Very entertaining is a booklet issued by the British Road Federation, of 4a, Bloomsbury Square, W.C.1. entitled “Follow The Signposts.” It tells of what happened to an American tourist in Britain who attempted to get from his hotel in the Strand to Cambridge in time for lunch, and why he decided soon afterwards to spend the remainder of his holiday on the Continent! The book, like others in the excellent range issued by the British Road Federation, is illustrated with photographs of actual signposts referred to in the text—we always find shots of actual roads and road-scenes extremely fascinating and the very fact that only six illustrate this booklet merely whets the appetite for more.
And what the booklet emphasises is so very true—our signposting system is inadequate to travellers’ needs and entirely defeats the foreign visitor. The other day we had occasion to travel from Uckfield to Aldershot at night. All went well until Haywards Heath, in which town we could find no clues as to which road to take for Horsham. Eventually a passer-by said we wanted the Cuckfield road and, setting off again, we just managed to espy an insignificant sign saying “To Horsham” which we had missed on our first attempt because it was well up a narrow right-hand turning just where our attention was distracted by a fork at which the left-hand road was faintly labelled “No Through Way.” We had missed the Horsham sign in retracing our tracks into Haywards Heath because it was blank on one side! Now we joyfully followed its helpful finger, only to come to a stop at a dead-end down a narrow lane. The reason? We had failed to see another small sign several yards-along a left-hand turning and set high up on a post. Beyond Horsham, and wishing to avoid Guildford, we turned left at a cross-roads when a prominent sign indicated that this would take us to Alfold. We motored until we came to a village and, becoming suspicious, asked was this Alfold? “Oh, no,” said the village rustic, “it be back the way you have come.” So back we went, carefully observing every sign and turning, to come again to our cross-roads on the main road. Alfold had eluded us. Here we should add, perhaps, that we have been motoring for sixteen years and were entirely sober. Eventually we came to a bit of rough arterial road we recognised and entered its one-way section fairly fast, knowing the other side of the road to be in process of repair and all oncoming traffic diverted. We only just saw a 6-in. change of road level in time to brake so hard that a little girl who was asleep on the front seat was flung hard against the windscreen. The sign at the entrance to the one-way road had merely warned “Caution, Obstruction Ahead.” After this we came to Godalming—we always do, whether we want to or not. From there it was comparatively plain sailing.
Now when we explore back routes we do not grumble if signposts are few and inadequate. We prefer this to a countryside plastered with signs and place names and its grass verges replaced by kerb stories. But in a fast car on main thorough-fares proper signposting is essential to enjoyment and travel efficiency. Why cannot local authorities and the Ministry of Transport conserve labour on the place names and kerbs and erect neat, sensible directions for through travellers who are in a hurry?—W. B.