volunteers and community groups are being urged to get involved with a
ground-breaking project to restore historic signposts in Somerset.
response to stretched finances, the Somerset Fingerpost Restoration Project was
set up by Somerset County Council and the
Southwest Heritage Trust in 2016 to help preserve and
protect the signs by harnessing the goodwill of volunteers and exploring
alternative funding options.
National Park Authority, with support from the Council and the Heritage Lottery
Fund, has since run a hugely successful project in West Somerset with more than
100 volunteers recruited and more than 60 signs restored to date.
in other parts of Somerset have also been able to secure sponsorship from local
businesses or have successfully applied for grant funding to help pay for
repairs. One example is Williton Parish Council, which has secured sponsorship
funding from Magna Housing to restore some of its fingerposts.
volunteers and community groups are now being sought to get involved to carry
on work that the Council no longer has the money to fund.
John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “We
are very lucky in Somerset to have one of the most impressive collections of
fingerposts in the country.
the strains on our finances we just don’t have the budget to restore these
beautiful signs ourselves, but this is a fantastic example of communities
coming together – with help from us – to take the responsibility on.
proves what we already knew, that there are amazing people out there willing to
give something back. We’ve also found that community groups have access to
sponsorship and grants which are not open to us. I’d urge anyone with an
interest in preserving these iconic landmarks to get involved.”
in the 1960s, councils were advised to remove all fingerposts and replace them
with the modern, standardised road signs which can now be found all over the
country. In Somerset, this advice was ignored, and as a result the county still
has a wonderful back catalogue of fingerposts.
County Council has cared for these unofficial highways signs for more than 60
years, but having had to find around £130m of savings and efficiencies over the
last eight years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify spending
precious resources on non-mandatory services.
County Council and the Southwest Heritage Trust have produced a handbook that
provides all the information required to enable community groups to decide if
they would like to take part in this valuable project. It also contains a
fascinating potted history of fingerposts in Somerset. You can view the
handbook at http://www.somerset.gov.uk/policies-and-plans/schemes-and-initiatives/somerset-fingerpost-restoration-project/.
Park’s Charlotte Thomas, who is leading the Exmoor project, said: “The interest
we’ve had from local communities has been just fantastic. We have teams of
volunteers all over the project area who are helping out. There is even a group
in Minehead who are a roving team and have helped refurbish signposts in
kindly let me know when they have found broken fingers and we have been able to
use local contractors to fix them. It just goes to show the important role
these signposts play in the personal and regional history of Exmoor.”
Mike Neville and
Stuart Lawrence, two volunteers from Minehead, have been busy working with
others to restore numerous signposts along the A39. Mike said: “I got involved
with the project because I wanted to make a difference in my local community
and I’d noticed the signs starting to look scruffy.
satisfying seeing them looking all pristine by the side of the road and good to
know you’ve done your bit in restoring a local heirloom. I’ve even made a few
friends along the way!”
housing director for Magna Housing which is sponsoring Williton Parish
Council’s fingerpost project, said: “We support the communities we are based in
so we were really pleased to be able to help with this project. Fingerposts
have been a part of our landscape for decades and we want to see their use
continued. We really hope that other people are encouraged to join in and do
what they can.”
your local parish council if you would like to get involved, or email email@example.com for