A NATIONAL Park’s decision to spend public money on a campaign to encourage walkers to be more polite has been branded a waste.

The Department of Transport gave park bosses £35,000 to promote the park as an especially friendly place to visit.

The South Downs National Park Authority paid a PR company which specialises in “nudge advertising” and a video was filmed for the campaign.

At Easter ‘greeters’ were also deployed carrying signs saying “Excuse Me” and “Hello” to sites across the park including Ditchling Beacon.

Natalie Leal, a keen Sussex rambler who writes for The Argus’s Seven Days magazine, said: “Spending £35,000 on a campaign to promote polite and friendly behaviour does seem patronising, especially as the people behind it acknowledged it was never a problem in the first place.

“It’s a bit like a storyline from TV show The Thick of It

“It seems a waste as I’m sure that the money could have been put to good use elsewhere - on conservation or promoting cycling for instance.”

But walkers interviewed on the South Downs yesterday morning told The Argus that they were largely happy with the park authority’s Share The Path campaign.

Nigel Higson, 59, from Brighton, said: “I don’t think it is an abuse of money but there’s no dog waste bins, for instance, so there are other things they could prioritise.”

Brighton-born Janet Maguire, 55, said of the campaign: “That’s something that I think is a good idea because so many people don’t bother.”

Yesterday we sent a reporter to Devil's Dyke to find out whether walkers did indeed greet strangers.

Over two hours seven walkers said “hello” or “good morning” and a further three made eye contact, smiled, or nodded.

Only one pair of walkers, who were transfixed by a passing light aircraft as he passed, did not acknowledge him.

Trevor Beattie, South Downs National Park Authority chief executive, said the campaign was not exclusively about saying hello but about promoting the park.

He said that the Easter greeters gave out information about the best beauty spots to visit.

He said: "Our big aim is to widen the range of people who have access to the countryside.

"I think the South Downs is a friendly and welcoming place but it’s all about encouraging good behaviour.”

He said that he felt recent media coverage had misrepresented the campaign, but added that the coverage was helping the campaign achieve its aim of popularising the park, which is the most visited in the UK.