Previously I celebrated the superb range of enduring health and safety warning plaques associated with Dinefwr Castle and Dolforwyn Castle: part of the Cadw material culture of heritage health and safety. I even proposed that they inspire a new form of dance….
Naively I thought I had seen the full range of these white figures on red background, presuming that I had observed warnings to the full-range of potential threats from tripping over, hitting one’s head on, slipping down and falling off medieval ruins. However, I recently visited Beaumaris Castle, the incomplete fortress on Anglesey built by order of Edward I. I enjoyed looking around, for the first time, the outer and inner defences. I was struck by the fact that I observed two further, hitherto unwitnessed, signs warning of hazards to the modern visitor. Perhaps these will too inspire further dance-moves alongside the previously-blogged-about Cadw Twerk…
One warning sign depicted an adult and child hand-in-hand. I interpreted this as instructing me to keep hold of the hand of a child, although perhaps it is a warning of children being abducted from the battlements? Given the sign’s location, I presume this refers to the dangers of scaling the stone stairs and walking along the battlements. Perhaps this might seem like blindingly obvious and unnecessary advice, but I have seen many examples where such advice is not followed by visitors and children are put, or put themselves, at risk. Despite the protective barriers, supervising little ones must be a priority for any adult visiting historic sites with kids, even if it means delaying a response to that crucial text message, missing a few heritage signs and avoiding a few photo opportunities. However, my older three are now well-versed in staircases and battlements, and given their number verbal instruction and visual observation had to suffice since holding their hands throughout would have been no fun and would potentially create a hazard of its own.
The second warning sign warning of flying birds (two in number) and a ducking/stooping human figure. I took this to mean ‘beware of the seagulls’. Disappointingly, no attempt was made to be specific; the icon neither depicts the birds mobbing the visitor Hitchcock-style nor dropping their fetid fecal matter. All inaccessible sections of the castle are currently inhabited by breeding herring gulls so I presume the sign is warning the visitor of low-flying gulls, hungry gulls, defensive gulls and crapping gulls. I guess this sign covers all eventualities of airborne attack and distraction. Or perhaps it warns against idolatrous worship of birdlife?
We actually came face-to-face with an angry bird on our visit. In one corner of an accessible part of the gatehouse we encountered a baby gull hiding in a nest in a dark corner, looking very nervous at our attention. We said hello but let it be.
Both signs made me wonder how many more exist that I haven’t seen? Is there a full database of these signs out there somewhere. I wonder if you can buy them for my own home where similar hazards present themselves? Perhaps I could Cadw-proof my own house with health and safety heritage material culture! Can you tell that I used to be a bird-spotter and a train-spotter in the distant past?