ANGLING development officer Mark Jennings doesn't just think fishing is a great hobby.

He thinks it can keep young people out of trouble and keep them away from drugs and anti-social behaviour.

Mark, 44, who is originally from Kent, has been taken on by Swindon Council to try to make angling a more attractive pastime for the people of Swindon.

Based at Coate Water, one of his jobs will be to work with the council's Youth Offending Team, and encourage young people away from crime and get them hooked on fishing.

He will also work with the Environment Agency on fisheries projects in the Swindon area with the aim of improving water quality and fish populations in Swindon's lakes.

Mark said: "In this world where we can get everything in a instant, angling is the ideal escape.

"You have to have patience, but it can be rewarding, enjoyable and you are out in the open air.

"The hobby is as cheap or as expensive as the person wants to make it.

"One of my roles will be to encourage people from the community, like young offenders, the unemployed and other groups to look at taking up another hobby such as angling.

"The key thing will be to make sure that people do angling responsibly.

"Over the years it has been compared with blood sports, but anglers have always been environmentally-minded, and that will be another part of my job - to be aware of the environment around them.

"Often we are the watch-keepers of the waterways.

"You often hear of environmental incidents like chemical spills that have been reported by anglers because they know the signs.

"This is the perfect job for me, I have been angling since I was six years old and now that I have moved here I hope to be making some time to explore Swindon and the county for good fishing."

A number of angling clubs operate in Swindon and people are able to fish at locations around the town, including Coate Water and Liden lagoon.

Mark said: "I want people to be able to come to me and ask my advice and to find out how to have a go at angling, and I can help give them a taster session."

To find out more about angling in Swindon, call Mark at the Coate Water Country Park on 01793 490150.