A crocodile is the last thing you’d expect to see in a copse, whether the snap-jaw is real or otherwise. Yet this reptilian graffiti surprised me during a walk on Tooting Graveney Common. Normally, I’d deplore graffiti being applied to a tree; this example I don’t mind as its ludic imaginativeness made me smile, and I doubt it did harm to the tree.
On the other side of London, a Local Nature Reserve is experiencing a growth in this rogue art. Previously tolerated, people are now wondering if the graffiti along Parkland Walk has begun to get out of hand as the spray painting has spread out from the underbellies of the Crouch Hill bridges. One Sunday afternoon, as many as eight artists were seen blatantly working, despite this being a crime. The impact on wildlife, in that particular instance, was an obvious decline in birdsong within 100m of the activity, where the toxic fumes were reported as being overpowering. In addition to the effect on avian behaviour, rare ferns were damaged when sprayed over. The Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum) only grows in this one place on the Walk and it is the metallic paints which seem particularly noxious; the ferns struggle to survive a coating.
I’m not against graffiti per se; some of it demonstrates talent and creativity. However, the last few times I’ve rambled along Parkland Walk, I’ve noticed an increase in the tagging sort, like the territorial pissings of pooches on lamp posts. In my mind, this kind of graffiti is sheer vandalism. I must say, I’d object to even the artistic type if it proved to be detrimental to wildlife. There is a balance to be struck between encouragement of artistic ability, and respect for nature.