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Sense of community is a precious asset and must be preserved

PUBLISHED: 14:09 23 May 2007 | UPDATED: 14:32 07 September 2010

Today has been one of those heavenly days, a walk in perfect sunshine on the Heath, returning through the woods and the Parkland Walk, an exchange of friendly smiles along our road. Only five miles away from a world city centre with its abundance of thea

Today has been one of those heavenly days, a walk in perfect sunshine on the Heath, returning through the woods and the Parkland Walk, an exchange of friendly smiles along our road.

Only five miles away from a world city centre with its abundance of theatres, galleries and history, Crouch End - and this part of London - has all the vital ingredients of a full life: countryside, culture and community.

They feed the soul, keeping us sane in this vast swirling city, and we are given them all. Yes, given.

It is the gift of it that connects us all. The countryside - whether that patch of green along the main road or a glorious Victorian park - has been bequeathed from generations who knew that to enjoy life in the city, you needed an antidote. And culture - our beautiful, buildings that bring us entertainments and arts and lift us out of the working day. They are gifts of life from a past community and I cannot help but wonder how intact our gift to the next generation will be.

It all depends upon that third word: Community. Only if we value our community assets by using and caring for them, will we keep them for the next. And if their value is only seen as the amount of money that a block of flats on their site will bring, then frankly we lose them, not only for now, but forever.

Ours was a golden inheritance. There was a kindness and thoughtfulness in what we were bequeathed. Built 100 years ago, Crouch End and its neighbours were in many ways a forerunner of the same movement which brought about the garden city. There was a genuine desire to build communities that would work - and for a hundred years they did. There was a town hall and a car park, libraries and Red Gables for families who needed a bit more support. And there was a very friendly community.

And never forget there was a cottage hospital. Inscribed in its foundation stone To the glory of God for the Healing of the Poor, the symbolism was lost on none of us when earlier this year Haringey PCT brought in the bulldozers. We were bequeathed a hospital and our legacy to our children will be a multi million pound debt for the new building alone - with, heaven only knows, what is left of the NHS by the time the next generation is born.

How we value our dedicated buildings and green spaces says everything about how, as a community, we care about people. We live in a furiously fast city that celebrates outward success - but risk losing more than we realise if that success is achieved at the expense of our vulnerable groups.

What took 100 years to build and preserve could be lost in less than 10. But the real loss will be for our humanity. And it is its humanity that gives North London life its real success ... despite that vast city only five miles away.

Submitted by

Sue Hessel

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