Ham&High letters: The Heath, bookseller John, Finchley Central, Golders Hill Park, climate and EU vote

Bradley Adams is worried The Heath is losing its tranquil atmosphere. Picture: KEN MEARS

Bradley Adams is worried The Heath is losing its tranquil atmosphere. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

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

Tranquil Heath is disturbed

Bradley Adams, South Hill Park, Hampstead, writes:

Hampstead Heath, a place where anyone can go to escape the roar of London, walk among the leafy paths, sit by a pond a listen to the birds, watch the swans and their cygnets and forget the metropolis for a quiet spell. Well that's the theory.

Alas, The Corporation of London seem to have forgotten this. Forgotten their duty to protect the peaceful beauty of the Heath.

April and May are arguably the best months to enjoy the Heath, the trees are bursting with promise and the wildlife mad with the passions of spring.

For a four week period the whole of the lower Heath by the Hampstead Ponds is tortured by the obscene construction of The Affordable Art Fair. The constant banging of scaffolding, drone of generators, bleeping of forklift trucks shatters the quiet all the way to the top of Parliament Hill. It lasts dawn to dusk and sometimes after.

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Why? So that a few can indulge in 'affordable art' (surely the least attractive way to categorise art).

Please can the corporation find another way to supplement their income.

Spoiling the solace of the Heath is surely not the answer. Put your heads together and come up with another solution if you really need the funds that badly.

Not to mention the carbon footprint that the constuction and removal of this outsized "tent" must deliver.

John became part of my family

Joshua Sulkin, West Hampstead, writes:

When I was younger, my dad used to bring me to work with him on Saturdays.

Almost every time, I had to shake hands with the man at West Hampstead station while my dad spoke to him for a few minutes. He had a thick Scottish accent and I was a little afraid to talk to him because I was only seven-years-old. Over time, I became less scared, and I suppose I learnt an important lesson that I think a few of us still haven't - don't judge a book by its cover.

As the years went by, I began to know him as John, the guy who sells books at West Hampstead. His bull terrier was similar to him; you might have seen her and thought it would be better to just cross the road! However, this could not be more wrong. His dog Sugar had only three legs, and she was as friendly as any dog I've ever known. She unfortunately passed away summer last year, but a blue plaque was put up to remember her, something John was very grateful for.

Eventually, I stopped going to work with my dad and started going into the City on my own. Still being an awkward teenager, I used to try to walk past John but he'd always shout at me to say hello. When I was around 16, I actually stopped to talk to him about the books he sold, and I ended up buying one which I believe I still have today.

After that experience, I realised that I no longer saw John as just a man on the street, but as a friend. Every time I went to the station and saw him, he'd see me and get up to give me a hug, then I'd sit beside his dog Sugar and pet her for a bit. He'd ask how my dad was, and he'd ask about my family. If I was with my dad, he'd kiss him and we would end up missing our train because we were talking to John. In hindsight, I wish we'd missed more trains.

I remember one time bringing my mum into London and John was there, so I introduced them to each other. Every time she saw him since then, she was always impressed with how polite he was. Near the end of 2018, when it started to get cold, she surprised me by giving me a thick pair of gloves and saying, "bring these to John will you?"

Sometimes, if it wasn't busy, John would talk to my dad and I about some really serious stuff. He went into the details about his troubled past, and the difficulties he faced every day. He spoke about his children, and told us about his living situation - he wasn't quite homeless but often slept rough near the station.

Occasionally, we would find him a little drunk but he was never any trouble. Many people would also buy him coffee, tea, or a bottle of water. I know that people were generous with food too, and many local businesses would help also. We were never worried because people looked out for him.

Unfortunately, John did have a challenging life, but it gave me a new perspective on my own life, and I will forever be grateful to John for doing so.

When I wrote John a Christmas card last year, I said that he was not only a friend, but part of my family. Today, I have lost a member of my family. Like many people, it will feel very strange commuting through West Hampstead without John being there.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to talk to him, or help him. He was a good man, and we will never forget him.

Join campaign to improve safety

Mr Griver, Barnet, full address supplied, writes:

Concerns have been raised by residents and businesses of Finchley regarding anti-social behaviour around the station exits of Finchley Central tube station, particularly Station Road.

