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Former Greenpeace boss Lord Peter Melchett: Camden needs better cycle lanes

15:00 03 February 2014

Lord Peter Melchett. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Lord Peter Melchett. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton

Lord Peter Melchett, 65, is policy director of the Soil Association, a charity that campaigns for organic food and farming. The former executive director of Greenpeace and father-of-two moved to Kentish Town with his partner in 1976 and also owns a farm in Norfolk.

What brought you to Kentish Town?

At the time (1970s) it was a relatively cheap area near to the Heath, the best place to walk in London, and has always had an interesting and diverse mix of people living here.

What is your favourite thing about the area?

Hampstead Heath

How has Kentish Town changed since you moved into the area?

We moved in 1976. The Northern line has improved beyond recognition! I notice the loss of small shops, but some have survived – Ace Sports, Harry’s Food Hall (fishmonger and organic butcher), the Owl Bookshop, and there are some great additions – the Kentish Canteen and Flaxton Ptooch, a hair dresser – also a gallery and place for debates.

What is the area’s best kept secret?

Mehmed’s Leverton Stores (opposite the Pineapple pub) for his friendly chat, fresh bagels and croissants at the weekends, and good range of organic products. And Earth in Kentish Town Road – a brilliant organic store with an amazing range of organic produce, great cheeses and delicious hot food.

What would you change about Kentish Town?

Fewer cars, and lower business rates for shops not part of a chain.

If you were editor of the Ham&High for a day, what local issue would you champion?

Better, separate cycle lanes everywhere!

What makes you smile on your way on home?

The view of the sunset over the Heath, coming out of Kentish Town tube station.

How would you spend your perfect Sunday in Kentish Town?

A walk on the Heath, a visit to Owl bookshop to browse, and mashed potato and cauliflower cheese for supper with the family – or a take away dinner from Bengal Lancer.

What tips would you give to somebody moving to the area?

Find the Pineapple pub.

Where in the world would you twin with Kentish Town?

I do twin our farm in Norfolk, where I spend some of each week – if that’s not allowed – the Greek island of Zakinthos, where sea turtles still nest, and there’s a great organic olive farm.

If you had to write your own epitaph what would it say?

He campaigned to change things – or better, thank you to my partner of 40 years (so far), and to two brilliant kids.

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

Politically, Tony Benn; personally Peter Singer, philosopher, originator of the concept of animal rights who’s book Animal Liberation made me a vegetarian, and as I discovered when I met him a few years ago, a supporter of organic farming. Many women – landscape photographer and campaigner Fay Godwin (a Camden resident), Marion Shoard who wrote ‘Theft of the Countryside’, and more recently Jeanette Orrey – a school cook who inspired the Soil Association’s school meals campaign and Jamie Oliver, and the change for the better in Camden’s school meals.

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