Where is England’s steepest street? We asked readers to name the thigh-burning inclines that fill their hearts with terror – and enlisted Ordnance Survey to check the results.
For those of a certain age, this charming cobbled climb brings back memories of 1970s television, the strains of Dvorak’s New World Symphony and – of course – bread.
Gold Hill, in Shaftesbury, Dorset, is still known to many as Hovis Hill, as a result of the 1973 Ridley Scott advert which brought its beautiful backdrop to national attention.
With an incline of 16.09, it certainly poses a challenge to tourists and residents alike.
Maureen Loveday, who has lived here for more than 30 years, said she believed the daily climb explained the longevity of some of her neighbours.
“I walk up it every day and it certainly helps to keep me fit,” said the 68-year-old. “There are plenty of residents on the street who have lived into their 90s.”
But there are some downsides: “A lady once dropped her handbag at the top after heavy snowfall and it slid right down the hill.”
Steeped in nostalgia, the scenic location was actually the second choice for the famous commercial, according to Janet Swiss who works at Gold Hill Museum.
“They originally wanted to use a hill in Yorkshire but they went to do some filming and it was very grey and wet and windy,” she said. “They came to Gold Hill and it was bright sunshine.”
Mrs Swiss weeds the cobbles twice a year and claims she finds it “quite addictive”.
It might lack the instant recognition factor of its more glamorous counterpart, but the accurately – if unimaginatively – named passage of Steep Hill in Lincoln’s medieval centre can boast an incline that – just – outstrips Gold Hill.
Its daunting 16.12 gradient does not put off the puffing tourists, many of whom meander gently past the shops, pubs and cafes on The Strait before making their handrail-assisted ascent.
Lucy Barnard, who runs a gift shop near the top, said: “Lots of people like to pop into my shop and take a breather because I’m just after the steepest part of the hill.”
Of course, it’s much easier going back down – particularly when there’s a 100m (328ft) water slide in place.
A 45-mile dash westwards – for the hardy, perhaps a journey to be made by bicycle – brings this steady climb up England’s most daunting inclines to the city of seven hills.
We are not talking about Rome, but of course Sheffield.
Many people believe Jenkin Road – which featured in the 2014 Tour de France route – is Sheffield’s steepest, but its 11.02 gradient is actually puny compared to nearby Blake Street‘s sinew-straining 16.6.
The fittingly named Olivia Blake, who moved here a year ago, said she had already come to the aid of three or four people whose cars had become stuck on the snow-covered hill.
“Once a parked car rolled down the hill and into the railings on the other side,” she said.
This street’s greatest claim to fame is its appearance in the 1997 film The Full Monty, where the striptease act members walk up the hill in search of a choreographer.
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
But the streets of Sheffield have nothing on our next stop, the first of these terrifying hills to break through the vertigo-inducing 17 barrier.
The precipitous Old Wyche Road climbs up the eastern slopes of the Malvern Hills to the Wyche Cutting – a winding path thought to have once formed part of an Iron Age salt route.
It’s claimed locally that to the east the next highest hills are the Urals in Russia, and these are blamed for the cold winds that sometimes whistle through the trees.
Sarah Smith, 42, has lived here on this 17.54 slope for eight years and says she feels “very lucky”.
“We’ve got fantastic views of all the Malvern Hills and valleys. It doesn’t matter how often you walk up this hill, it’s always tiring.
“You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a good handbrake.
“In the snow we come down here in our sledges which you can get quite fast at. You’ve earned a pint when you get to the top.”
But the most lung-bursting of these English slopes is to be found down the M5, in Bristol’s aptly named Totterdown district.
The inhabitants of Vale Street, who have a near 22 gradient to contend with, have every right to look down on the competition.
Helen Loney, who has lived here for 15 years, said it was “most famous” for its Easter Sunday egg-rolling contest.
“There’s quite a large crowd that stand and throw hard-boiled eggs down the hill,” she said. “It’s always competitive and really good fun.”
But the spring in her step disappears in the height of winter. “Snow is a right pain,” said Mrs Loney. “If you leave your car on the hill it’s stuck there until the snow goes.”
She said the slope, which has steps and handrails at the bottom and top, had attracted a few daredevils.
“Up and down we’ve had skiers, we had a unicyclist, lots of runners come and train here.
“Pushing a double buggy up was a bit tricky for me but I’ve never been so fit in my life.”
- Additional reporting by Sue Paz, Jerry Chester, Grace Parnell and David McKenna.
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