Ian and Yvonne Kleinberg are a retired couple who have spent most of their lives on Woodberry Down – and with the stunning vista from their social-rented apartment and the changing shape of the area, they believe they’ve never had it so good.
“It's just like being in the countryside!”
Looking out from the balcony of their seventh-floor apartments by the West Reservoir, Ian and Yvonne Kleinberg are able to take in some sweeping views of London – everything from Canary Wharf to the City of London and the Shard. But it’s something much closer to home that really catches their eye – the recently built Spring Park.
“You can have up to 70 or 80 children at a time playing there,” says Ian. “You have real diversity, with the Hasidic Jewish families coming up from Lordship Lane with their children and the kids from the local schools.”
“We haven’t seen that for years,” adds Yvonne. “It’s absolutely lovely to see them enjoying themselves. It’s just a shame our kids didn’t have it when they were growing up as there was nothing like it round here.”
The Kleinbergs should know. They both grew up on Woodberry Down and raised their three children on the estate. The couple have always been heavily involved in the community, and they were part of the first phase of the regeneration, moving into their new home in 2011. The pot plants on their immaculate balcony and the impressive music collection adorning the shelves in their living room speak of their interests, and the development of the area has allowed them to indulge in new ones.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to appreciate wildlife as much as we have since we’ve been living here,” says Yvonne. A little bird visits them every day on their balcony, while they enjoy the early morning show of a flock of birds swooping back and forth over the water. “We just put a bit of music on and watch them,” says Ian.
The restoration of the reservoirs in particular has been a welcome improvement. Yvonne is a keen walker, and she loves to take a stroll along the reservoir to Clissold Park and then down to Church Street. “It’s just like being in the countryside,” she says.
There is the welcome sight of courting couples sitting on the benches by the water in summer, and, when Wimbledon is on and the Summer Screenings big screen is up by the reservoir, Ian and Yvonne take some sandwiches and sit with their neighbours to watch the tennis. “It’s lovely,” says Yvonne.
“And best of all,” adds Ian, “it’s free!”
Ian runs the local camera club, and photography is his real passion. He is a serious cyclist too, with a 30-mile-a-day habit. He explores Hackney’s cycle routes out into East London, and even ventures as far as Dulwich in South London.“I never know where I’m going to end up,” he says, “and I like a challenge.”
The couple spend a lot of time down at Brick Lane and Spitalfields, where they eat at Poppie’s – “The best fish and chips in London,” says Yvonne – and trawl the vinyl record fair at Old Spitalfields Market. They’re also regulars at the Classic Car Boot Sale in King’s Cross, where vintage fashion, homeware and records are sold from classic cars, and Ian dons his mod clothes to be part of the experience.
As Yvonne says, “We like nice things and eating in good places. We’ve got a wonderful, successful family. They came off Woodberry Down, where we had nothing, and they’ve achieved.”
“Everyone’s got a chance,” says Ian as he looks once more from the balcony at the whole of London spread out before him, “and the changes here should give people even bigger aspirations.”