23rd February 2010
I first came across BW's bridge signing initiative about two years ago following a rash of laminated signs stuck on wooden posts beside bridges which bore no names or numbers.
Now I applaud the plan that, over time, all bridges should carry a name or number. This is a huge help to people unfamiliar with the waterway and great for summoning the emergency services if something goes seriously wrong. What I am not so sure about is the rash of temporary laminated signs nailed to posts beside the offending bridges. Firstly, they are unsightly and secondly, they only seem to last a few weeks before the local lads decide to haul them out and chuck them into the cut.
I was pleased to see BW contractors fixing permanent signs to the bridges on the Erewash Canal a couple of years ago, but was surprised to hear blame levelled at boaters who "nick them to stick on their houses". My experience of boaters is that few would stoop to any form of canal vandalism involving prizing historic numbers off bridges. That would be a complete no no, worse even than attempting to overtake!
But back to my point about these temporary signs. They crop up in the most unlikely places and the most absurd case I found was to the rear of an isolated bridge on the Hatherton Branch Canal, about 2 miles upstream from the highest navigable point. I was wandering round the rather impressive Cherry Tree Bridge near Cannock and, having risked life and limb to get accross the semi frozen bog for a photo, I was amazed to find a neat little placard proclaiming the bridge name for anyone stupid enough to get in a position to see it!
There may be a BW dictate to 'get a name / number on every bridge' but why here? Bonkers.
And why was I mooching round the Hatherton Branch Canal? Yes, you have got it.... I was doing a spot of on the ground research for one of my 'lost canals' series. Expect a series of posts in early February.