A public toilet, brambles and lamposts among surprising choices on Camden list of hidden treasures
A public toilet, brambles and a lamppost are just some of Camden’s unlikely hidden treasures folk would like to see better protected.
The council has asked residents to submit their favourite buildings, gardens, statues or local features that make the borough distinctive in order to draw up a list of sites that are not already listed but are special to people in the area.
As the borough’s hidden landmarks are sought out, the Ham&High asked some better known locals for their suggestions.
John Plews, owner and artistic director of Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre in Highgate Village, pointed to the public toilets in Pond Square as one of his favoured spots.
Far from flooded cubicles and walls covered in lurid graffiti, he described the loos as “quite cute”.
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Mr Plews said: “If you look at it from the rear angle, where you can’t see the sign, the toilet looks like a little house in the middle of Highgate.”
Hampstead jazz musician and guitarist John Etheridge heartily agreed, saying they were the “Rolls Royce of toilets”.
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He was also keen to see Mansfield Place in Hampstead make the list.
Mr Etheridge stumbled across the “Yorkshire-like village, transplanted in the centre of London” by accident and was completely “gobsmacked” by the small alleyway leading to cottages that are inaccessible by car.
Going against the grain was Bill Oddie, TV presenter and birdwatcher extraordinaire. He said that brambles on Hampstead Heath should be preserved rather than cut down in regular weeding operations.
“I would like to see fewer areas of brambles cleared on the Heath,” declared the nature buff, who regularly instructs TV audiences on wildlife in their back gardens.
“Mainly from a wildlife point of view, they’re perfect nesting areas and they also attract insects and the bees and butterflies.
“The Heath does pretty well on their management but there are bramble haters out there.”
Meanwhile Jonathan Bergman, a Hampstead estate agent who knows the area inside-out, said he would like special recognition for a standard street lamppost that has a twist.
“It’s an unusual sight,” he explained, giving clues as to its whereabouts. “It’s in Dartmouth Park at the top of Chetwynd Road.
“Turn left and there’s this ordinary lamppost with ivy all the way up to the top. It’s the best of urban regeneration.”
Owner of La Creperie de Hampstead in Hampstead High Street, Edward de Mesquita, also thought that lampposts add to the beauty of the area.
He often “marvels at the old gas lamppost across from his business everyday”.
He added: “They’re so old, part of ancient Victorian London and some of them are still used today.”
When asked what he would least like to appear on the list, the answer was easy – the telephone junction box in the middle of Hampstead High Street.
“It’s absolutely vile!” he proclaimed.
Luckily for Mr de Mesquita, Camden Council agrees and it is set to be removed after losing out on a retrospective planning application.
When it comes to favourite Hampstead pubs everyone had an opinion from The Holly Bush in HollyMount to The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead Lane.
For Steve Coxshall, owner of the Duke of Hamilton in New End, there was no competition.
“My pub of course!” he declared. “It’s 300 years old!”
It is yet to be seen whether Camden Council will take up any of the suggested sites.
Residents can submit their ideas on the council’s website until September 30.