If you took a wander across the gorgeous South Downs on Easter weekend you may have seen some odd people walking around with signs saying “Excuse Me” and “Hello”. This was part of a National Park campaign to encourage walkers to be politer to each other, something many didn’t think was a problem in the first place.
The Share the Path initiative “aims to reduce the risk of confrontations before they start happening” and involved spending a significant amount of money, £11,500 to be exact, to create a two-minute spoof video about a rambler called George and his dog Dean, which sees their walk through the park interrupted by chats with other users such as a bird-watcher. A further £8,000 was spent on recruiting Street Teams to wave Hello signs at people and to hand out postcards with various greetings to walkers and cyclists. In case you forget the word ‘hello’, obviously. Overall the campaign has cost taxpayers £35,000 and people are unhappy. Mainly because, as mentioned earlier, politeness, or lack of it, has never been an issue. According to the Hampshire Chronicle, there have been “virtually no cases of bad behaviour since being given national park status six years ago” and the Telegraph reports that national park staff themselves admitted “incidents of conflicts or actual collisions between path users are very rare, and courteous and friendly interactions are the norm”
Natalie Leal is a Sussex Rambler and writes for Seven Days magazine, she told The Argus “It’s a bit like a storyline from TV show The Thick of It. It seems a waste as I’m sure that the money could have been put to good use elsewhere – on conservation or promoting cycling for instance” However, many walkers are happy with the campaign, with one man saying “I don’t think it is an abuse of money but there’s no dog waste bins, for instance, so there are other things they could prioritise”
The South Downs National Park Authority chief executive has defended the campaign, saying that it was not exclusively about saying hello but also about promoting the park. The South Downs has 46 million visits a year and is much loved by everyone, but as we have heard, there are probably better things they could be spending their money on. If I’m being honest, I’d rather be ignored than step in dog poo. What do you think? Do you think it was a waste of money?
feature image: mirabelka szuszu via the Creative Commons license