Ballycastle - Millenium Signpost
Ballycastle - Millenium Signpost

The Magic Signposts – Follow the National Cycle Network Time Trail


This is a wonderful idea, but how did they get funding! A mixture of magic and the great outdoors produced a living breathing enigma which stretched across all of the UK, and even part of the Republic linking up to 1000 mileposts together in a cryptic puzzle.  Most of these mileposts installed in the early years of the millenium are still standing though there is a need to maintain the network a bit better.

Best of all, you enter this puzzle by accidentally stumbling upon your first odd looking milepost as I did in Ballycastle in Antrim. I just presumed it was an odd piece of public art. The Time Trail is a set of codes and puzzles placed along the National Cycle Network (NCN), the national cycling route network of the United Kingdom. The NCN was established to encourage cycling throughout Britain. It was created by the charity Sustrans who were aided by a £42.5 million National Lottery grant.

Fossil Tree milepost, Netham Park
Fossil Tree by John Mills – Photo by Derek Harper on

One thousand “Millennium Mileposts” made from cast iron were funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark the creation of the National Cycle Network, and these are found along the NCN routes throughout the UK. there are four different types:

  • “Fossil Tree” (designed by John Mills) – The post takes the form of an abstract tree with relief imagery of fossils depicting the passage of time from early primitive creatures to the ultimate demise of fossil fuel driven technology
  • “The Cockerel” (designed by Iain McColl) – The influences behind this one are Miro’s “The Fork” and Branusci’s “The Cock”. This design has additional space that has been left for partners to cast their own short message.
  • “Rowe Type” (designed by Andrew Rowe) – based upon the nautical and industrial heritage of his native Swansea and can have up to four directional fingers.
  • “Tracks” (designed by David Dudgeon) – The main design on the post shows the tracks made in the landscape by cyclists. This is complemented by a piece of text exploring sensations and observations one makes whilst travelling through various environments
“Tracks” (designed by David Dudgeon) – Photo from William Murphy

The puzzle consists of a set of coded disks placed on one thousand “Millennium Mileposts” made from cast iron. These were funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark the creation of the National Cycle Network, and are distributed along the NCN routes throughout the UK. They’re designed to mark the way rather like mediaeval stone crosses. There are 50 or so unique disks, and copies are placed in every region of the network.

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