SEEING an elephant, giraffe or kangaroo at Marlow lock would be extremely surprising to put it mildly.

Yet, the pleasant experience of watching boats go by has become more like peering through gates at a zoo, according to Marlow National Trust Chairman Chris Elam.

The disgruntled resident has blasted unsightly new railings at the site.

The green metal safety fencing, erected by the Environment Agency, has been criticised for spoiling the beauty spot.

The agency said there had been 'near misses' involving children and it was a measure to prevent any serious harm occurring.

But Mrs Elam believes the railings are unnecessary and now hamper those wishing to witness one of the town's traditional and pleasant sights.

She told the Free Press: "Instead of being able to sit on a bench and watch the boats pass through the lock as lots of people, including visitors to Marlow do, now we have to peer through bars as though at a zoo.

"Although on the face of it an understandable reaction, considering that a child could fall in the river at any point, it is rather a pity that a favourite spot for relaxation, sitting and contemplation is now spoilt by having to sit behind far from beautiful bars."

She questioned to what extent the railing will protect people.

Mrs Elam, of Gossmore Walk, said: "In my opinion it is just as easy to fall in the river from the slippery banks or for a child to ride into the river on their bike or scooter as it is to fall in to the lock."

Marlow Free Press reader Tom Curtis agreed with Mrs Elam.

He said: "The new railings at Marlow Lock are a disgrace. We have had a lock in Marlow since 1773 and despite there being no children falling in the officials have now erected a complete eyesore.

"Will they now proceed to fence in the rest of the river? This is a tragic despoilation of a favourite Marlow beauty spot. Shameful."

EA spokesman Michelle Southby said: "It's unfortunate and we recognise it will take a whole to get used to the railings but it's better to have them and prevent an accident.

"There's been a few near misses but we haven't actually had a child in the lock.

"There's a pathway over the bridge which children tend to run over and on the other side there's a steep bank.

"Children being children, they don't stop. Quite often they'll tumble and if they go down the bank the chances are they'll go in the lock.

"The railings have gone up to stop that happening. This has been on the schedule for about four years."