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Monday, June 7, 2010

Sculpture, Treasure Hunt, Geology and Cycling: John Mills' Milepost

A Milepost from the Millenium Time Trail.

There are thousands of these mysteryous geologic sculptures throughout the United Kingdom. What are they precisely? From a press release of the Royal bank of Scotland:

"A puzzling treasure hunt with a secret code to crack and a unique prize for those who can solve the riddle. That is how the transport charity Sustrans describes the Millennium Time Trail. It is a new feature of the National Cycle Network which is officially launched today at 9.00am on March 20th 2001, the Spring Equinox, at 'The Home of Time', the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
Each milepost has a Time Trail disc bearing symbols and hieroglyphics bolted into it. By taking rubbings of these discs it is possible to gains clues to help decipher the code. There are several layers to uncover to reach the solution and a special Ultimate Prize for those who can work it out. For many, especially children and families, the fun will be in just getting out on the Network to find the mileposts and discs."

There are four different types of Mileposts, each depicting a different theme; intriguingly, the first was designed by the artist John Mills and is called 'The Fossil Tree'. The design is inspired to Sigillaria, an extinct tree-like plant, with a tall, occasionally forked trunk. Its fossils are commonly found in Carboniferous deposits (about 270 millions of years ago). Mills' sculpture presents relief imagery of fossils depicting the passage of time from Cambrian to the ultimate demise of fossil fuel driven technology.
A Carboniferous landscape by Walter Myers. Note the forked trees on the background: they are Sigillaria, the fossil tree that inspired John Mills!

As anticipated, the Mileposts posts are spread throughout the United Kingdom and make up a kind of treasure hunt on bicycles, relating to the ubiquitous theme of Time. You can take rubbings of the Time Trail discs (place a sheet of paper over them and rub all over with a wax crayon or pencil), keep a record of your journey and apply to Sustrans for special souvenirs called Time Treasures. There are 1,000 cast-iron Millennium Mileposts, donated by The Royal Bank of Scotland, along the UK's National Cycle Network!

Some of the 'Fossil Tree' Mileposts have been colored by local communities. The Mileposts have been promoted by Sustrans (a British charity which promotes sustainable transport) and the Royal bank of Scotland.