Brown sign who, what, how, when, wheres
It is not actually known how many brown tourist signs there are now in the UK since management and administration of them no longer lies with a central authority (it was once The British Tourist Board, but since it became VisitBritain this responsibility was relinquished and local councils and The Highways Agency now control which attractions and facilities qualify), this brown sign obsessed lady, however, estimates that there must be tens of thousands of them.
In order to get a brown tourist sign attractions and facilities must first apply to their local council or Highways Agency (depending on whether the signs will appear on local roads or bigger trunk roads) and prove that they provide some sort of interest for the tourist. Luckily for us visitors the rules are not terribly stringent, which means that brown signs can point the way to such joys as paperweight museums, gnome gardens and seal sanctuaries as well as the types of attraction that can be categorised like theme parks, cathedrals and historic houses (check out the 93 symbols page on this blog for the full list). Technically then a brown sign destination is "a permanently established attraction or facility which attracts or is used by visitors to an area and which is open to the public without prior booking during its normal opening hours" (as stated on the Highways Agency website).
For reasons I do not fully understand brown signs are not really used as a way of discovering an area. People usually follow them to get to a destination they already know they're going to, but I say why don't we start using them to inspire us or even decide our day out for us? There are so many all over Britain's roads that you can hardly drive for 5 minutes without seeing one. Their wide ranging and varied nature means you could happen upon a whole host of different things to see and do. So next time you're out driving why not pull off the road and follow the brown sign?
You could find yourself trying a local ale in a 16th century pub, throwing your own jug in a pottery, watching owls flying in a bird of prey show, rubbing a brass of St George and the Dragon, spotting rare birds in a nature reserve, learning about Britain's impressive seafaring history at a historic dockyard, climbing all the stairs to the top of a lonely windswept lighthouse, getting a strike 10 pin bowling, tasting fruity English wine at a vineyard or marvelling at an industrial revolution bridge that helped change the face of the modern world... the list goes on and on an on, it's all out there waiting to be discovered, and those little brown signs are just itching to show you the way, don't fight it, go with them...