DSC07120This is a serious topic: the material culture of health and safety. People are killed and injured along Britain’s coastlines every year. Signs serve a real function in reminding people of both hidden and apparent dangers along the coast.

I’ve discussed this theme before at castle sites. Focusing on Cadw sites, as here and here, I explored how such signs are themselves part of the history of heritage sites and landscapes. In particular, they promote the institution responsible and their duty of care, as well as warn visitors/walkers of real dangers. They are a ubiquitous element of our landscapes.

DSC07125Recently I walked along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path from Whitesands Bay to St David’s Head. The weather was perfect and the views out to sea and along the coast were spectacular. Then I came across a particularly terrifying warning sign. A black triangular, within which a black cliff with falling rubble and head-first falling figure are depicted against a yellow background. Faintly funny, but also disturbing and fear-inspiring. This sign worked for me more than any other I’ve yet seen.

A further feature is the emphatic five pins securing this warning sign to the post, securing it against all weather and for all to see as they walk within inches of near-vertical drops to the sea below. I like the older pins that have secured predecessors to this warning notice: traces of a succession of warnings…

How long do these signs last and how will they be recorded as enduring dimensions of walker’s experience and the coastline landscape?