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Tourist raises concerns over lack of attraction signs in North Devon

by Staff

A holidaymaker has called for better and more brown tourist signs to North Devon’s attractions after struggling to find some of them. 

Writing to the North Devon Gazette, Richard Gardner from London said he was delighted when exploring the scenic beauty of the region, but raised a significant issue regarding the inadequate visibility of directional road signs, particularly the brown ones guiding tourists to attractions such as Exmoor Zoo.

Mr Gardner raised concerns over the state of what tourist signs there were, noting that several were difficult to spot due to being hidden by overgrown vegetation or unreadable with layers of mud and dirt.

Despite receiving helpful recommendations from locals, Mr Gardner encountered difficulties locating the zoo and credited his eventual success to the assistance of a compassionate stranger.

In response to these concerns, Exmoor Zoo shared their frustration, highlighting the challenges they face in navigating the landscape surrounding signage regulations.

“We would dearly love more brown signs to assist the visitors in the area, but it seems the council is all for tourism on one hand but not on the other hand,” said Lynn Reynolds at the zoo.

“This is a situation we must deal with on a nearly daily issue; we do get complaints about it daily!”

The zoo is eligible for five brown signs from the nearest A road, however, since the main road at the top of the zoo is now an A road, it doesn’t qualify for any additional brown signs apart from those closest to it. 

Currently, the attraction has three at the top of its road, one at Challacombe Cross, and one at Blackmoor Gate. 

Initially, there were two at Blackmoor Gate, but one was removed due to exceeding the quota. Another sign near the Bratton Fleming turnoff was also removed after being hit by a vehicle and deemed too dangerous to replace. 

Despite several attempts to improve signage, the zoo was told it now needs 150,000 visitors annually to qualify for more signs, due to planning regulations being strictly enforced.

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway echoed similar sentiments, and said: “We did try to get signs on the south and northbound exits of the M5 at junction 27 but were told this would be the furthest we would be permitted to have brown signs.”

In response to enquiries, a spokesperson for Devon County Council explained the responsibility of businesses to maintain and replace signs when necessary.

They said: “Verges are maintained in line with Devon County Council policy. Where hedges obscure signs, this is the responsibility of the adjacent landowner to cut these accordingly. 

“Where signs have reached the end of their useful life, it is the responsibility of the business to fund any replacement. If signs are failing, we would encourage businesses to contact us to arrange replacement.”

Exmoor Zoo now wants to collaborate with other attractions, such as Watermouth Castle and the Lynton and Lynmouth Railway at Woody Bay, to explore joint signage ventures and make it more accessible for both tourists and local visitors.

Lynn at Exmoor Zoo explained their brown attraction signs are due to be spring cleaned in the next couple of weeks for pre-season, but didn’t feel theirs were obstructed by overgrowth from hedges. 

She added: “We do clean our signs, but I know a lot of signs around our area are looking dire due to the consistent bad weather creating mud we have been having.”

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