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Follow the brown signs

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A little bit about me and my brown sign project

I get really excited when I see a brown signThis is me, Amanda Hone, the girl behind the signs. Over the last few years I’ve become a little bit obsessed with brown tourist signs, but my guilty pleasure of “brown signing” really started at uni. Whenever I was bored it became a bit of thing for me to jump in the car, drive in a random direction and when I spotted a brown sign I’d follow it and visit wherever I ended up, just for fun. I found myself at places I wouldn’t ever have thought of going to before; an otter and owl sanctuary, The National Motoring Museum, an ornate Indian maharajah’s well in the middle of a country village and heading underground into Cheddar’s caves, to name just a few of the early delights. After uni I did a fair amount of jobs I didn’t like (including one as a travelling saleswoman when I spent many hours I should have been on the job veering off roads and into brown signed attractions), I travelled around the world and studied some more, all the while keeping up my brown signing (even in China, I’m not even joking)…

Chinese brown sign

But my silly pastime turned truly serious in 2008 when, post MSc qualification in Occupational Psychology, I was unemployed and lacking direction (oh the irony). Instead of getting depressed I decided that saving money and supporting myself whilst I looked for a job was far too dull and responsible, so instead I set off on a big trip doing what I loved the very best, discovering the brown signed attractions of Britain and blogging about everywhere I went. My plan was to visit at least one attraction and facility of each of the 93 types (check them all out here) but along the way it soon dawned on me that I was doing much more than just taking pictures of different symbols on signs, writing anecdotes about my visits and ticking them off my list. Every one I visited told me it’s own unique story and everywhere I went there were people and passions that were inspiring, meaningful and important. I found myself learning more about Britain and the British people than I ever had in any lessons at school, and more importantly I was learning in the best way possible, through talking and engaging with the people and places myself. (I sometimes find it hard to articulate why I do what I do but luckily a very lovely journalist interviewed me a while ago and wrote a very nice article about me, read it here if you’re interested).

What saddens me is that Britons now rate shopping as their favourite pastime. This dull characterless boring pursuit takes precedence over discovery, spontaneity and learning. It provides no insight into the world around us and actively dulls the desire to engage in and become part of our culture, history and heritage. On my travels along the Brown Sign Way though I realised that all is not lost, there are so many people out there who care about lots of very different things, who aren’t in it for the money and want to tell us, the general public, about the things that are important to them, why they should be important to us too (whether we know it or not!) and are totally dedicated to keeping them alive. And I heaved a massive sigh of relief.

I use brown signing as an antidote to a modern chaotic information overloaded world that scares me. It has enriched my life massively, brought me a deeper understanding of how important it is to properly engage with our surroundings and it’s clear to me now that paying attention to the easily ignored and unnoticed things all around us is the heart of what really matters. For anyone who needs more convincing I say randomly turn off the road when you see a brown sign, you’ll discover something new and I guarantee you won’t regret it.

My very good friend Rob Archer, Occupational Psychologist and encourager-of-following-one’s-dreams-extraordinaire, pin pointed very accurately my love of visiting brown signed attractions, here’s what he had to say… “You feel drawn to the isolated, the unusual, the quirky, the defiant and meaningful. You empathise with the awkward, the courageous, the outsider, the passionate, the geeky and the obsessed. You side with the lonely, the ignored, the forgotten and the underestimated. This, to me seems to be nearer the heart of why you love brown signs. You are a brown sign”.

Spot. On.