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Chelsea Pensioners “all smiles” after Walthamstow fishing trips

Tuesday 6th October 2020 10:17

A Chelsea Pensioner catches a fish at Walthamstow Wetlands

A group of Chelsea Pensioners enjoyed their latest fishing trip to a beautiful Thames Water nature reserve just 15 minutes from the heart of London.   

Five residents from the Royal Hospital Chelsea – a retirement home for 300 British Army veterans famous for their red tunics and tricorne hats – spent a relaxing day at one of the many ponds and reservoirs at Walthamstow Wetlands.   

The fishery and nature reserve is an important oasis for city dwellers seeking fresh air and exercise, and has been a particular lifeline during the Covid pandemic.   

Fishery staff at Walthamstow Wetlands put on extra bio-security measures to ensure the visitors' safety. 

Chelsea Pensioner Pete Turner, who organises the fishing trips, said: “I run a small fishing group but this year we haven’t been able get out during Covid. Because of our vulnerability we’ve only been allowed out of the hospital grounds for urgent appointments. 

“But when I explained to the authorities here at the Royal Hospital the measures Thames Water was putting in to keep us safe, they allowed us out to fish. We are the only group allowed out for recreational purposes. To get out into the fresh air and away from the Hospital really helps with the guys’ mental well-being as well as their physical well-being.   

“Every pensioner I take to Walthamstow Wetlands returns with a smile on their face after having a fantastic day out. I cannot express how important these trips have been to these guys.   

“Fishing is not just about catching fish it’s about the relaxation and stress relief that it brings and in this day and age when everyone is restricted on what they can do or who they can see, to do something that is almost ‘normal’ means such a lot to us. I can only thank the team at Walthamstow for allowing this to happen.”   

Will Barnard, Thames Water’s fisheries manager, said: “Since the raising of lockdown, we have seen an unprecedented number of new and returning anglers at our fisheries. Our Covid-safe measures have helped people feel comfortable and safe enough to come fishing and enjoy being outside and improve their own wellbeing.   

“Being able to take extra measures to enable a group of Chelsea Pensioners to enjoy a day at Walthamstow Wetlands has been a privilege and an honour. To know that we are able to put safety measures in place, allowing the Pensioners and other members of the public to visit, means a great deal to us and more importantly to those that come and fish.” 

Just 15 minutes from the centre of London, Walthamstow Wetlands is a fully operational Thames Water site comprising 10 reservoirs which provide water to 3.5 million people across the capital.   

It is also an internationally important nature reserve, providing home and shelter to a wide range of wildlife, from rare waterfowl to birds of prey and has been recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Free to visit since opening to the wider public in 2017, the urban oasis allows city dwellers the chance to connect with nature.   

The opening of Walthamstow Wetlands has only been possible due to a partnership between Thames Water, London Borough of Waltham Forest and London Wildlife Trust. Since then more than a million people have visited the site.

Around 300 British Army veterans live at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, including those who have served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War Two.   

Known as the Chelsea Pensioners, they are the iconic faces of the UK’s veteran community. Any former soldier of the British Army over the age of 65, facing spending their advanced years alone, can apply for residence, receiving not only care, but comradeship.