Bristol’s tumbledown district of Totterdown has one of Britain’s steepest streets; arguably, a steeper-feeling hill even than Fford Pen Llech‘s 40-per-center in Harlech.
The bottom few metres of Vale St, not far from Bristol Temple Meads station, are somewhere around 43%–45%. They come at the end of a shortish, straight descent that feels like about 1 in 3 on average. Yet the plunge is unremarked on by road furniture. Nothing saying Ludicrously Steep Hill 1 in 2 Don’t Even Bother Trying in a Fiat Uno. No signs at all, in fact, except the street name.
It’s only a kilometre or two from Temple Meads. Simply turn left out of Brunel’s slightly brutalist rail cathedral, and go up the half-baked pavement cycle path. Fork left past the celebrated Three Lamps – perfectly preserved Victorian streetlamps with period fingerposts saying BATH and WELLS – and when you see that bridge on your left, you hack right up Summer Hill into the aptly named area of Totterdown. This is 1 in 4, but a mere appetiser to the main course: if Vale St were on a curryhouse menu rated out of five chillies for strength, would be six.
A left at the No Entry sign takes you up Parliament Hill, which turns right into Park St. On your left, you’ll see Vale St’s vertical drawbridge, or tarmac launching-pad for STOL aircraft, sandwiched by steps. It fills the horizon. The street is about 100m long, with houses raked up both sides and cars parked almost perpendicular to jam them against the kerb in case they slide down in the middle of the night. Here it is below, diving down from the right, as you look down Park St: those final few metres by the steps are the ones to watch out for.
A quick bit of measuring with the fish-scaler on your Swiss Army knife on the picture you take of yourself will suggest that its gradient here supports that otherwise scarcely credible claim of 1 in 2.4.