The picture below was taken at Medley Weir at the end of June 2007. The bright red sign first went up at the end of January, when a boy drowned in the River Thames just behind the left-hand gate post.
The notice might arguably have served some purpose in January. The river was very swollen and over-ran the path along the river. The path itself had been neglected for years – one of those situations where responsibility was divided between several authorities so none of them did anything.
I do not myself think that any such notice was needed even in January. Anyone could see that the path was under water and could adjust their behaviour accordingly – you don’t need a notice to tell you what you can see with your own eyes. So far as the boy was concerned, I suspect that the flooded path was actually the attraction – my children when young used to love racing their bikes into puddles.
If the notice was redundant in January, it certainly is now. This is what it says:
It is irrelevant in June, just a nasty red flash in an otherwise pastoral scene. Some dim little council bureaucrat, however, feels comfortable knowing it is there. If anything happens, he won’t be to blame – he put up a notice.
In fact it is worse than irrelevant. By next winter, when the river waters are high again, the sign will have become part of the scenery – we have so many bloody signs in Oxford that no-one takes any notice of them anyway, or can discriminate between the useful ones and the majority.
If the sign has any value when the waters are high – I say if – then that value is entirely lost by leaving the sign up all year. No-one will even notice it is there.
How do we persuade these people to THINK about the purpose and value of a sign or notice? Some of them are necessary. Some are useful. Some are required by law. Most are just blots on the landscape, standing illustrations of the saying that familiarity breeds contempt.