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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Making a splash at Diana fountain
By Tom Geoghegan, Hyde Park
BBC News Online

This time there was no crowd and no ceremony, just new rules.

Only a dozen people queued in the morning sunshine for the reopening of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London's Hyde Park.

The Ellam family
The law-abiding Ellams - sitting yes, walking no....
They were kept at bay by new fences and six supervising staff - two of the measures introduced after three accidents last month, when thousands descended on the site.

Signs were also placed prominently around the area to warn paddlers they could not run or walk in the water.

But these restrictions were welcomed by most of Friday's visitors, who arrived in increasing numbers after a low-key opening.

Angela Ellam, 40, from Nottinghamshire, had brought her daughter Jodie, 10, and son Connor, eight.

She said: "Things have to be safe. It might disappoint some people that they can't go absolutely mad and run and jump and play as much.

Sergio Barros
Site supervisors monitor behaviour
"But most people enjoy it for what it is and my children really like it. We couldn't resist coming to have a look."

Jodie, splashing her feet in the water, added: "I like everything about it."

The gates around the site performed an added function of providing no escape for visitors from the hordes of journalists searching for interviews or a photo-opportunity.

"My first impression? There's a lot of camera crews here," said one tourist.

John Loughrey, clad in a Union Jack outfit, caused a media stampede when he became the first to break the new rules by walking through the fountain, clutching the roses he laid for the princess.

Public safety

The six supervisors, who moved discreetly to curb this act of defiance, have cost the Royal Parks Agency 100,000, bumping up the first year's running costs to 140,000.

But agency spokesman Theo Moore said the fences and supervisors could be a temporary measure if visitors were safe.

He said: "The plan is to look how the crowds respond over the next nine months.

FOUNTAIN CHANGES
Sign
Six supervisors enforce the rules
Warning signs
Extra grip installed at one end
Fencing to limit access at busy times
"We're asking people not to walk or run in the water and we hope they get used to it."

The supervisors are trained in first aid and they were anything but a forbidding presence on their first day in the job, as they chatted to visitors.

One of them, Sergio Barros, 28, said: "I make sure the public are safe all the time.

"We don't have powers to throw anyone out. If we see anyone misbehaving, I tell them to calm down or I get the Royal Parks Police.

"Sometimes it's just questions I get, like where's Knightsbridge, or people ask about Diana. It's all about talking to people."

But not everyone was impressed. Terry Hutt, 69, from Essex, said the 3.6m could have been better spent on a charity of Diana's liking, rather than a poor design.

"I predicted this would happen when it opened, because within minutes grown-ups and children were slipping around."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"Now there are fences and signs and security guards"



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