Gazette letters: Local gardens, Barnard Park, teaching cuts, puppets and Lennox House

Horror-like: Bugle galls on a tree in Barnsbury Wood. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

Horror-like: Bugle galls on a tree in Barnsbury Wood. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

Seeking a chance for quiet reflection after the awful news of Saturday night, I decided to investigate some of the gardens participating in the National Garden Scheme, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Throughout the summer, and beyond, the scheme works with gardeners and public bodies to open more than 3,700 gardens to the public.

For a small fee, which is donated to nursing gardens run by several health and hospice charities, you can explore gardens across the country – with plenty of options in Hackney and Islington.

My favourite garden was on Hemingford Road – tended to by the same owner for nearly 40 years, the love and effort that had gone into creating such a beautiful sanctuary was obvious. Multiple varieties of clematis, acers, roses and more , the garden was busy but not crowded. Leaf structure and colour easily as diverse as the flowers meant every nook and corner held something of interest. A twisted hazel tree was a first for me too. It was a privilege to get the chance to visit, albeit briefly, the work of a lifetime. If you missed it all, next Sunday there are a number of gardens open in De Beauvoir.

Although not the prettiest feature of the day, the highlight were probably the horror-film like ‘bugle galls’ on a lime tree in Barnsbury Wood (the smallest nature reserve in London). These bright red growths apparently cause no harm to the tree (just as well as there is no known way to prevent them). They are caused by mites, who spend spring feeding on the sap on the bottom of the leaf, causing them to release chemicals that create these odd tubular shapes called galls.

Islington’s acting Head of Greenspace and Leisure, continues to believe that his plans to reduce the size of the sports pitch at Barnard Park by 70 per cent (“It’s impossible to please everyone”, Letters June 3) are a principled compromise and widely supported, write Stephen Griffiths, Tontz Hovis, Hilary Knights, Ian Nelthorpe, Dan Quinn, Mark Ransford, Margaret Rowe, Daniel Sandford, John Schlesinger, Mark Smith and Peter Sogbodjor, #SaveOurSportsPitch, Islington.

They are neither.

To be clear, the current all-weather pitch at Barnard Park today comprises less than 25pc of the area of the park. Andrew Bedford plans to carve it back to 7pc.

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London has lost 10,000 sports fields over the last 50 years and dedicated areas for formal sports in inner city boroughs like Islington are now like hen’s teeth. The remaining pitches are worth protecting because formal sports allow youths to engage in positive social activities; nature’s medicine to society’s growing ills of gangs, obesity and knife crime.

As such the current footprint of the sports pitch at Barnard Park should never have been subject to any compromise in the first place. The statutory body entrusted to protect London’s remaining sport fields, Sports England, have been reminding Islington Council of this fact since late 2015. That Islington Council has failed to heed this objection, whilst at the same time spending over £400k of tax payers money on its ill-conceived plans, is at best a waste of time and money and at worst an outrage.

Neither are Mr Bedford’s current proposals widely supported. A meagre 126 people backed Islington Council’s plan during the short, flawed consultation period conducted earlier this year. In contrast, our #SaveOurSportsPitch petition at has already amassed over 600 signatories, of which more than 300 are from local residents.

Despite this, Mr Bedford’s political bosses at Islington Council continue to do nothing to rectify the situation. Only last week North Islington’s very own Jeremy Corbyn gave a stump speech to the UK about the importance of investing in grassroots football. But if Islington Council’s plan for Barnard Park goes through, the nearly 100 kids of the Highbury Wolves Soccer School who use Barnard Park each week will have nowhere to go. Mr Corbyn’s Labour Council have already booted these kids off Highbury Fields. The pitches at Market Road are over 20 minutes walk away, expensive and fully booked. Islington’s Labour Councillors don’t need the result of this week’s General Election to make good their campaign promises.

A fortnight ago I read the consultation document that said my specialist teaching post will be deleted in September, writes Ann Boater, full address supplied.

I am a reading recovery teacher in a neighbouring borough, though my training and many of my colleagues are in Islington.

Reading recovery has been developed for more than 50 years and is practised widely in state schools. We design daily individual literacy lessons for the lowest achieving six-year-olds for up to 20 weeks.

The majority of these pupils, when they finish the lesson series, achieve at or above the average level for their age in reading and writing, and maintain these gains throughout their schooling. Those that don’t make accelerated progress achieve more than they would have in class and the specific needs of the child are identified early – these are the children most at risk of leading lives that could cost society a lot in the future.

I have been offered redundancy or redeployment as a class teacher; many of my colleagues have not. However, it would be a challenge for me to go back into class and as an older teacher of 53, I am particularly vulnerable under the current accountability climate where there is no specific support for returners. It is unusual to find someone so committed and with as much inner London teaching experience as me; in fact, I think I am in my prime. What is the likelihood of someone like me being able to remain in teaching until my pension matures at 67?

As a country we are being consulted on who we want to put into parliament and who will make the next government.

I urge you to vote for education. Look at what the parties are planning in their manifestos, and note the devastating cuts tat the current government is making.

I also want you think about the difficult choices governing bodies have to make in schools at the moment, as they are having to consider staff restructuring.

We can use consultation periods to ask questions of our representatives on governing bodies. Who out of pupils and staff will be hit the hardest? How will the cuts affect the quality of education in the long run?

We went to the Little Angel Theatre, Islington, to watch a puppet show of The Hunting of the Snark, writes Amanda Hand, by email.

What a fantastic show and a very clever and imaginative adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s poem.

Four puppeteers took us on the journey to find the elusive Snark, using wonderful props, music, script and puppets.

They engaged with the audience from the start, it was a fun and enthralling. The rapping from the barrister was unexpected and brilliant, giving the adaptation a modern twist.

The show was created and performed by four student puppeteers from RSSD and their own company Chicken of the Woods Theatre. A professional performance throughout and suitable for children and adults. Don’t miss the tour dates – you will not be disappointed!

I was very upset to read about Lennox House Care Home in your paper (Gazette, May 18), writes a child of a resident at Lennox House Care Home.

I visit my father there often. He is 87 years old with dementia. The staff on his floor are caring, kind and love their residents.

Caring for people with dementia is incredibly hard, as I know from personal experience.

My father is clean and his room is spotless. I love my father so much and the staff love him too.

Without these people who work there, what would happen to these elderly people?

Dementia is a cruel illness but I do know Lennox House does so many good things.

Reading that article caused me panic and upset.

We have had barbecues, picnics and birthday parties there. I spent Christmas Day there and it was lovely.

These people who criticise should realise what a wonderful job the staff do.

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