to gain the Angling Trust Get Fishing for Well Being Delivery Partner accreditation

Roll on Friday 7th July when a group of young people from Alder Hey Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services were welcomed to Brooms Cross for a fishing session delivered by Ann and the team at NWAA.

The venue’s Owl Tree Pond is almost entirely accessible to wheelchairs, offers lakeside parking and male/female disabled toilets and showers fishery can be used by everyone, and on-site bailiffs and CCTV ensured security and peace of mind and gave the visiting group from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital a great angling experience. Parents and carers also had the opportunity to chat together and share their experiences with each other over a cup of tea or coffee.

Here’s some feedback from the day which I think speaks for itself!

“At first when we were invited to the fishing session, I couldn’t understand the connection to how that was going to help with my son, and his severe struggles in life with being autistic and unable to regulate causing self-harm at the age of 10. We arrived and were welcomed by the lovely Ann and her very down to earth team. My son was absolutely in distress getting him there as it was something we hadn’t done before, but once we were there and he was fishing, I understood the connection to how this session was going to help my son.

Kayden like many others can’t rest or settle for long periods of time, and struggles learning new tasks and meeting new people in new environments, but he sat on a fishing box and fished for over an hour and a half – as did all the other children. We all learnt a lot about fish, lakes and how everything works together, and we were able to touch, hold and release the fish we caught.

It was a great experience for both of us as I have never seen him sit like that for a very long time apart from when he’s gaming, in fact I couldn’t get him away and  it became very apparent that he was practising mindfulness as well as learning a new skill. Ann explained that the aim is to get him to sit longer each time. Being able to sit and be completely comfortable in sitting would be a fantastic achievement for Kayden and would help every aspect of my son’s life. Thank you to Louise for arranging the fishing and to Ann and her family for being super stars”

All the children thoroughly enjoyed the session, caught some fish and want to come back and fish again!

This project really does have the potential to grow and grow. Establishing a partnership between Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and North West Angling Academy now, means that in future, angling is firmly on the list of options for the hospital. We expect many more vulnerable children to be able to access angling for their health and wellbeing – a great result for all involved!

Please contact me if you’d like to arrange the same kind of thing for your project, school or charity.


Darren Birch
Regional Angling Development Officer (North West)
07791 164921
[email protected]

Get Fishing | Get Fishing for Wellbeing

The Angling Trust’s ‘Get Fishing’ campaign is proudly supported by
Shakespeare, Exclusive Tackle Partner and Angling Direct, Exclusive Retail Partner
as we all work towards getting more people fishing, more often.

The Get Fishing campaign to get more people fishing more often is funded by the Environment Agency from fishing licence income as part of the National Angling Strategic Services contract with the Angling Trust, and Sport England. Children under 13 do not need a licence, and licences for children aged between 13 and 16 are free but you still need to register and receive a licence in order to go fishing. You can get a licence for the full year, for 8 days (ideal for holidays!) or just a day’s fishing.

NOTE: Although young children who are under 13 year old do not need a licence to fish, the person supervising them needs the proper fishing licence to take hold of the rod or to help the child fish with it.

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