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Sunday morning at the Abbey

A long afternoon’s cricket at Stocking Pelham in scorching heat was not perhaps the best preparation for an early Sunday morning start a fortnight ago, but aching muscles and bright sunshine couldn’t cloud the beauty of the morning as I parked by the tackle shop above the Rib Valley Lakes complex.

Andy and I were meeting Chris and John, Fisheries Officers from the Abbey Cross Angling Society, to explore their stretch of the lower River Rib, a visit arranged after FORQ’s talk to members earlier in the summer. The Abbey Cross Angling Society, founded in 1946 by fishing friends centred on the Waltham Abbey and Waltham Cross area who fished the River Lea nearby. The Abbey Cross acquired the River Rib fishery, initially on a lease basis during 1949 and 1950. The lease was on the section starting at Westmill where the river passes below the Stevenage Road at what was known as ‘the Bomb Hole’ down to the pool at the reformatory bend.

“The Rib of this era (1950s & early 60s) was a fast-flowing chalk stream known for its Trout, Roach and Dace, which often reached a pound in weight and were known locally as ‘Rib Herrings’ because of the high average size”.

from The Abbey Cross Angling Society, Post War to New Millennium – Phil Buckingham

Abbey Cross now own the full extent of the River Rib from below the Stevenage Road to its junction with the River Beane to the west of Ware. It is mostly a course fishery now and can still produce fine fish in the pools and reaches of these lower stretches.

While temperatures were still just about tolerable we took a a quick invertebrate kick sample just below the Stevenage Road bridge and then followed the river south, noting where the sewage outfall from Chapmore End STW enters the river.

We took a second test invertebrate sample at another spot and whilst sifting through it, discussed the river, winter work parties and plans for riverfly and water sampling of the Abbey Cross reaches of the lower Rib. Exciting stuff, news of which will develop and follow in due course. It was an incredibly interesting morning and we are most grateful to Chris and John for hosting us.


The fascination of what lies beneath the surface of a river is one shared by anglers, naturalists and anyone with a curious mind, especially children. This was further proven a week later when Chris posted to our Facebook page.

After I went out with Mark last week on our stretch of the Rib, my boys saw the pictures and couldn’t wait to get out and see what they could find, they put together their own kit and along with the leaflets Mark gave me, went to off to see what we could get, great fun!

Absolutely Brilliant! Two riverfly monitoring kits are on order boys!

My thanks to Abbey Cross Angling Society for their support (more news on which to follow) and their understandable concern for the river, which their members have watched deteriorate from the bank-side for decades. Special thanks also to Phil Buckingham for his continued championing of our rivers, for introducing our two groups and for the copy of Post War to New Millennium, the history of the Abbey Cross Angling Society which he authored in 2010, parts of which can be read on the Society’s website.


For a further exploration of this section of the river, take a look at Sections 10 and 11 of ‘The Rib from Braughing to the River Lea’, Peter Sinclair’s walking survey of our rivers and completed earlier this year.