What I've been doing this week…

Just to catch up with some of the events I have attended this week.

One was the consultation / exhibition of the proposals for the new Hornsey Depot. The land is owned by Network Rail and they can and will build this new depot where lots of the new longer trains will come for cleaning etc.

Prime concerns are obviously what this huge depot will look like and its impact on the new, still to be built, Haringey Heartlands housing development; noise, environmental impact; traffic etc.

So the task is to minimise the impact on the community – and ask for as much mitigation as we can get. That includes trying to get residents and businesses that might be affected coming to the exhibition and talking to the agencies involved. Mind you, someone told me that the Haringey failed to mention the proposed depot to the Heartlands developer – even though they have known about it for two years. Really awful behaviour!

It will on the plus side create about 250 jobs – and since the economic development side of Heartlands appears to be on the back burner – that might be welcome – so long as they are local jobs!

This week also saw the latest Stroud Green and Crouch End Area Assembly. Couldn’t stay for all of it but did catch a conservation officer from Haringey Council giving the low down on the change to conservation rules and areas. Strange that a conservation officer should be so cavalier and seem not to wish to protect our local backland sites from crass over-development.

So here we go again – Haringey fails to protect and allows developers to cram awful and non-social housing into the tiny spaces that exist behind rows of houses – often lock-up garages. Lord knows we have fought against this type of rubbish development for ever – but the buggers keep coming back – and of course Haringey just changes the rules to make it even easier for them.

Highgate Horticultural Society had its 150th anniversary – and as ever the blooms were lovely. I gave out the prizes and had a nice cup of tea and a chat. So much work goes into organising these events and they are delightful – but more exhibits are needed and more young new people to challenge the Gary Sycamores of this world who win all the prizes!

Milton Road had its first street party for 30 years. Gosia Shannon who has just moved there is the driving force behind the renewed event. It was really a pleasure to go there and chat to everyone.

Street parties are just the best local community event, getting neighbours together and making it possible for people who may never even have said hello to get to know each other. I met lots of lovely young couples moving into the area or just moved – and one couple who were thinking of moving and who Gosia had insisted come to the party. They thought it was brilliant! So well done Milton Road.

St Ann’s Police Station had its open day – to which I seem to come every year and it was as popular as ever. The young children just love to be able to sit on the police motorbikes and press the sirens – so do I! Most years my favourite thing there is to meet the police dogs – but this year they didn’t have the capacity to send any – so we had police horses instead – see photo. They are just huge!

The Big Lunch at Sue Hessel’s house in Crouch End was fun too. This was happening all over the show – people throwing over their houses and people bringing food round. It was Cllr Lyn Weber’s birthday (I don’t know which one) and Sue had actually baked her a birthday cake!

And last but not least – The Big Canvass! About 40 of us went out in Bounds Green to see what local people wanted to raise with us as issues. Found a lamppost blown over in the wind on Trinity Road! Lots of fun and very good feeling out on the streets there. Lots of issues raised. Lots of doors knocked on.

Our secret vice

That’s the topic of my latest column for the local Muswell Hill and Highgate magazines.

As to what the vice is?

Well, you’ll have to read on…

Our secret vice
But Lynne Featherstone with Highgate councillor Bob Hare's prize winning golden pears at the recent horticulural show in the Moravian Church, Hornseyit’s a wonderful vice – it’s growing things! Having attended a number of horticultural shows this summer, including the Highgate, Muswell Hill and Hornsey Horticultural Societies – I have been staggered not only by the produce and exhibits – but the commitment and participation by so very many local people to this raging passion.

Now a veteran of a number of local shows – I am wise to the fact that most of the First in Show honours are collected either by Gary Sycamore or Eric Gurman – who basically clean up on each occasion. However, as one woman who kept coming second to Eric said to me at the Muswell Hill show – that when she does get a First Prize and beats him – it really means something to beat such a master. And there are so many categories – that others do get their chance to shine.

A tremendous amount of effort goes into organising and arranging these shows – and they are all incredibly well attended and very much enjoyed by everyone. Personally, I love them. I cannot grow things myself – for two reasons: a) incapable and b) time poor! But one day, when I have time – it’s on my list – because it is such a joyous thing to do.

I am always amazed at how such beautiful flowers and vegetables come into being – despite last summer with no rain and this summer with nothing but rain. Over my two years of shows, I am learning about what makes a perfect vegetable or bloom and that the National Horticultural Society judging has very strict, high and testing criteria.

It is also clear that there is a wonderful community that grows up around allotments and horticultural societies. This year I ‘launched’ the new ‘shed’ for the ‘Golf Course’ allotments – the result of lots and lots of work in terms of bidding for a lottery grant. Now we have a splendid shed – and a community who all know each other, where the kids can play and where actual food is grown! This isn’t just about shows – this is a real opportunity to bring people together, make people feel part of a community – and to produce wonderful vegetables which save a lot of money.

I was given a basket of vegetables to take home from the Muswell Hill show – and the vegetables just tasted heavenly – completely different from the ones I buy. It makes you think! And it is not just the taste that appeals – it is knowing that there is a vibrant community behind the growing of the fruit and veg that appeals too – because so often, especially in our urban areas, community ties are so weak and hardly anyone knows anyone else.

Anyway, this is just one of the best of local community activities and individual pastimes that you can get. I ran into one of my Liberal Democrat colleagues at the Hornsey show, Cllr Errol Reid (Hornsey) who is now campaigning to expand horticultural horizons. Errol wants to get the National Horticultural Society to extend its judging categories to window flower boxes and stuff grown inside – so that not lucky enough to have access to an allotment or garden can join in the fun!

A weekend of congratulations

Saturday I go to the Highgate Horticultural Society Show to award the prizes. It is a complete delight to see the absolutely beautiful exhibits. My children don’t let me near our plants! That says it all. However, clearly the prize winners and all who took part are green fingered. A lot of work goes into these events – so congratulations to all.

As indeed, on Sunday, congrats to the Golf Course Allotments – particularly Karen – whose sterling efforts resulted in a successful (but modest) lottery bid to have a new Community Hut. And what a splendid hut it was – absolutely gorgeous. This is an amazingly committed community and I was delighted to have supported their bid and delighted to be asked to open the new hut. As the heavens opened as I cut the ribbon – lucky we all had a new hut to gather in!