Signs of the times are driving me up the pole
It was Welcome to The Historic Village of Kinver that set me off. Since we’d last been down that way a year ago, an ugly road sign style affair had sprung up by the towpath, encroaching into one of my favourite canal views, down past Hunts Lock.
Leaving aside the curious use of the capital letters, let’s just think about Welcome to Kinver. Who is it welcoming? Not me – I know I’m there and so do 99 per cent of the boaters and those who don’t soon will because the next lock is helpfully called Kinver Lock. Not the towpath walkers – most of them probably live in Kinver. Maybe the odd cyclist who’s strayed too far and is now in mortal danger of not getting home in time for his tea? And why do any of us need to be ‘welcomed’? Should we be anticipating a parish council welcoming committee, the Mayor? Do I need to dress for the occasion?
The sign has, of course, been erected by the Canal and River Trust and once you’ve seen one, you will start to spot them everywhere. Now I have two objections to these – firstly they are statements of the absolutely bleedin’ obvious; I’m in Kinver, Windmill End or wherever – they convey no useful information whatsoever. Secondly, and far more importantly, they are profoundly ugly and out of keeping. Ever since God was a choirboy, to use my late father-in-law’s lovely saying, the canal hardware has been black and white: it’s simple, elegant and timeless. Wander round a country corner and come upon a lock, tidily painted in B&W and you could have stepped back 100 years. So what bearded hipster of a creative guru decided that a big, ugly bright blue bordered one was more appropriate and why did the twerps at CRT ever listen to him? It’s not as if this was a one- off blip in taste. Daft signs have been sprouting up everywhere: in a sickly green there was ‘Watch Out - for cute fuzzy ducklings and green hopping frogs’ which at least had the merit of being a temporary cardboard one. Or the ‘Attention dog owners. Pick up after your dogs. Thank you’ with the ‘humorous’ addendum ‘Attention dogs. Grrr. Bark. Woof.’ Incidentally, there is even a version in Welsh too. If anyone is anti-social enough to let their canine crap on the towpath then I’m sure a bit of weak wit won’t persuade them of the error of their ways.
But none of this can match the unspeakable eyesore erected on the island at Old Turn in the centre of Birmingham. Defacing this simple and famous landmark is a collection of meaningless gibberish on oddly shaped panels and posts proclaiming ‘Cycle this way’ ,’Wander this way’ ‘Boat this way’. All I can say to that is ‘WTF’!
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of signs: the money is found from some specious marketing pot to erect them but rarely is any subsequently found to maintain them and all those millenium trails and welcome boards soon become targets for graffiti or submerged in weeds.
Even the information on those canal history panels dotted here and there has usually disappeared beneath a coat of mould and dirt simply because no-one comes along with some Mr Muscle and a cloth to keep them clean.
I do have to say that I have found one collection of signs I heartily approve of. And they are, dare I say it, a ‘trail’ – the Dudley Heritage Trail. This comprises 33 unique sculptures that tell the story of this area’s fascinating and largely vanished industrial past, with themes researched and developed by local residents and school children, and created by local sculptor Luke Perry and his public art team.
They are what canal signs should be – handsome to look at, informative, unique to their local area and an addition to the canalscape. It goes almost without saying that none has been vandalised. Learn a lesson CRT.
Still, I suppose I should be grateful at least that the canal locks aren’t spattered with the multi-coloured health and safety panels found on EA ones. Oh dear, I hope I haven’t spoken too soon.Sandiore
The sign has, of course, been erected by the Canal & River Trust and once you’ve seen one, you will start to spot them everywhere
Now this sign by a local sculptor does work
Yes, but we know we’re there...