Dunedin loses steepest street title

Dunedin's Baldwin St is no longer the world's steepest street, but being second in the world is still a pretty good achievement - just ask the Black Caps.

Ffordd Pen Llech, a street in the North Wales town of Harlech, was this morning officially awarded the title of World's Steepest Street on the Guinness World Records website.

The Welsh street has a gradient of 1:2.67 (37.45% stretch over fall), meaning those travelling on the street go 1m up or down for every 2.67m travelled horizontally, Guinness said.

That beat the record held by Baldwin St, in Dunedin, which has a ratio of 1:2.86.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan was philosophical about the loss of the title when contacted this morning.

He said Baldwin St had been pipped by Ffordd Pen Llech over a 10m section, despite being a dual carriageway road - unlike its Welsh rival - and being more accessible to tourists.

He expected some drop-off in visitor numbers, and a consequential economic impact on Dunedin, but doubted it would be significant.

And, given the BlackCaps' result at Lord's in London on Monday morning (NZ time), coming second to a United Kingdom rival was not to be sneezed at, he believed.

A Christchurch tour operator plans to continue taking a 12-seater vehicle up Baldwin St, despite...
Baldwin St is no longer the steepest street in the world. Photo: Peter McIntosh

"It's still the steepest street in the southern hemisphere, and being second in the world is still a pretty good achievement as we all know.

"It's still a place I think a lot of people want to come and visit, because it has its own stories that go with it, which is pretty neat.''

He expected some larger tour operators might respond by crossing Baldwin St off their itineraries, but many more people - residents, domestic tourists and international visitors alike - would still "want to have a walk up it''.

It might be a blessing in disguise for some residents fed up with crowds of visitors, trampled gardens and bad driving decisions on the street, but only during peak times, he believed.

"I think they're still going to get quite a few people that are wanting to go and have a look at it,'' he said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull was also philosophical about the decision.

In a statement this morning, he said Dunedin still had a "wonderful range of visitor attractions and we think plenty of people will still visit Baldwin St as part of their Dunedin experience''.

"The street certainly hasn't got any less steep as a result of the decision.

"The DCC will seek some advice on how to reference the change, but it may be as simple as altering the wording from the world's steepest street to the southern hemisphere's steepest street."

Co-administrators Gwyn Headley and Sarah Badham with the Guinness World Records certificate for...
Co-administrators Gwyn Headley and Sarah Badham with the Guinness World Records certificate for Ffordd Pen Llech as the World’s Steepest Street. Photo: Supplied

Welsh village declared winner

In a statement confirming the Guinness title was headed to Wales, the exhausted residents of Harlech were said to be "jubilant''.

Guinness World Records editor in chief Craig Glenday said the Harlech community had shown "sheer will-power'' to earn Ffordd Pen Llech the title.

"We know the anticipation has been building for quite some time now and I'm pleased to see the outcome has brought such joy to the residents.

"I hope Harlech enjoys the celebrations and that the new title brings lots of people to the beautiful town, to experience the worlds steepest street for themselves!''

Gwyn Headley, whose blog in August last year kicked off the bid application, said the application process was "a lot tougher than we thought''.

"Guinness World Records was ultra-specific in the criteria demanded for it to qualify as the steepest street in the world, and although we were confident in meeting or exceeding nine of them, we were worried about the tenth.''

Guinness World Records required a blueprint of the street, but Harlech had to justify its absence because the street has been there for at least 1000 years and blueprints only dated back to 1842.

But Mr McGowan said, when it came to Dunedin's Welsh rivals, there were no hard feelings.

"Everybody wants a badge.

"We've got much better and bigger things that we need to worry about than whether we've got the steepest street, to be quite honest.''

University of Otago marketing expert Dr Andrea Insch said tourists would still be drawn to the street, but advertising strategies might need a shake-up.

"I think maybe introducing visitors to other interesting new developments happening in the city.

Ffordd Pen Llech in Herlech, Wales. Photo: Supplied
Ffordd Pen Llech in Herlech, Wales. Photo: Supplied

"Our art tours and heritage tours could perhaps be given more emphasis.

For more than 30 years Dunedin has basked in the glory of being home to the world’s steepest street. It has beaten numerous challenges and accusations of incorrect measurements, until the challenge from the Welsh Street.

A claim in 2016 that St Mary's Hill in Chester was steeper was dismissed by Guinness because it is inaccessible to vehicles.

Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie said Baldwin Street would remain a tourist attraction.

Mr Christie said regardless of records, Baldwin Street "is an iconic street for people to visit".

Guinness World Records guidelines state that to be eligible for the steepest-street record, the road must be open to both pedestrians and motorised traffic.

It is also based on the maximum gradient over a ten metre span, comparing the vertical rise to the horizontal distance.

A sign warns the Welsh road is unsuitable for motorists and its steepest part only allows traffic to travel uphill.

A sign gives a slope reading of 40%, but it is normal practice for United Kingdom highway authorities to round off gradients to avoid confusion.

A sign at the top of Pen Ffordd Llech in Harlech, Wales, warns drivers of a slope of 40 per cent ...
A sign at the top of Pen Ffordd Llech in Harlech, Wales, warns drivers of a slope of 40 per cent - rounded up from the true figure of 36.6 per cent.

"So that piqued my curiosity and I looked up the steepest street in the world and found it was yours in Dunedin."

However, when Headley compared the figures for the two streets it showed the Welsh one was steeper so he got in touch with Guinness World Records.

How Baldwin St got its title

Tim Miller last week investigated how the street came to be officially recognised as the steepest, and what might happen if loses the top spot.

