‘Napalming elephants isn’t the answer’: Finsbury Park’s famous topiary elephants could be destroyed due to people taking drugs behind them
PUBLISHED: 13:32 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:20 12 August 2019
“Vigilante” neighbours are fighting to save Finsbury Park’s famous topiary elephants from being cut down, the Gazette can reveal.
The owner of the first-floor flat overlooking the three hedge-carved elephants, at the junction of Ambler and Romilly Road, is considering cutting them down to stop people hiding in his front garden to take drugs.
In recent weeks, neighbours have reportedly twice had to "tackle" the man and persuade him not to destroy the beloved elephants, which are considered "heritage hedges" by many in the community.
In July last year, police raided the downstairs flat of the elephant house, where they discovered a drugs den with "smoke crack worship satan" scrawled on a wall. A closure order was secured for the Partners for Improvement in Islington (PFI) managed flat.
The doors and windows remain boarded up but drug users are allegedly returning to their former haunt.
Tim Bushe, the architect and topiarist, who first carved the elephants seven years ago and continues to maintain them, told the Gazette: "I don't think napalming the garden and the hedges is the answer.
"If you had someone occupying and looking after the flat downstairs it wouldn't be happening - [PFI] needs to get someone in and make sure it's not a crack dealer."
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Last summer, neighbours told the Gazette the people living above the drugs den were "terrorised and threatened", and hadn't been seen for weeks. The man who has threatened to cut them down declined to speak to the Gazette.
Tim said he feels a lot of sympathy with the family's plight, but warned whoever chops down the hedges could become "the most hated man in Finsbury Park and beyond".
He told the Gazette the man has twice tried to cut the elephants down, and joked that, on both occasions, "neighbours came out and rugby tackled him". The topiarist claims there are "lots of local vigilantes" guarding his work.
The elephants are also threatened by honey rot, which has infected bits of the hedge. This has already led to the head of the elephant in Romilly Road being trimmed back, and Tim is in the process of reshaping it so it's facing the other way around.
Tricia Zipfel, of Blackstock Triangle Gardeners, recalled how, seven years ago, neighbours called on Tim to tackle this particular bush, whish had grown "enormous" to stop people doing drugs behind it and beautify the area.
She told this paper: "One of the tenants is very worried about the elephants camouflaging [criminal] activity.
"I think the tenant was just getting upset about whatever is happening, and his gut reaction, which wasn't really properly thought through, was to remove the elephants and open it all up."
A PFI spokesperson said: "After supporting the police to obtain a drugs closure order we obtained possession of the flat through the court and bailiffs in January 2019, since when the flat has been secured unoccupied because of subsidence. Structural engineers recommended a period of monitoring - currently ongoing - before they specify the work required.
"We have boarded off an area of the garden in response to a concern raised by a resident and will continue to take any practical steps we can to support residents. We strongly encourage residents to report any criminal behaviour immediately to the police."
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