A top international fisherman who fished at an idyllic pond as a boy says it is a "shame" that fish have been removed and angling banned.

Steve Gardener, 61, has represented England in world championships since 1987 after becoming inspired while fishing at Burgh Heath pond in his youth.

Mr Gardener, whose team has won the championships 11 times, said: "We used to fish it all the time, we all used to. I caught my first fish at Marbles Way pond but I fished at both of them."

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Back in September Reigate and Banstead Council had more than 280 pounds of fish - all illegally introduced into Burgh Heath pond - removed. Angling is prohibited.

Mr Gardener said: "It’s a shame but times have changed. I’m not saying we didn’t get up to mischief because we did a little bit, but the problem is controlling it.

"If you put in little fish for the children and youngsters but not big fish then people would not be bothered about fishing at night."

The council has said the fish were removed to deter nocturnal fishermen who had disturbed local residents with anti-social behaviour including making noise and dropping litter.

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Mr Gardener lived on an estate in Marbles Way, Tadworth, as a child and used to go fishing with Steve Sanders, a schoolmate from De Burgh School which has now closed.

The pair now own Ken Collings (Angling) Ltd in Carshalton Road, Sutton. Mr Gardener said: "It’s your life, it’s addictive. I can’t go on holiday unless I go fishing."

Renowned fishing writer Chris Yates also started out fishing at Burgh Heath pond and has slammed the removal of fish and banning of angling at what he described as his "pond of dreams".

Like him, Mr Gardener remembers a willow that once hung over the pond and has fond memories of wading in the water and fishing at a former tea garden right next to the pond - which used to charge a shilling for the rights to fish from their premises according to Mr Gardener.

The pair both went on a Banstead Angling Club trip to Kent in their youth. Mr Gardener said: "At the first match I ever fished, at the age of 14, I drew next to Chris Yates."

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Chris Yates who was inspired as a young boy at Burgh Heath pond