The History of Tarka Swims


In September 1969 plans were put into motion to flood a duck pond at East Brown Farm Langtree, which would then be leased to Bideford Angling Club giving it the opportunity to offer local coarse fishing members a dedicated pond at an affordable price.  The following month a draft agreement was produced between the Bond family and Bideford Angling Club and in November of that year the agreement was finalised and a contract between both parties produced.

The following year work began in earnest.  In April the initial license to impound water on the site was issued (at a cost of £5).  In May the contract was signed allowing the club to progress with the alterations and the development of the site.  In September the club voted to raise membership fees for the coarse section to cover the added expenditure of the new ponds annual costs and fees.

1971 saw the order placed for delivery of the first stock of fish into the lake.  It consisted of:

Mirror Carp

29lb 10/14 Inches @ 14/- Shillings per lb. (70p)

84lb 10/15lbs         @ 12/- Shillings per lb. (60p)


75lb 10/14 inches @ 16/- Shillings per lb. (80p)

86lb 2/3lbs           @ 14/- Shillings per lb. (70p)


90lb 7/10 inches    @ 22/- Shillings per lb. (£1.10p)


7lb 4/6 inches      @ 28/- Shillings per lb. (£1.40p)


The fish were certified fit and healthy in November of that year and fishing commenced at the pond in June 1972.  The venue was the home of the Bideford Angling Club coarse section for the next 22 years until, due to financial constraints, if finally closed in 1994.


Despite concerted efforts by club members to find a suitable alternative location, the next 8 years saw the coarse section without a permanent home.  However, in 2002 the club was approached by the Environment Agency with an offer of funding a new club water. It was a coarse section dream to have a club water which could not only be controlled by the club but actually owned by the club.  An advert was placed in the local paper in the hope that someone would respond with a wetland or similar in the local Bideford area.


Soon after, Mr Peter Lake responded with a site located at Gammaton Moor, East the Water, Bideford. The site was subsequently visited and deemed suitable for the construction of a Coarse fishing lake. Hard work then began to raise the additional funds required to purchase the land which paid of very quickly and work started on construction of the new lake in November 2003 under the close supervision of Mr Nielsen Jeffery (who took time off work to project manage on behalf of the club) and Mr Paul Carter (Environment Agency fishery officer).  


However, the construction phase didn’t go quite as smoothly as predicted with various issues and problems arising along the way. These problems were eventually resolved with the continued support and advice of the Environment Agency and local fishery officer Mr Paul Carter and various club volunteers.  On completion of the work, fish were transferred from the Kenwith Valley Nature Reserve in Bideford to the club water which was named Tarka Swims. Full credit must go to Nielsen Jeffery and Paul Carter for Georges Lake at Tarka Swims; it is their vision, determination and commitment that has enabled the club to own its own water at long last.

The lake as we now know it was opened in 2004 by Graham Mountjoy (club president) Nielsen Jeffery, Pam Mitchell, Gary Mathews and Paul Carter (EA fishery officer). A very successful open day followed the grand opening of Tarka Swims which was supported by local anglers and the Environment Agency.  In 2009 we invited the BDAA (British Disabled Angling Association) to audit our site to advise us on changes and improvements of the site to ensure access to all regardless of physical restrictions.  Since then we have been actively working to improve our site, incorporating changes highlighted by the audit and we are very happy to be able to provide an angling experience for everyone.

Since the opening of Georges Lake in 2004, the club has been fortunate enough to secure funding from the Environment Agency to construct a second lake at the Tarka swims site. Construction started on the second lake (Karens) in March 2013 and took approximately 2 weeks to complete. The coarse section secretary, Steve Bailey, took time off work to project manage the works along with part time help from Paul Carter (EA rep). After construction it soon became apparent that the site wasn’t exactly what we call leak free!! Since that date several attempts to seal the lake have been made, with each attempt bringing us a step closer to the lake which we see today.  The construction of Karen’s lake is primarily for carp angling; this will allow all anglers natural progression to all aspects of coarse fishing on one site.


The site is now run and maintained by club volunteers, led by the coarse section secretary, during our regular work parties held on Saturday mornings.  The club has always promoted angling within our local area with learn to fish days at the lake site for local schools, colleges and support groups. This is something we as a club feel is key to our future whilst encouraging all individuals access to our sport, encouraging people to get involved and get fishing.