The Station Road exit frequently has people drinking in public and taking drugs, with some women complaining of sexual harassment as they leave the station.

The police have recommended a PSPO (a local order under antisocial behaviour legislation) which bans drinking in the street in the Finchley Central area - other areas in Barnet have seen great improvements after implementing PSPOs.

In addition, lighting could be improved in this area, which many residents agree with, however, Transport for London (TfL) have stated they are satisfied with the current lighting.

Please see the following petition which explains my argument: tiny.cc/pc305y

I have emailed the Barnet Community Safety Team multiple times, and I believe others have too, but I have had no response

Golders Hill Park is really cared for

J Gibson, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Your recently printed picture of Golders Hill Park reminded me to say that it always looks a real-life picture, yet when I visit there are few signs of either general maintenance or tree work.

The low-profile team responsible for the seasonal beauty of the park greatly deserve all awards bestowed.

On rainy days the tea house provides a grand viewing window over the park's greenery, a warming cuppa in hand, or enticing ices to enjoy outdoors on fine days.

Many thanks to the men and women who staff both of these popular amenities.

Nominate electric charging points

Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, writes:

I was pleased to see that the Committee on Climate Change has recently advised the government that its proposed ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars should be brought forward.

Under current plans it will come into force by 2040, but the committee says it should happen at least a decade sooner.

This echoes the recommendations made last summer by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is taking stringent action on dangerous emissions through the roll out of the Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone and electric bus and black cab fleets across the capital.

With air pollution contributing to the premature deaths of around 10,000 Londoners per year, alongside causing other serious health problems, the transition to electric vehicles on our roads cannot come soon enough.

However, to facilitate this shift, we need the necessary infrastructure to be put in place. This is why I am urging local people to nominate locations in the community for the installation of electric charging points through the PowerMyStreet website.

We should also avoid using cars wherever possible.

The mayor's transport strategy is promoting a Healthy Streets approach, which aims for 80 per cent of journeys in London to be made on foot, by bicycle or on public transport by 2031.

Choose a party putting UK first

Marx de Morais, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

The election to the European Parliament is not just about the future of Europe, not just about the future of our country, but above all about the future of our society.

The Conservative Party as well as Labour were occupied by extremism and together, they gripped our society in a vice.

In the UK, we have never been afraid of the future, but Labour and Conservatives have managed to struck fear into our hearts. They silenced us, they took our right to our opinion, they told us what a real Tory or Labour member must be like.

The best for the Conservatives is the most extreme Brexiteer, and for Labour it is the most loyal believer in communism.

These parties hijacked and sacrificed the soul of our society, which is the respect for individualism, for freedom, for equality and to know about the value of many different opinions. They have replaced it with their own nationalism, which, even if it sounds like that, is not a promise for a great future, but a prison run by petty minds.

When we go to the ballot box, remember, let's choose one of the parties that stands for the UK we value. A diverse, an open, a beacon of togetherness.

Why vote for Change UK

Jessica Simor, MEP candidate for Change UK, Hampstead; Norma Cohen, Hampstead; Chris Fraser, Hampstead Heath; Jonathan Livingstone, Hampstead; Sarah O'Keefe, Haringey; Sheila Redston, Cricklewood; Phil Thornton, Hampstead and Kate Whaley, Haringey, write:

We would like to highlight why London voters who want the UK to remain in the EU should mark their ballots for Change UK.

First and foremost, remainvoter.com calculates that based on current polling, tactical voting for Change UK in London can add former BBC journalist and People's Vote campaigner, Gavin Esler, as a further Remain-supporting MEP without damaging the position of the other pro-Remain parties.

The second reason is that a vote for Change UK is a vote in favour of evidence based policy-making to ensure opportunities for all in a fairer more equal society, a society that guarantees the NHS for all and welfare for those in need.

Change UK rejects the ideological approach that dominates and paralyses both the Labour and Conservative Parties.

Third, a vote for Change UK is a chance to show support for the principled MPs who put their own personal political futures on the line to break with their former parties.

More than six million people signed the petition to revoke Article 50 but Change UK is the only leading party who see the need to revoke and stop the Tory party's move towards a disastrous No Deal Brexit.

Voting for them will send the strongest possible sign to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn that "enough is enough".