It was a quiet day in the Dunedin newsroom when broadcaster and journalist Jim Mora asked the city council what was the steepest street in the city.

"I think I asked around and people mostly said View St and I thought `yeah, that's quite steep but some of the ones up North East Valley must be steeper'."

After Baldwin St was confirmed as the city's steepest with a gradient of 35%, he then set about getting the street officially recognised.

"I wrote to the Guinness Book of Records and started a correspondence because the two steepest streets in the world then were both in San Francisco, but Baldwin was quite clearly steeper."

A three-bedroom house is hauled up Baldwin St in 1993; in 1988 Iain Clark became the first person...
A three-bedroom house is hauled up Baldwin St in 1993; in 1988 Iain Clark became the first person to roller-skate up the street; The Guinness Book of Records co-founder Norris McWhirter inspects the steepness in 1993; after giving up smoking, Dunedin...

On April 9, 1985 a story ran on the South Tonight proclaiming Baldwin to be both Dunedin's and the world's steepest residential street.

By 1987 the street was officially recognised in the records books, and the rest is history.

If the Welsh were to wrest the title away, Mr Mora says he will be slightly miffed but still "sporting".

"Because they may have a castle that's got antiquity but this tradition in Dunedin has a bit of antiquity now, and it would be a shame to have it overthrown after all these years."

A few years after the story first aired, longtime residents Sam and Coleen Williamson moved into their new home at the bottom of the street.

"It had not long been done when we moved in here, but nobody really took any notice of it then."

Baldwin St is now one of the "must see" attractions in Dunedin, but the growing number of tourists has not always mixed well with the residential nature of the street.

The Williamsons have had their fair share of campervans parked over their driveway or tourists walking over their flowerbeds, and more than once have had to repair their brick fence after someone has accidentally backed into it while performing a U-turn.

There would not be too many tears shed if the title shifts to the northern hemisphere, Mr Williamson said.

"It will be nice to be a bit quieter out the front there - it might help stop the obstruction of people parking over our driveway and that sort of stuff."

Even in the middle of the tourism off-season, Baldwin St was full of selfie-taking tourists and tour groups taking up the whole width of the street when the Otago Daily Times visited on Thursday.

Only a handful of tourists knew about the impending decision, but most said it would still have been on their list of sights to see in Dunedin.

With NZME

Comments

View all

Wow how sad for Dunedin, I'm glad I walked up it and got the certificate, First Cadburys now Baldwin Street two great icons of Dunedin, what next David Cull as Mayor now that will be a sad day. I guess Dunedin still has Cull's golden ticket for employment Gigatown NZ fastest internet. But I guess you could say Baldwin is the worlds steepest straightest Street (WSSS)

Surely the DCC can afford to build a new "steepest street" ...

I'm sure the ratepayers of Dunedin would give that idea the same level of support as they have to the cycle lanes, harbour horror, and new traffic islands that cannot be negotiated without damaging your vehicle or having to replace the island itself.

... and what about the Jaffa race ??? Cadburys' will lose out badly on that one, they may even have to close down and move to Oz !!

Dunedin is doomed :-(

Hahahaha, the Council couldn't care less. Just another nail in the Dunedin coffin. When do we start culling the Royal Albatross'.

The Council are completely out of touch with what a modern city, progressive city and tourism actually means.

Can someone explain to me how this is the councils fault?
What could it have done to stop this happening? Absolutely nothing is what.
They, along with other marketing entities, actually spent a lot of time and money over the years trying to promote the street as a tourist destination, and a point of difference from other cities. You think the jaffa race was organised by Cadbury? It wasn't, it was the events team at council that kept that going, with Cadbury as a sponsor as part of chocolate week. Who do you think provided the new toilets across the road? Cadbury?
No, it was you and I, through the Council.
Sure, it's a shame that Dunedin can't claim to have the steepest street any more, but that's life.
No albatross died as a result of this change.

Not Councils fault at all, Baldwin St is the worlds steepest straightest Street (BSWSSS) - 9010 NZ it is a sad day because it was something that Dunedin had going for it,

Just need to correct your statement about the council and the jaffa race.

The race has ALWAYS been organised and funded by Cadbury. The council provided some financial support in the race's early history but the council chose not to resource the event, in any form, in recent years.

The jaffa race was one of over 50 events scheduled during the week long Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival that one woman in particular managed; a woman who worked for Cadbury for over 14 years.

If it weren't for the dedication and commitment of this woman and the staff of the factory, the entire carnival event which raised millions in direct economic benefit for Dunedin and hundreds of thousands for associated charities of the event, would have ended long before it did.

Don't worry folks, i've already booked tickets to fly over to North Wales and i'm going to dig up the whole street and place it back on a less steep hill so that we get our title back. :)

Save your money noname. I'm sure council are meeting urgently to decide the delegation who will fly business class to "gift" the old street signs of Baldwin Street.

"Guinness World Records guidelines state that to be eligible for the steepest-street record, the road must be open to both pedestrians and motorised traffic".

Yet

"A sign warns the Welsh road is unsuitable for motorists".

Surely this must preclude that street then.

Guinness World Records aren’t too concerned about the street’s suitability aka safety aspect. The street is open to both pedestrians and motorists. It’s just not safe for either group. A bit like Baldwin Street some might say.

View all

 

xmas_guide_640x95.jpg

christmas-2019-300px-her.jpgchristmas-2019-300px-him.jpgchristmas-2019-300px-family.jpgchristmas-2019-300px-kids.jpg