The Strange Case Of Summerhouse Island

This story has been dedicated to a park lake, some four miles north of Manchester, a lake that died as a carp water in June 1992. The authorities were contacted, acted too slowly and later told us the deaths were due to a rise in water temperatures and an Argulus breakout. They said nothing could be done.

In the weeks prior to the disaster, local anglers had to stand by and watch as large numbers of carp met their fate. These included an angler-friendly two-toned mirror at 221/2 lb and an equally friendly linear mirror, who often graced the banks just scraping the magical figure. In addition the lake held a number of smaller fish which weighed between sixteen and nineteen pounds. The two twenties were affectionately known as Two-Tone and the Linear.

At its peak, circa 1987, Summerhouse was thought to hold four different twenty pound carp, the largest at that time was Two-Tone at 24lb. Rumour however, suggested that a fish of 27lb was in evidence, but we were never able to authenticate this claim.

This story is also dedicated to the lads who religiously fished Summerhouse, they who lived on its banks and caught their first twenty there, or served an apprenticeship on the lake. Far too many names to list here, except for those who had the greatest talent and most success. Most notably is a personal friend Mike Kennedy, more affectionately known as Boggart Mike (Undisputed Top Gun), Steve Ford (Fordy) and Tony Kelly. My heart really does go out to the lads who had little money and no transport and spent a large part of their lives fishing ‘The Boggart’s Clough’, as the water was more commonly known.

My first introduction to the water was in 1973 when I was fortunate enough to catch one of the lake’s smaller mirrors. The best fish in the lake at this time, it was rumoured, was at 16lb. It was some 17 years later that I returned to Summerhouse.

The Clough had a long history of strange tales dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. Indeed Oliver Cromwell had once made camp in this very location, and they have even named a hill after him, although I doubt he used a bivvy. The Clough itself is a deep picturesque dell, with a meandering brook that cuts through its fissure. It was turned into a park by the Victorians at the turn of the last century. The boating lake of some three and a half acres was often the centre of attraction on a mill workers Sunday afternoon out. Lying beside the boating lake is a smaller fishing pool, which was probably built slightly later. The boating lake itself has a very large, stone-lined island situated in the centre, which was once the location for a Victorian summerhouse. However, long since reclaimed by vegetation and overgrown, so much so that it was barley possible to traverse from one side of the island to the other. Indeed, no one goes to the island now, since the boathouse ceased business a number of years previously, but mainly because of the strange happenings and the alleged strange creatures that are said to lurk in its depths.

The following story is based on a true account of two friends Jason and Fordy, and their feeble attempts to fish on the Boggart’s Island.

It had been a very hot week, close and humid days followed equally still and warm, quiet nights. The Pipistrelle had been out in force feeding on the giant hordes of midges that tried to eat you alive. I dropped the bivvy, after having completed a six-day session, to the smell of josh sticks that I use to keep the flies down. Seven of us had completed this endurance stint – which had resulted in a 7lb ghost carp, and that was foul hooked.

Fordy and Jason had decided to stay on an extra few nights and due to some problems we had had with a gang of punk rockers, I had my car window smashed the previous evening and they decided that they would be much safer fishing from the island. After we had packed up we helped our two heroes load the dingy with all their tackle and this was no mean feet as the dingy was very small and a number of trips had to be made. Eventually we got our two men onto the island, bedchairs, bivvies and Morph (a boilie moulded into the shape of a little man, used as a good luck charm on the Clough). We said our farewells and our chums disappeared into the undergrowth, pulling the dingy under some bushes before they vanished.

That night saw a big change in the weather, a huge electric storm had risen in the west, lighting up my own village, which was some three miles away from the Clough. A problem we got on the Clough in storms was caused by the large amount of European Popular tree which surrounded the lake, these trees were genetically modified at the turn of the century, in order for them to withstand the industrial pollution created by the factories which occupied the area. They had named these trees Manchester Pops, many were life expired and they had a nasty habit of rotting from the inside and would often come crashing down without warning, particularly in storm conditions.

Summerhouse island was full of them!

The following morning I was up early and the sun was shining down through the bedroom window. It was 8 o’clock and the storm had long since abated. I decided to climb into the car and see how my mates were getting on, and how they had fared in the storm. On arrival I was surprised to find the lake empty and quiet. Placing my hands around my mouth I made the familiar cry of the Boggart hunter, “Hello you wankers!” But no reply was returned. Again I called out in similar banter, followed this time with the obligatory half ducker launched in the general direction of where I thought the lads were. But again, no response! Had the Boggarts got them or what?

On returning to my car, I noticed a bright yellow piece of rubber had been dumped in the skip. Closer inspection revealed it to be Jason’s old dinghy, ‘Boggart One’. It had a large tear down one side and was covered in blood. What the hell had happened in the night? On this morning’s visit I was on my way to work, which involved flying over to the Isle of Man for most of the week, and it was not until the following Friday before I could return. Young toddy was the first one I met when I arrived back in Manchester and he told me the story.

Apparently, when the lads had landed on the island the undergrowth was so bad they could only find two swims big enough to erect a bivvy and these were located at opposite ends of the island. In the middle of the island, a huge forest of Manchester Pops was in evidence, growing from a hill between both pitches; in the middle of the forest was the old summerhouse.

The first mishap had occurred whilst dragging the dingy onto the island, which had resulted in Fordy ripping the floor out of the thing on some brambles in the process. Jason was far from amused at this and stormed off through the forest to the far swim, well away from Fordy, who made camp on the original landing stage. By the time Jason had arrived at his swim, the storm was brewing overhead. When he discovered the swim did not actually have enough room to erect his bivvy, he found an old black cycling cape at the bottom of his rucksack, which later came into its own.

The heavens opened and the storm raged overhead; the gods were indeed angry and the Manchester Pop to Jason’s left was beginning to creak with some vengeance. As the night progressed the storm became more violent and by the early hours Jason’s nerves were beginning to get the better of him, so he decided to visit Fordy and make a truce.

He set off through the forest and over the hill, but got somewhat disorientated and wasn’t sure exactly were Fordy was camped. Eventually crossing some scrum he saw Fordy outside his bivvy. Fordy was attending a call of nature and was also feeling nervous. At that precise moment a huge bolt of lightening burst overhead, lighting up our cloaked figure, the cape flapping hideously in the storm. Fordy turned round to see the apparition and in a state of total panic, picket up the rubber bivvy mallet and hurled it in the direction of the cloaked devil. Hitting poor Jason square in the middle of the nose, with the poor lad falling back into the mud.

Jason’s nose eventually stopped bleeding; the storm also ended and our two little Boggart hunters waded, waist deep, back to terra firma and civilisation. The blood covered dingy was thrown in the skip and so endeth another reasonably, normal night on the Clough.

Now sadly gone forever and may the Boggarts rest in peace – maybe? Well maybe not!