Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Emperor's New Signage

The Emperor of the New Forest was very proud of his cycle routes and wanted only the very best signage for them, so that his subjects on bicycles could find their way about in the forest. He searched far and wide but could never find quite the style of signage that he liked.

One day, two wicked Rangers came to him and said, “Sire, we have the just the thing for you – the very best signage that has ever been devised, but you will need to give us lots of money so that we can put this project properly into effect, and also it will take some time, so difficult will be our task. Moreover, this signage is magic: only wise cyclists will be able to see it; fools will see nothing at all!” The emperor was dead impressed and told the rangers to start work immediately. He said, “I only want clever people working for me, not fools.” When they were alone, the wicked Rangers laughed like drains. “All the cyclists in the forest will pretend to see the signage. Nobody will want to look a prat!” Next day and for the next few weeks they beavered away on the non-existent signage but everyone who watched them at work pretended to see the most beautiful signage in the whole world! Even the Emperor of the New Forest could not see any signage but he did not want to be thought a fool. The emperor was very happy and he gave the two wicked Rangers lots of money.

The day came when the new signage was ready to be installed on all the cycle routes of the New Forest and this ‘task’ was carried out by the two wicked Rangers who, after their final payment, disappeared and were never seen again. Then the emperor and his subjects cycled in the forest and said, “This new signage is amazing!” for they didn’t want to look like idiots, but in truth they rode round and round and got totally lost. And so it is that to this day that, despite the Sustrans online mapping which shows Route 2 passing through the New Forest and notwithstanding the fact that you should be able to follow any route of the National Cycle Network without a map, much of it has in fact only magic signs which can only be seen by clever cyclists.

Context: I have just ridden Route 2 from Dorchester to Southampton. It was fortunate that I had fed the route from the online mapping into my Garmin gadget before setting out. Otherwise I might still be in the New Forest together with the emperor’s subjects, riding round and round forever! A beautiful route, nevertheless! (Recommended – but take a map with you!)

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