45 bridges, 45km, 1,000 years of history
Bristol has 45 bridges that span the main waterways of the city which can be crossed on foot. Is it possible to walk across all of them without crossing the same bridge twice? This is the question posed by the 300-year-old ‘Konigsberg Bridge’ problem in mathematics, so-called because it was first asked in the city of Konigsberg around the year 1700. Such a walk is not always possible but for Bristol the answer is, currently, yes! A route for Bristol’s walkable bridges was first devised in 2013 by Dr Thilo Gross, a former Reader in the Department of Engineering Mathematics of Bristol University. It was published in the Bristol Post in February 2013 and then later that year in the Civic Society’s Better Bristol magazine in an article written by longstanding Society member Jeff Lucas.
As far as we know, Bristol is the very first city anywhere in the world to have published its ‘bridge problem solution’, closely followed by New York a year later. The route has been updated to take account of new bridges which have been constructed since Thilo originally solved the problem six years ago.
The walk is a circular one, 45km (28 miles) in length. It is a fascinating, and sometimes spectacular, route that will take you from the nooks and crannies of the inner city to the open vistas of the Severn Estuary and back again. Each bridge is an interesting feat of engineering with its own place in the history of the city. You don’t have to do the whole walk in one day, of course, and you could maybe do it by bicycle if you are prepared to carry it up and down steps.
More information and current news about the walk can be found at the Facebook Group Page, The Bristol Bridges Walk Challenge. If you join the group you can post your own photos and comments/observations about the walk.
There are three free downloads available to help you do the walk. Follow the links below.
- Map of the route. This is best used from a smartphone or tablet, rather than printed out, so that you can zoom in on detail. Bridges Walk Map (PDF)
- Detailed walk instructions, with some of the major points of interest pointed out: Bristol Bridges Instructions. The following addendum includes advice about occasional flooding of the riverside path in the sea Mills/Pill area: addendum (issued 20.10.20).
- A gpx file you can load into your satnav: Bristol Bridges Walk.
And when you have completed the whole walk you can get a specially designed badge to commemorate your achievement and which will intrigue and impress your friends! Get The Badge
Jeff Lucas has written a companion handbook for the walk, From Brycgstow to Bristol in 45 Bridges , published by Bristol Books , which tells the story of each bridge and its place in the history of the city. Thilo Gross contributes a chapter on the Konigsberg Bridge problem, its importance in the development of mathematics, and how he solved the problem for Bristol. You can obtain a signed copy of the book directly from Jeff (post free) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use this link to view the original Thilo Gross walk.