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I love it around here. Great local community, markets and loads of kids stuff to do both in the parks, along the canal and in various arts/community centres. Agree that the secondary school situation presents us all with a bit of a dilemma (though primary schools are good) but I think that's true of many areas. I'd recommend having a car or at least a well kitted out family bicycle as public transport leaves a little to be desired... but that's also why people stay, shop and play local - as there's no tube. It's friendly and seems to me to be full of a great mix of arty/greenie/ordinary people running small businesses and shops. And if you like Vietnamese or Turkish food... you have reached nirvana!
We live in Clapton, just near North Millfields park - been here about 2 years and really love it. The area is getting quite chichi round Chatsworth Rd, not so much on the other side of the Lea Bridge Road where we are but still great. We sometimes feel like we've found a little London secret tbh - big open space on the marshes for the kids to run around, 2 nature reserves in the old filter beds, walking and cycling along the river, riding centre, ice rink, Springfield park with cafe, rowing club, canoeing club, ace characterful little pub on the riverside, health food store and cafe nr Clapton pond, Kizmania for rainy days, new nice-looking pub opening soon nr the roundabout. It feels like there is more going on than there was. Obviously there's still the usual London crime but it's not murder mile any more. Schools are actually pretty OK as well and once you get off the main road and down towards the river it's not that busy trafficwise. I can't imagine moving now, we love it. Oh almost forgot - Clapton station is 12 mins direct to Liverpool Street, trains every quarter hour.
I don't think you'll notice it being much different from other comparable parts of London (Brixton for instance). I live a bit further South, near Tower Hamlets, which is supposedly gang ridden, but I feel safer there than in my parents' quiet Essex home town
Hackney generally very very good for families. Loads to do, lots and lots of young families. I would slightly worry about secondary schools, but that's the same for all of London and most big cities....