Gazette letters: Kestrels, City of London Academy, BBQ policy and lido fast lane

A file image of a kestrel. Picture: OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA WIRE

A file image of a kestrel. Picture: OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA WIRE - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

After the gales of the last week tore through the streets, on Wednesday morning spring arrived for a second time as a blackbird and a robin fought to sing loudest outside my window, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

At 5.30am it was not the spring I needed, but still a welcome arrival.

On Saturday I was treated to a rare close encounter as I headed up the Lea: a kestrel just a couple of metres above the ground, peering down between its wings at some unfortunate prey.

It is an endurance test to watch these birds – only a little above head height, it barely moved an inch. As each second passed the feat became more mesmerising, morning runners stopping, entranced by the neighbouring athleticism.

And then, in a gasp, it was gone. Wings outstretched, it darted eastwards and out of sight.

London Wildlife Trust runs a “kestrel count” trying to track how these beautiful birds of prey are faring in the city.

If you see one (and if you head to Hackney Marshes or the filter beds you probably will), be sure to log your sighting on their website:

Pat Turnbull wrote, in a letter you published, that there is no need for the City of London Academy Shoreditch Park due to a lack of need for the places it provides (“Not enough pupils? I said that all along”, ), writes Holly Arles, principal, The City of London Academy, Shoreditch Park.

We have to disagree, as the academy is already open, full, and oversubscribed for this September – the need is therefore clear and demonstrable.

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We would not assume to speak on behalf of Hackney Council but we understand that, if our academy had not opened, there would be many secondary age pupils in the borough who would not be able to find a place at a school within its boundaries.

Our academy already provides a first class education to Hackney residents, and will continue to do so for many years both before and after it moves to its permanent site near Shoreditch Park. That is surely a laudable aim worth supporting and one which has been recognised in previous articles published by the Gazette.

I see that policing of the new barbeque rules in London Fields is proving challenging, writes Charles Webber, Hoxton, full address supplied.

But walking through last weekend I was pleased to see less of the thick fog of smoke which typically blights the park air most weekends.

With hot fast food shops aplenty nearby I do feel though it’d be sensible to call time on this archaic caveman practice – quite why anyone feels the need to char the remains of questionable poultry in a public park is utterly beyond me.

Perhaps folk could just use a regular sunscreen instead of dampening the sun behind a curtain of carbon monoxide and just enjoy a regular picnic like the rest of civilised society?

Banning all park BBQs gets my vote.

For more than six years I have been trying, without success, to get Hackney Council to answer questions about their policy at London Fields Lido, which currently has a safety ban on breast stroke swimming in lane 4, which is the widest lane in the pool, writes John Anthony, Stamford Hill.

This ban was introduced in late 2011, six years after it opened. At the same time, lane 4 swimmers say they have the right to use lanes 1 to 3 safely, which I do not think is fair.

If the ban is a safety issue, why are lane 4 swimmers allowed to use lane 1 to 3 when these lanes have more room, but not vice versa?

Following a request to the Labour Party democracy review in December 2017, the council responded with the following answer from Cllr Jon Burke, that “the ban has not been extended to the other lanes because while it is safe for a fast (lane 4) swimmer to use lanes 1 to 3, it is not safe for a breast stroke swimmer to use lane 4 because in this case there is a greater likelihood of an accidental clash of heads.”

This is scientific nonsense. If there are two lanes, one with nine fast swimmers and one slow swimmer, the other with nine slow swimmers and one fast swimmer, is the probability of a collision between a fast swimmer and a slow swimmer different?

I invite your readers to answer this question and to agree that the “likelihood of an accidental clash of heads” is the same in both lanes and that Mr Burke’s answer is false and that it is not a safety issue but a bullying issue. I have put this follow up question to the council but they have refused to reply.

Your readers might think this is a stupid argument but it is not. In the summer when it is very busy and people are queuing and are being let in as others leave, you will notice that lanes 1 to 3 are always packed liked sardines in a net, but that lane 4 is always flowing freely. This is because whenever lane 4 threatens to become as busy as the other lanes, the bullies ask the life guards to shift the slower swimmers among them into the other lanes because they are getting in their way.

The lido belongs to all of us and the bullies should be made to share the available space like the rest of us.