The four-acre green is surrounded on two sides by a three-foot-high cavity block wall. The wall is unplastered, perpetually unfinished-looking. Among the local kids’ tags and counter-tags, someone has sprayed in large, clear lettering: ‘Plaster the wall, you fat fucks’. Paint sprayed on porous concrete blocks is impossible to remove, but no one who would plaster or order to plaster will ever see this message.
The grass is useless. Useless in the sense that it can’t be used as grass in common spaces wants to be used. It sprouts in thick, wiry clumps, with brown earth visible between the tussocks. Infrequently mowed, parched and over-walked in summer, the grass has retreated and later reclaimed many corners of the green over the years. The surrounding residents would mow it, and often talk of mowing it, but the space is too wide. There is nowhere to begin. Younger children play football in the west corner of the green, where the clumps of grass are stamped out and the ground is brown and filthy, but flat. They rarely play full matches with teams and goals. Games revolve around one keeper and shows of skill. Nine Lives, Heads, Kicks and Volleys, Three-and-in.
Cans and bottles and bags of rubbish gather at the wall’s inner corner. Periodically the residents arrive in organised fervour and collect the junk. Bin collection is expensive, but the cans and glass can be recycled for free. The Council are called about the bags and they sometimes come.
There were trees in the early days. There were the beginnings of trees, young saplings, and their remains are still spaced evenly in the grass margins along the footpaths surrounding the green. Wrapped in wire cage and staked with a fencepost, each is now a snapped stump with frayed ribbons of bark at its top. Some of the trees were replaced two or three times before it was accepted that they would be broken again, for reasons unknown, by passing drunks.
As public spaces go it has no redeeming features, other than relief from the terraces of pebbledash housing. It is not a thing so much as the absence of a thing. A legal rider. Residents of the estate defend it fiercely, destroy it unthinkingly. It would be unfair to say it is misused when it never had an intended use. This is public space.