After almost a year of not going very far, and with an eye on one day being able to travel again, I wondered where's the largest town I haven't been to?
To be explicit, that's the largest English town or city by population that I've never set foot in. Travelling through (or standing on a station platform) doesn't count.
My first task was to find a definitive ranking of English towns and cities by population. I thought this was going to be difficult but no, the Office for National Statistics has a portal called Nomis which offers free access to up-to-date data. I selected a) major towns and cities, b) all ages c) all genders, and within seconds I was downloading the spreadsheet I needed. The list that follows is based on built-up areas, not necessarily administrative boundaries or wider city regions.
No problem so far, I've been to all ten. I've also blogged about all of them, which is why each city links to an old post. One I live in and five I've been to numerous times, as befits the country's great cultural centres. But Sheffield's had just three visits, Leicester and Bristol two apiece and Bradford only one. You may already have spotted a city you haven't been to, in which case you can stop there, you have a winner. I need to carry on.
I've been to all these too, mostly several times. Stoke on Trent was a one-off day trip but once is enough to tick a city off. Nottingham's linked post consists of a single photograph, so I really ought to go back and try harder, but again it totally counts. The first dodgy city on my list is Southampton which I have only slightly visited. I changed trains there once and deliberately wandered out of a side exit onto the pavement for a few seconds so I could say I'd been, because in my rules visiting the station doesn't count. Southampton really should be top of my list for a post-lockdown safari... but I have technically been, so let's move on.
These are all multi-visits, for me at least, apart from Swindon and Bolton which are single trips. They've also all been blogged, other than Peterborough which I somehow haven't been back to since the 1980s. You may very well have seen a town or city you haven't been to by now, in which case make a note of what it is. But it turns out I have indeed been to the top 30 English towns and cities, hurrah. It all goes it goes wrong for me at 32...
Sunderland is the largest English city I haven't been to. In this case I haven't even travelled through it and seen it out of the window, which is a proper fail. That's why today's exercise is important, because I don't have a mental picture of Sunderland based on primary evidence, only what I've seen on TV or read about elsewhere. Warrington I have at least seen from a train speeding through, but Huddersfield is another personal non-event. That's three in a row I've missed, so very much where my run ends.
Shame, I was doing well again there until Oldham tripped me up. I meant to go to Oldham on my last trip to Manchester but it was raining so much that I gave it a miss. Another one for the to-do list.
In case you're still playing, here's the next 50.
I'm quite pleased that I've been to 90% of the top 50 English towns and cities and 84% of the top 100. That's a pretty good record all told, in terms of developing a personal understanding of how the country fits together.
But let's keep this simple by asking...
What's the largest English town you haven't been to?
Mine's Sunderland, what's yours?
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Even if you checked out relatively early on, I hope you found the list of towns by population interesting in itself. If nothing else you might get some ideas for where to explore next, once you get the chance.