Women In Angling – Jayne Upton, Ellerdine Lakes
From Nursery Nurse to Fishery Manager. Ellerdine Lakes Jayne Upton relives the journey that she and her family took in September 1998 to turn two wet fields into a successful commercial trout fishery…
September 1998 saw a big change on our family farm here at Ellerdine. The dairy herd that had spanned three generations of Upton’s was sold, mainly due to rising overheads and the fall in milk prices. We now had no livestock and wondered what we should do with the farmland. We had a couple of fields that were unusable due to being too wet. Meadow field and the Five-Acre field were now sitting fallow even though thousands had been spent on drainage. Edward, my husband, then had his ‘light bulb moment’ to create a stillwater fishery, a chance to fulfil a dream…and so it began!
2000 – The Start Of Ellerdine Lakes
Work started in April 2000. Once the diggers started, it was evident why the land was so very wet. Huge springs lay underground, making for a perfect water source for the lakes, clean fresh water pumping almost continually. Meadow, Lakemoor and Cranymoor lakes were dug and were full by June 2000.
On September 30th 2000 we opened our little diversification venture, a sideline doing something that we enjoyed. Two years later, Marsh Lake was created and this was to be our coarse lake. Good idea we thought back then, but we quickly needed more space for the trout. Other facilities on site were a portacabin with a tray of flies and a portaloo by the hedge! We were so happy and thought that it was brilliant.
At the time our eldest child (Emily) was only two and Harry was due in a few months. Not perfect timing, but a very enjoyable time for us. Along came Harry, born on a Thursday in March and he was in the shop with me the very next day! I didn’t get much time off and Harry was destined to be an angler! Fast forward a couple of years, and along came Will, making for a very busy life. Three children under the age of five and a new fishing venture and a farm to run. Still, we focussed on building our little fishery into something that we could be proud of.
Nursery Nurse To Fishery Manager
With our little family complete and the perfect job for us with the fishery, life was bliss until the workload became too much. With the children very young and Edward running the family farm and contracting business, we decided to lease out the lakes. Thankfully, for numerous reasons, this only lasted three years. On new years day 2010, after giving up my job at a local preschool, we returned at the helm of Ellerdine Lakes. Nursery Nurse turned into Fishery Manager overnight. I had planned on doing it for 12 months to get it back on its feet and then was off back to work with children!
Here I am nine years later and Ellerdine Lakes consumes my life. It’s almost an obsession. I absolutely love coming through that gate each day and seeing our little bit of England.
Today we have four well-stocked main lakes with rainbows, browns, blues, tigers, char, spartics and even still a few Atlantic salmon. We also have a dedicated beginner/children’s pool, fully stocked tackle shop, 50-seat dining room and a warm cosy lodge with a wood burner that we are very proud of. We have put our hearts and souls into creating a fishing venue that everyone can enjoy.
Unbelievably, 2018 also saw the addition of a fish farm, not quite the plan that we had for the year, but oh my goodness, what an addition! Hopefully within a couple of years we will be self sufficient with using all of our own fish.
The fish farm is completely new to us. We have had to learn a lifetime of knowledge in a very short space of time. Thank goodness for good experts on hand, other fish farm owners who are incredibly helpful and good old Google for the knowledge and learning. Maybe I’m not as stupid as I thought!
Our workload doubled very quickly. A lot of hard work, but very enjoyable MOST days. A lot of time and effort goes into rearing fish, keeping lakes in tip top condition, stocking the shop, running the kitchen, maintenance, weed cutting and so on. None of which could be done without our trusty team and children by our side.
Just this Christmas alone, we saw over 400 anglers come through the doors in a ten-day period. These people have travelled from as far as Swansea, Northumberland and Somerset just for the day to fish with us. There have been over 300 meals cooked in this time along with fish stocking every few days. This is why we keep striving to get better and better year on year, changing and reinvesting as much as possible.
Over the next few months, I hope to give you an insight into my workload, the highs, the lows, and all that goes into my day-to-day life at Ellerdine Lakes. The great people that I meet, the fishing stories, corporate days, fish grading, pressure washing, feeding, cooking in the lodge kitchen, shop work and much more!
For those that thought that I ‘only cooked the bacon’, I hope that you enjoy reading what utter chaos my working life can be and how my days usually could do with being a little longer. I love my job as Fishery Manager at Ellerdine and wouldn’t swap it for those days as a Nursery Nurse!