The Olympic Road River

If you were watching the men and women’s Olympic cycling road race last weekend, you might have seen the long snake of white paint making its way up the road onto Box Hill. And, like me, maybe you thought that it was some mad grafitti by an enthusiastic cycling fan.

Box Hill Road River by Richard Long

Well, it was; sort of.

Keen cyclist and celebrated British landscape artist, Richard Long was inspired by the traditional road graffiti chalked onto the road by fans at the Tour De France to create the Box Hill Road River. Working in the middle of the night he created the 100 metre long swirling, dynamic line from bright white road paint as a lasting legacy of the London 2012 Games.

Long is more usually seen working with natural materials. He is well-known, for example, for walking through landscapes making ephemeral sculptures en route of the materials he finds on his journey.  Some of his work is currently showing at The Hepworth, Wakefield.

The Box Hill Road River has attracted a mixed response. Fans of Richard Long appreciate the work as another of his reflections on the place of humans in nature. Many cyclists, though, have been less flattering, querying its artistic value, and expressing concern over safety – when white road paint gets wet it’s dangerous to cycle on.

As a cyclist myself I understand their concerns, but there’s room either side of the Road River for wet weather cycling. And I would hate to see ‘elf and safety interefering with the arts unnecessarily and stifling creativity.

Box Hill is already a popular destination for families escaping London for a day in the country. And this work, commissioned by London 2012 and the National Trust, will be another draw to the area, acting as both a reminder of the Olympics and the cycling that gave us our first 2012 Olympic medal.

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