Has the world gone mad readers ask as they respond to phallic shaped hedge that incurred the ire of a PCSO

READERS have reacted angrily and in support of the Fenland man ordered by police to shape his garden hedge or face an �80 on the spot fine for outraging public decency.

Ian Ashmeade has been given massive support by readers after police were called to his home following a complaint about his phallus shaped hedge. Snip or face a fine, police said, and so Mr Ashmeade decided to prune it, but only mildly to stay within “the law”.

“I find it laughable he had to give his hedge the snip just because one person in the village has no sense of humour,” said Eddie Holden.

He also wanted to know how a single police officer (a PCSO)could rule on the matter and suggested “if the case was to go to court, a magistrate, judge or jury may see it differently and throw it out as a bit of harmless fun.

“The police should not be making statements about things that may not stand up in court.”

Mrs Easey wrote to suggest police should have more important issues to worry about.

“If the tree had been there for eight years, why bother with it now?” she said. “If having phallic objects out in the open offends, then all statues and pieces of art would need to be endorsed, which is ridiculous.”

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Many of the comments have been sent to our sister paper, the Ely Standard, who broke the story and which subsequently attracted international coverage – including coverage in papers as far afield as India and Australia.

Ellen Barnett said the article “brought a smile to my face which I think in these days is a positive thing”.

Meanwhile Alison Arnold thought “at first glance it was a toadstool and the gnome had fallen off. At second glance its Greek mythology Priapus, emblem of fertility, and a guardian of nature, the son of Aphrodite; he joined Satyrs who are poets and pipe players, nothing offensive in that”.

She added: “Seen worse in stately homes and art galleries and they don’t get public orders.”

Mr Ashmeade admits the phallic-shaped hedge was a bit naughty, but says it has always been a source of much amusement in the village.

But officers from Cambridgeshire police took a different view this week after a member of the public complained and ordered Mr Ashmeade to prune the offending foliage or face an �80 fine for public order.

Mr Ashmeade of Haddenham near Chatteris, who was recently crowned ‘world pea-shooting champion’ at the annual tournament in Witcham, first pruned the offending hedge into the shape of a phallus in 2002 after he noticed that the natural growth of the plant had started to form a similar shape.

The hedge, which had been planted on Mr Ashmeade’s drive in Linden Way, has stood proudly for eight years before the complaint this week which prompted police to act.

“A policeman came around to my house and told my wife that someone had complained about the topiary and that if I didn’t do something I would be facing an �80 fine, Mr Ashmeade said.

“The topiary was in its pruned state for more than eight years. Why somebody has taken offence to it now I can’t understand. I think it is very sad.”

Mr Ashmeade was on a cycling tour of Norfolk when his wife rang to say the policeman had called. On his return he decided to get pruning and the hedge is now shaped like a pea shooter to commemorate his recent championship win.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “Officers received a complaint from a member of the public regarding the shape of a shrub. Officers went round at the weekend and asked the man to change its shape or he would be fined for a public order offence.”

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