Ham&High letters: Hampstead Ponds, slower shopping service, Heath’s swans and Archway Bridge

Swimmers enjoying the mixed bathing pond on Hampstead Heath. Picture: PA IMAGES

Swimmers enjoying the mixed bathing pond on Hampstead Heath. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Thoughts on the cost of the ponds

Karina Dostalova, chairman, City of London Corporation's Hampstead Heath Management Committee, writes:

Regarding a reader's letter in the Ham & High, referring to the City of London Corporation's review of swimming facilities at Hampstead Heath.

Swimming charges at Hampstead Heath's Bathing Ponds were introduced in 2005.

They are not free to use, but only around 3.7 per cent of users pay.

At the same time, since 2010, the number of annual visits have more than doubled, meaning running costs have risen sharply.

Last month we launched a review of the Heath's swimming facilities.

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We want to make sure they can meet this growing demand, following advice from the Health and Safety Executive to have more lifeguards.

The Heath's swimming facilities provide a great opportunity for Londoners to get outside and take time out from their hectic lives.

But to be able to keep it this way, we must make sure that we have the right resources in place.

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, Muswell Hill, writes:

The feature on Hampstead Ponds (HSE 'could close' Hampstead Heath bathing ponds) contained some unfortunately misleading statements: these amenities are facing problems not because users will not pay to enjoy them but because of their ownership.

Swimming at the ponds on the heath goes back to Victorian times, when this could always be freely engaged in, and referring to them therefore as the Peoples' Ponds would not be mistaken.

Responsibility for of their upkeep had formerly always resided with the GLC, an elected democratic body, but this was removed some years ago, however, when Mrs Thatcher gave them instead to the unelected City of London Corporation, a group about which it can best be said that it knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, and which is now making cuts in order to build instead a new concert hall costing £288 million at the Barbican. 

The ponds should most properly be returned once more to an elected and accountable body where such matters as to their upkeep and enjoyment can be properly addressed.

The benefit of fresh water swimming is well known but the unfortunate reality is that these facilities are under resourced for the large numbers that will want to visit them during the coming hot summer, but that is what they should remain - under democratic control and  free for everyone to enjoy.

Bernard Walsh, Compayne Gardens, West Hampstead, writes:

I am surprised at the reaction to compulsory charging. In my experience hardly any male swimmers paid voluntarily.

They surely cannot expect it to be subsidised as a matter of principle. It is not as though they appear not to be able to afford to contribute.

These ponds area prized attribute, which should properly be preserved.

Super Silver Slow Service

Esther Rantzen, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

As a third generation Hampstead resident I believe it is time to revive an old Hampstead custom - gossip.

When 70 years ago I used to go shopping with my grandmother to her favourite grocer's, Cullen's, she spent at least 10 minutes swapping news with the shopkeeper. As my grandmother had four daughters there was always plenty of news to share. It was a real conversation. Now having launched our free helpline for older people The Silver Line (0800 4 70 80 90), I am aware that thousands of lonely older people go for days, even weeks, without any conversation with anyone.

We are all so pressured. Recently I paused for a moment in a queue in a Hampstead supermarket to comment to the checkout assistant when a lady in the queue behind me shouted: "Come on, I haven't got all day."

I wondered why she had picked a checkout with a real human being, in that case. Given the number of self service automated checkouts, couldn't we pilot in Hampstead supermarkets a Super Silver Slow Service for older customers who might enjoy shopping with an older assistant and chatting with them while they pick their purchases?

That might also speed up the queues for those customers who haven't got all day.

Thank you for the swans

Sian Whitehead, of Sandstone Place, Highgate, writes:

Thank you for publishing the article "Ikea bags and lost cygnets: How to rescue swans on the Heath" in last week's edition.

I for one have been impressed and encouraged by Louisa Green's dedication and enthusiasm to help out the last remaining family of swans on the heath. This year there was a record number of cygnets that hatched, 10 in total, so Louisa has had her work cut out to tend to such a large family.

I would just like to remind readers that the most common perils to the swans are indeed human caused threats, most specifically attacks by out of control dogs and fishing related injuries.

