From the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge to the local favourite Banana Bridge, Bristol’s bridges all hold a special place in the heart of someone, somewhere in the city. No matter how frustrating they can sometimes be – we’re looking at you Gaol Ferry Bridge – we think all Bristol bridges are wonderful. Which is lucky because there are a whopping 45 walkable bridges in Bristol, of all different shapes and sizes.
Whether we’re crossing Castle Bridge for a pint at Left Handed Giant or checking out Brunel’s Other Bridge with a stroll around Harbourside, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about bridges. Too much time some might say. But nowhere near as much time as others, we can tell you that. Because 10 years ago, a teacher of mathematics at Bristol University set about working out whether you could walk across all of bridges in a single trip without doubling back.
What is The Bristol Bridges Walk Challenge?
It’s probably not a question you’ve asked yourself before, so let’s start from the beginning! All the way back in 1736, a Swiss mathematician solved an equation (known as The Königsberg Bridge Problem) that asked: Is it possible to traverse all seven bridges in the city of Königsberg, in Prussia, in a single trip without doubling back, with the additional requirement that the trip ends in the same place it began? Nearly, 300 years later, this inspired Dr Thilo Gross, who was teaching mathematics at Bristol University at the time, to take on the more mammoth task of applying the same principle to Bristol’s 45 bridges.
So can it be done?
Technically, Yes! Starting at Bristol Bridge. The circular 28 mile walk will take all you around Bristol’s waterways – leading you on a journey as far as Redfield to Clifton and back to the City Centre. So popular is The Bristol Bridges Walk Challenge that a whole community of Bristol bridge wanderers has popped up!
In 2019, Dr Gross even teamed up with Jeff Lucas to release From Brycgstow to Bristol in 45 Bridges. Published by Bristol Books, it is a companion guidebook for the walk with information on every bridge.
As it would take the average walker 9hrs and 20mins to complete (without breaks), many choose to break the challenge up, however. You will be able to find detailed instructions for The Bristol Bridges Walk Challenge here.
So it can be done?
Well, right now? No. Gaol Ferry Bridge remains closed at the time of writing. But even when that eventually reopens, Bristol City Council has indicated that further bridges in Bristol are in desperate need of attention. So the likelihood of you being able to complete The Bristol Bridges Walk Challenge anytime soon isn’t high.
We suggest just breaking it down into bite-sized chunks and ploughing ahead for now. Skip any unachievable aspects of the walk, you can always return to them later! The sense of achievement is unbeatable. Plus, it’s totally worth it for one of these super-cool pin badges…