Hedge graffiti – seriously?

I cycle to and from work most days, and often see things that surprise me. These incidents of my daily travel usually concern the way we behave towards each other on the roads, but they are not really the kind of things that make particularly interesting reading.

Then yesterday morning, as I pedalled beside the North Circular Road for a few hundred yards, I passed one of the only patches of greenery in this local desert of concrete, brick, steel and asphalt: a beautifully cut hedge. But something was odd about it. The way it seemed to catch the morning sunlight looked strange and unfamiliar. I stopped and took off my sunglasses, to find that the reason it looked so odd was that someone had spray-painted it with graffiti during the night.

The rail bridge you can see in the background, carrying the Northern Line from Hendon Central towards Brent Cross and Golders Green, has had graffiti sprayed on it many times over the years, then removed, resprayed, over and over again, costing who-knows-how-many thousands of pounds to remedy each time. The bricks are currently a nice teal-coloured background for whoever next is planning to lean over the edge of the bridge, inches from the electrified tube lines, and paint themselves into our daily commutes. Yet they also took the time to spray a hedge. Why? The remedy for the hedge owner is simple and cheap: cut it off. One go over it with the hedge trimmers and you’d never know it had been there. But if this became a regular event, the hedge would begin to shrink very quickly, until the tempting green surface became just a lot of bare branches, and the spraypainters would have to move on. They might discover that very nearby, in Hampstead Garden Suburbs, is one the most hedge-dense neighbourhoods in the entire city, where every single property is required to have a hedge, and to ‘maintain it properly’. Three foot six in the front garden, and six foot at the back. No other border between properties is permitted.

Can you imagine the scene if this blank, green canvas were ever to be exploited? Perhaps the first ‘green’ Banksy? I’ll be watching out for any further developments, and promise to let you know the moment I spot any.

(This poster of Hampstead Garden Suburbs from the early 1900s appears to include an early example of riotous spraying with white paint)

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