We lost five cygnets in successive months after the hatch, the first from a suspected dog bite, the second after swallowing a barbed fishing hook which are not allowed to be used on the heath but it still goes unregulated.

In previous years the cygnet/swan injuries have been to do with discarded fishing lines and hook injuries as well as dog attacks. When the time came and the last remaining five started to be chased off by the parents; the concern is always that the cygnets may end up on land, out of the water and suffer an attack by a dog off its lead.

Often they are rescued by the sanctuary before this happens as it is thought they need rescuing before such an attack actually occurs.

They do not simply get lost, it would be interesting to let nature run its course and the cygnets

driven off to find a new location for their new home but the swan rescuers intervene and take them

to the sanctuary to protect them from harm.

I am grateful to Louisa and the other rescuers as they do a great job in saving swans. I only wish that other humans would be more mindful in keeping their dogs under control and if fishing do so without harming the wildlife that inhabit and live close to the ponds where they fish.

Archway Bridge

S McAuslane, Hornsey Lane, Haringey, writes:

A new anti-suicide design is being proposed for Hornsey Lane bridge. The current anti-suicide fences are excellent for their purpose, but depressing and ruining the area. If driving past they look like prison walls each side of the road. Everyone likes the idea of the fences, but hates the aesthetics. Some mention a negative effect on property values in the immediate vicinity (but state they'd rather have the fences if they save lives, which they do).

I believe the aesthetic problem could be easily, cheaply solved: paint the anti-suicide railings dark green. It would make them less stark, and fit in with the leafy setting of the bridge. A touch of colour - humanity at a spot which, for many, has sad memories. The current design, or any replacement, will always look soulless and aggressive if grey metal's the material. Please paint whatever's chosen dark green? How about a trial of this idea on the existing design?

Varno Greer, Highgate, full address supplied, writes:

It seems to be the way of humans. Leave a thing in place for long enough and eventually nobody 'sees' it any more.

With reference to possibly the most famous (infamous?) and beautiful bridge beyond those across the Thames, the recent hideous modifications applied to Archway Bridge are surely impossible to miss? More widely recognised locally, even by cab drivers, as 'Suicide Bridge' for obvious reasons it has for years been the subject of heated debate over how exactly to deter and prohibit those who choose to jump from it and end their lives in such a drastic manner.

Let me draw a veil over how the current example of cultural vandalism came into existence. It has already upset too many people to count and was hastily erected with insufficient intelligent debate.

There is I am relieved to discover, an appeal in process that was launched late last year by the chairman of the Highgate Society planning committee, David Richmond. He made proposals for an alternative design when the present installation was under consideration. I am hoping that everyone reading this will show their support for the Society's efforts to launch a re-think of the design.

If you would like your voice heard please email West1@planninginspectorate.gov.uk with your opinion. You should add these appeal numbers: APP/Y5420/Y/19/3239775 (This is for Haringey Council) and APP/Y5570/Y/19/3239769 (This is for Islington Council). The bridge sits on the boundary between councils so they are both involved. The bridge is a favourite and regular spot for sightseers, photographers and film crews and a busy commuter route.

The view was really quite spectacular towards the City. Now it has sadly been defaced permanently. Unless we all do something about it.

If you have not yet had your senses assaulted by local government's idea of an elegant solution to the issue then you are in for a real 'treat'.

As you approach the bridge along Hornsey Lane, it is difficult to see much of the bridge itself. The new structure beckons with imposing metal claws, bars and steel wire, prompting a sense of foreboding as if approaching a prison complex.

I have very recently woven my way across the bridge through a large gathering of very concerned looking police 'interviewing' another suspected jumper. Or possibly it was just a sightseer, who had inadvertently stood admiring the view for a little too long. Cameras constantly monitor the bridge now and the police, seemingly on high alert, cannot be too careful.

Sooo...has this latest example of wasted public funds succeeded?

I would chalk it up as an 'epic fail'.

So let us not do the British thing of sticking our heads in the sand. Let us be a storm of many loud voices.