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Baldwin Street, Dunedin

Baldwin Street is located in Dunedin, the second largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. It is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's steepest residential street. Located in the suburb of North East Valley, 3.5km (2.2 miles) northeast of the city centre, it runs up the northern side of Signal Hill, a prominent hill overlooking Otago Harbour. A little under 350m (1,150 feet) long, it rises from 30m (98 feet) to 100m (330 feet) above sea level at its top end and has an average slope of slightly more than 1 in 5. The steepest section of the street runs at slopes of up to 1 in 2.86, meaning for 2.86m horizontal distance, it rises 1m. Baldwin Street's steepness was unintentional; as with many other parts of the early city, the streets were laid out in a grid pattern, in this case by surveyor Charles Kettle who gave no proper regard for the terrain. In fact, some of the streets he planned were unable to be laid. Unlike most of the streets in New Zealand, Baldwin Street is surfaced in concrete and not asphalt. This is because the tar would flow down the slope on a warm day and also, it provides a better grip in Dunedin's frosty winters. The pavements (US = Sidewalks) on the side of the street are in the form of steps in places, rather than a slope.

A couple of annual events take place on the street. The Jaffa Race involves the rolling down the street of 30,000 Giant Jaffas (a round sweet consisting of a soft chocolate centre with a hard covering of orange flavoured confectionery - not to be confused with the UK's Jaffa Cakes). Each Jaffa is numbered and sold by various beneficiaries who get to keep the money raised. At the bottom, the Jaffas are funnelled into a finishing chute to decide the winners. Another annual event is the Baldwin Street Gutbuster, where every summer since 1988, a running race has taken place to the top of the street and back down again. Some 1000 or so competitors, both locals and people from all over the world, run in different categories with a race record to date of just under two minutes. Several incidents have taken place involving people attempting to travel down the street by a variety of means, including a stuntman who rode down the hill on a motorcycle on one wheel and a fatal attempt by students to travel down the street inside a wheelie bin.

The photos below were taken during a leisurely walk up and down the street and on some of them, I tilted the camera, whereby the road level approximates horizontal and so the buildings appear tilted - an idea shamelessly stolen from another website displaying photos of some of the steep streets in San Francisco. The most welcoming part of the walk was at the top, not only for the view back down, but on finding a conveniently placed drinking fountain and place to sit. Whilst sitting at the top, conversation took place with an elderly lady who informed us that she considered part of the secret of her longevity to be her fitness regime which included walking up and down the street every single day. Ending on a different subject, the final photo on this webpage shows some gorse in the surrounding hills on the approach to Dunedin - scenery reminiscent of Scotland in a city which contains links to this faraway land, both culturally and historically.

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