REMINDERS not to litter or keep off the grass may be commonplace but a more mischievous sign has left boat owners smiling at Abingdon Lock.

The notice, which went up last week, tells visitors that: “The cooking of roast dinners, bacon, egg or sausage sandwiches, is prohibited whilst in this lock. Please pass all such items to lock staff for safe disposal.”

The oddly specific warning was spotted by Carol Tidy-Stevens, who lives on a boat with her husband and regularly travels along the waterway.

She said: “We’re moored just above the lock but we pass by all the time. When we went past and found it there I found it really amusing.

“The two lock keepers, Richard and Frank, are a pair of characters and I will often bring them some spare chilli con carne.”

Herald Series: The sign

The letting agent added: “I saw Frank, who volunteers, when I was coming back from the shops and asked him if he wanted the food now or after I’d turned it into a roast. He said he’d wait.”

Lock keeper Richard Hawkins revealed it was his idea to put up the food-based sign, saying: “It’s something I’ve fancied doing for a while to give people a bit of a chuckle and smile as they go past.

“It’s been a bit of a running joke that if we come across someone with sandwiches we say there’s a bylaw that they have to give some to us.”

He said the response had so far been positive but he had yet to come across anyone who had taken the sign seriously, adding: “Maybe once we get into spring and summer we’ll be more successful.”

It’s hard to deny that he and 77-year-old assistant keeper Frank Jordan are worth a free roast every now and again.

They were presented with the British Marine Inland Boating association’s Lock Keeper of the Year award in August.

The title, awarded by the group’s Hotel Boat section, aims to champion the most welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable keepers in the country.

It was in recognition of Mr Hawkins’ heroics, as he has made a habit of rescuing those who fall foul of the Thames.

In April 2016, he was pottering around his house, which is at the lock, when he heard cries for help.

Rushing to the window he saw three men flailing in the water next to an upturned rowing boat.

He threw rope to the men and hauled them out before ringing an ambulance, only for a fourth man who had hauled himself out separately to collapse and go into cardiac arrest.

Mr Hawkins started giving CPR until paramedics arrived.

The 29-year-old, who has worked at Abingdon Lock for almost six year years, also rescued two people during the February 2014 floods across Oxfordshire.