About the Millennium Time Trail

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.

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.

Here’s a poem by the Time Trail’s designer, Charlie Harrow, by way of introduction:

Around the kingdom and across the seas
Stand mileposts of iron with symbols to tease.
It’s no race against time, our TIME TRAIL quest,
With Treasures for all who succeed in the test.

Made neither from silver, diamonds nor gold,
But elements, common and ancient and old.
Either by foot or your bike wheels spinning,
Finding time to find Time is just the beginning.

Brass rub the designs of triangles and squares,
And pentagons too, with a few other spares.
Claim Treasures to solidify time well spent,
perhaps, what Time actually meant.

Four dimensional jigsaws found in groups of five,
A sixth from them all makes it the Time of Our Lives.
Layers upon layers, a rainbow coded rhyme,
In a universe of stars we join up space and time.

The Millennium Time Trail works out for all to see
That Time in itself is still Time’s mystery.

Good Luck! Time to Go!

The 4 post designs

There are four different designs from four artists, one from each country of the UK, though all posts can be found in all four countries.

“Fossil Tree” by John Mills (England)

The first post to be commissioned was designed by John Mills, and his piece was entitled The Fossil Tree.

Geograph 3166768 by eswales

(Image: © Copyright eswales and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.)

The post takes the form of an abstract tree, inspired by Sigillaria, an extinct tree-like plant with a tall, occasionally forked trunk, whose fossils are commonly found in Carboniferous deposits (about 270 million years ago). The post features imagery of fossils depicting the passage of time from early primitive creatures to the ultimate demise of fossil fuel driven technology.

“The Cockerel” by Iain McColl (Scotland)

The Scottish sculptor Iain McColl designed the second post, The Cockerel. The influences behind this one are Miro’s “The Fork” and Branusci’s “The Cock”.

Geograph 917739 by Lairich Rig

(Image: © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.)

This design has additional space that has been left for partners to cast their own short message.

“Rowe Type” by Andrew Rowe (Wales)

The design by Welsh artist, Andrew Rowe, is based upon the nautical and industrial heritage of his native Swansea and can have up to four directional fingers.

Geograph 3273507 by eswales

(Image: © Copyright eswales and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.)

“Tracks” by David Dudgeon (Northern Ireland)

Designed by Belfast artist David Dudgeon, the main design 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 design

(Image: © Copyright William Murphy on Flickr and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.)


7 responses to “About the Millennium Time Trail

  1. cosmoblake

    Hi all,
    I’m the milepost and artworks officer for Sustrans Scotland. A new position created to renovate and refurbish the mileposts and artwork across Scotland. I realised that I should know more about the ‘Time Trail’ and while researching online I came across this blog! Absolutely thrilled that there are folk out there trying to revive the hidden secrets of these! I was planning on doing similar and seeing if there are complete sets I can direct people towards. And before you ask, I don’t know the answers! I do, however, know the location of (almost) all the mileposts in Scotland and have photos of most of them. The discs are not very visible in the photos though and so they would still need to be visited (I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun!). If there’s anything I can help you with then do let me know, I might be able to fill some gaps. Otherwise I am keen to see how your search unfolds. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • pb

      Hi Cosmo! How nice to get your comment! It was only in July that I started to research the trail, and it was interesting — and surprising — to see how ‘cold’ the trail had become since 2001.

      You can find most of the locations of the mileposts here:


      – the Scotland ones haven’t all been geotagged, so that would be a nice job for you! 🙂

      Anything you can contribute (photos of disks, information from your archives, gifts and freebies … 🙂 ) would be great.

      Enjoy your new job!




  2. cosmoblake

    Hi Pete

    It’s amazing how little is known about it, even in the office with members of staff who have been here since the turn of the century and before! Even our archives are empty of any information, all I have is one of the original leaflets. Makes it all the more interesting that so few people have gone through the process. I intend to try making the 3D models that have been mentioned. It looks like it should be fairly simple and fun.

    I’ve recently updated our milepost page for Scotland: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/scotland/national-cycle-network/about-network/millenium-mileposts with some info on what we’re up to if you’re interested. Not related to the time discs, however if I find some complete sets I could put it on here to try to revive it further! People do like a good treasure hunt and clearly Charlie Harrow put an impressive amount of thought and effort in these discs! I keep getting distracted at work deciphering the pictures :).

    Have you mainly been sourcing the photos from the internet or have you been out to some of them yourself? I’m just interested how it will work now with the development of the digital age and digital sharing of information.

    I will have a think about making the Scottish locations available without geotagging them individually.



  3. pb

    Hi Cosmo! I’ve found a dozen or so disks hereabouts, some duplicates, and the rest on the web. I need to find about 16 more, though. Good photos would be great if you have some!


  4. cosmoblake

    One of my colleagues rescued some information and record cards from being binned a few years ago when we changed offices. I’ve scanned these and have compiled them together. This might help you, there is some useful information and an entire booklet just on the Time Treasure 4 series!
    Would you be interested in me sending these to you? I can email them (they are PDFs).
    Also, if you let me know which types of disc the remaining 16 are that you need I’ll have a look to see if I have them. There’s a record card in one of these booklets where you can tick off which ones you have which might be useful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I have photos of all the discs (51) but a few aren’t great quality.


  6. The image captures Platonic solids and their related themes very well.

    Liked by 1 person

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