Gazette letters: Hakney’s rowan berries, billboards and Playbus

Rowan berries in Hackney (Picture: Will McCallum)

Rowan berries in Hackney (Picture: Will McCallum) - Credit: Archant

It’s September now and as autumn sets in, bright red oversized bunches of berries hanging off delicate rowan tree branches can be seen throughout the residential streets and parks of Hackney, writes Will McCullum, Nature Watch.

At this time of year they can look uncomfortably overburdened with their fruit, drooping heavily above our heads. The berries aren’t tasty enough to eat straight off the branch, but you can make a decent jelly out of the fruit – just use plenty of sugar! It’s probably best not to take too many of them, though, as the birds love them too.

If you walk between Clissold Park and Finsbury Park you’re bound to see plenty of them, and they line the pavements between Essex Road and Kingsland Road too. If the berries aren’t enough to identify them then the leaves are also easily identifiable: normally each twig will have five to eight pairs of serrated little leaves with a pointy end.

Also, most of the rowan trees on the pavements of north London are quite young, so have slender trunks and delicate branches, covered in quite a smooth, silvery bark.

Rowan trees have a distinguished place in our folklore. Back in medieval times they were often planted outside houses because people believed the redness of the berries would protect them from enchantment. People even used to carry bits of rowan tree on them to ward off witchcraft. Delicious fruit, very pretty and they keep you safe too! What more could we ask of Hackney Council in its choice of tree to adorn our streets?

I am writing as a Shoreditch resident to flag up a problem that is increasingly disfiguring the area and causing annoyance and some distress, writes Yolande Burgin, Shoreditch.

Estate agents’ billboards are peppered over local buildings and are left up, quite literally, for years on end, well after any property has been let or sold. There are also many instances where the named estate agent has had absolutely no connection to the building they have billboarded and are just using it in an opportunistic way for free advertising.

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I have seen a van driver have a swift look around, quickly put up a ladder and nail the estate agents’ board up on a building, photograph it, then shoot off. At this moment there is a billboard which has just been put up outside my window saying that a particular agency has let a property in the building – it has not.

I feel lucky to live in such a special part of London where lots of the buildings are listed and the occupants are prevented from making any change to the facade or general look of the place, keeping the distinct character of this part of Hackney alive – and yet these billboards are somehow allowed to be plastered all over them. It is very sad to see the area defaced in this unattractive way.

Of course I realise that billboards are a necessary part of the business life of the area, but they should be used appropriately, only where relevant, and removed after a reasonable time.

I really hope that as local residents we can see something done about this awful nuisance.

We at Hackney Playbus are appealing to families bringing up children in Hackney [see Gazette, September 1, p5], writes Claire Kelly, Hackney Playbus.

We have been out and about in the borough since 1972 in our brightly painted double decker buses, bringing families together from all backgrounds.

For many children Hackney is a great place to grow up – but for others growing up in hostels or cramped accommodation, the Hackney Playbus project provides a rare opportunity for children to play with a wide range of toys, to be creative, to express themselves and to mix with other children.

We create a relaxed environment where parents and carers can find common ground and support each other.

On August 19 our much loved Playbus “Bugsie” broke down. We have found the perfect replacement, a double decker Playbus already converted to a high standard.

We are appealing to all our friends and supporters to contribute to our “buy a bus” campaign, on behalf of the children who need our services, and who will continue to need our services in the years to come. Just type in “Hackney Playbus”. Thank you!