Here we talk to Nicholas Jones, broadcaster and author, who has been a Chipping Barnet resident for more than 40 years and is currently the chair of the Barnet Society.
Unlike so many of the outer suburbs, the London Borough of Barnet has at its heart a much-loved old coaching town, steeped in history, with a High Street where locals still bump into each other and linger for a chat. No wonder we have never moved and have no intention of leaving!
Hopefully my lifetime’s occupation as a journalist can be put to good use. Much of my work for the Barnet Society revolves around writing and campaigning about the many issues that concern us, about the town centre, planning and how best to protect the surrounding countryside.
Perhaps like other local residents our move in the summer of 1973 to Granville Road, where we have lived ever since, was simply a question of chance and, as the estate agents say, “location, location”.
Promotion to BBC Radio 4 from my previous post as a news producer at BBC Radio Leicester required finding a home not too far from Broadcasting House.
My regular house-hunting forays on and off the Northern Line took me through the Finchleys, then to Whetstone and finally to High Barnet.
Walking for the first time up the hill from the tube station, I noticed a change in the air, saw and heard house martins and swifts, and then on reaching the junction at the parish church saw a traditional high street off to the right and the greenery of Wood Street stretching far away to the left.
I think my mind made was made up that first day: instead of the repetitive appearance of the London suburbs, I had found a real small town, a place with a character of all its own.
After attending Foulds Junior Mixed Infants School in Byng Road, my son went first to Queen Elizabeth’s Boys’ School (in the days when it was a neighbourhood comprehensive) and then to Barnet College; my daughter was a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School. They both look back fondly on their childhood in Barnet.
My longest association with the town, dating from April 1975, has been as a holder of a plot at the Byng Road allotments. We are also members of Barnet Residents Association and supporters of Friends of Barnet Market and Friends of Barnet Countryside Centre.
No journalist could live in Chipping Barnet for over 40 years and not know where to buy a newspaper or a pint of beer. My morning papers are delivered by Griffiths in Wood Street and most afternoons I top up at the Paper Shop in the High Street.
I mourn the loss of several local hostelries, the Alexandra in Wood Street and the Albion in Union Street. But the Black Horse at the Wood Street roundabout is doing remarkably well after being refurbished and extending its garden seating area. For real ale fans, the Mitre in the High Street wins hands down.
Rebuilding the High Street frontage of the Spires, and the addition of a branch of the Carluccio’s Italian restaurant chain, has added greatly to the appeal of our shopping centre. We all hope the new owners of the Spires will deliver on their promise to spend £7 million on further improvements.
Chipping Barnet’s greatest legacy is that we are surrounded on three sides by countryside, much of which is designated Green Belt. I can literally step from my front door and within minutes be walking across a field, perhaps along a cinder track that skirts the town and ends up by Hadley Green, or along Wood Street, through Ravenscroft Park and then the Old Court House recreation ground.
Chipping Barnet’s open spaces and magnificent trees really do make our town special – so all power to the elbow of those campaigning to protect our heritage.