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Street wars: Dunedin’s Baldwin Street loses steepest world title to Wales

Looking down from the top of Baldwin Street, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Street wars: Dunedin’s Baldwin Street loses steepest world title to Wales

A street in north Wales has been declared the steepest in the world - a title that had previously been held by Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, with a gradient of 35% at its steepest.

Street wars: Dunedin’s Baldwin Street loses steepest world title to Wales

A meandering street in north-west Wales that challenges the fittest of walkers and cyclists has been confirmed as the world’s steepest street.

Ffordd Pen Llech in the historic town of Harlech – better known for its castle and rousing song, Men of Harlech – has been judged steeper than Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Local resident and campaigner for the record, Gwyn Headley, had done research and found the street was the steepest in Great Britain, though a different methodology was used to calculate Baldwin Street in New Zealand.

So he engaged surveyors and measurements taken in January showed Fordd Pen Llech had a one in 2.67 gradient at its steepest part, compared with the current record holder’s one in 2.86. A gradient of 37.45%.

In a statement issued on Monday, Guinness World Records said the measurements were undertaken by an expert surveyor with appropriate qualifications. Harlech resident Gwyn Headley was asked how he felt about taking the record from Dunedin.

Ffordd Pen Llech.

Winning the title was a lot tougher than the townsfolk had anticipated. “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 10th,” said Headley.

The 10th criterion was that Guinness World Records required a blueprint of the street. The Harlech bid justified its absence because the street has been there since time immemorial, or at least 1,000 years, before there were such things as blueprints. 

Reacting to the new record announcement, Headley said; “I’m thrilled for us but in every game there has to be a losing team.” 

In Dunedin, the reaction was surprisingly positive, especially for the long-time residents of Baldwin Street who say they are relieved the street no longer holds the title.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times, Baldwin Street resident Liisa Tate-Manning said she had endured the disruption caused by tourists while living on the street for about 30 years.

That included tourists parking over her driveway or peering in her windows, although most were polite, she said. Asked for her reaction to the announcement, Tate-Manning said simply: “Hallelujah!”

Competitors take part in the traditional “Steepest Race in the World” in Baldwin street in Dunedin September 18, 2011. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Brandon Malone

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