Walking Bristol

I found the video below on the walkit.com blog. If you’ve ever used Google Maps to get your directions from one city to another, walkit.com can do the same for you if want to walk in any of 12 British cities (more coming soon). It even tells you how many calories you will burn and how much CO2 you will save by not driving. You can choose between direct or less busy routes – the latter option will probably be useful for cyclists too as it accounts for traffic levels. Those options are nice, but what walkers (and cyclists) in hilly cities like Bristol and Sheffield could really do with is a ‘less steep’ option!

So, what’s this video I found? It’s the latest film from Urban Earth, a project to (re)present human habitats by walking across some of Earth’s biggest urban areas. One of the main aims of UrbanEarth is to show what the world’s cities are really like for the people who live there – something that mainstream media can give a distorted or incomplete image of. Each UrbanEarth film is composed of thousands of photographs, one for every 7 steps (5 metres) of a person’s walk through a city. It’s kind of like a walker’s version of Google’s StreeView. They’ve done London, Mumbai, and now their latest film, which you can watch below, is my home town of Bristol, UK. If you know the area, see if you can track the route the walker takes (click the ‘fullscreen’ option if the window is too small).


I have to admit that I had no idea where the route started, but then by the time they got to Totterdown I knew where I was – those colourful houses on the steep hills overlooking the centre of the city gave it away. From there on I knew where I was going. If you’re still lost (or don’t know the area), here’s a map of the route.

Or, you can see the route traced on a ‘map of deprivation’. This map illustrates one of the vagaries of the shape of Bristol’s urban growth. Note the (inverted) crescent shape of the city – the southwest quarter of the city is ‘missing’. This is attributed to the Avon Gorge which cut off the growth of Bristol to the southwest. Not until Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened in 1864 could you quickly and easily access the southwest (rather than trekking down into Cumberland Basin and up the other side. You can also see the effect of the gorge from aerial photography – note how areas around Abbots Leigh and Leigh Woods appear much greener and less urban even though they are only about a mile from the centre of the city. In contrast, look at how the urban area expands relatively contiguously to the east for five or six miles into South Gloucestershire (Oldland, Warmley, etc). These areas aren’t officially ‘Bristol’ but they’re contiguous and have the same postal and dialing codes.

Anyway, that’s enough about the geography of Bristol. If you’re going to be walking around the city in the future, walkit.com may help plan your route (remember it doesn’t account for hills – but luckily it does know where the gorge is), and check the UrbanEarth blog for new films of other cities coming soon (maybe Bath would like to be next).

One thought on “Walking Bristol

  1. The Urban Earth: Bristol clip plays well with Widespread Panic’s “Pigeons” – both a bit overwhelming. How come the photographer keeps walking on the wrong side of the road?


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