Meet the man who travels across the UK rating benches 2 weeks ago

Meet the man who travels across the UK rating benches

A few years ago, Sam Wilmot decided enough was enough with social media

He deleted every account, bar one - his Instagram page dedicated to rating benches.

The 24-year-old from Yate near Bristol says: "I kept Instagram because it's the one where you can control what you see, who you follow, and you don't have to read everybody's comments."

With @ratethisbench, Wilmot reviews benches from all over the UK. The page continues to grow, despite the coronavirus pandemic halting recent travels.

In a little over 18 months, he has amassed a following of over 12,000. Sam recently told me exactly what makes a good bench, and the detailed criteria that goes into such decision-making.

JOE: Where did your passion for a good bench begin?

Wilmot: I'm quite a big lad, so if I'm out walking my aim is to find somewhere comfortable to sit.

There's always been an attraction to benches, and from there it started as a reason to explore new places as I was finishing university.

Over the last six months, it's picked up quite a lot of interest. I use it mostly as an expressive outlet, and to delve into history - which is what I studied at university.


Do you only rate benches in the UK?

With work, and the fact I don't have a great deal of money, I haven't travelled a lot.

But I did go to Dubai as my friend from university's dad lived out there.

I picked up a couple of benches while I was out there, but I was hesitant to post anything too derogatory just in case it didn't go down too well with the authorities.

What is your criteria for rating a bench?

They're all rated out of 10.

There are three marks for its location. If it's in the city centre, it's only really getting a one or a zero for its location.


Countryside usually gets a two, and then the third one is wow factor.

There are also marks for arm rest, back support, an inscription or plaque, concrete base, whether it's wooden, curvature of the seat and the final thing - that additional wow factor of whether it's nicely carved or sculpted.

Have you had much interaction with brands or celebrities?

The author Grayson Perry listened to a podcast I did and said he really enjoyed it.

The most famous person to follow me is probably Linda Holliday. She's the long-term partner of Bill Belichick - coach of the New England Patriots in the NFL.

My brother has tried to get hold of Scott Murray, the Bristol City legend, about getting me down to Ashton Gate to review the subs bench.


The artist and writer Grayson Perry is a fan of Sam's Instagram account. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

What is the best bench you've ever discovered?

It's literally a five minute drive from my house. I went there on New Year's Eve last year.

It was really foggy so I didn't see any of the fireworks, but it has a great view over my hometown and then further afield. On a clear day, you can see out to the Brecon Beacons.

It's by a church called St. John The Baptist in Chipping Sodbury. I went back a few weeks later and it was clearer.

It's a pretty standard bench, just big and bulky. Big fan of it.

What about the worst bench?

The ones I give the lowest marks to are the anti-homeless ones, or those with hostile architecture.

Swansea is full of them, where they've got the metal barriers between each seat stopping people from lying down. I end up using the Instagram account as a bit of a dig at councils.


There are similar benches in Cardiff where they are really narrow. I give them a bit of a slating as well.

Sam's highest-rated bench, near his home just north of Bristol.

This bench in Wales is one of the worst for views, according to Sam.

Do the anti-homeless benches get a zero out of 10?

I tend to go for a one.

They get the one purely for being a bench, but if I knew my account would get so much attention, I'd have given them a zero from the beginning just so people know I really don't like them.

Did the bench near your home get a 10 out of 10?


Nah, it got a nine. I've never given a 10 out of 10. For a 10, it really has to have that wow factor.

Sometimes, people send me their own submissions which they feel are worth a 10, and I'm like, "That's a bit ambitious, we'll knock it down to a four or five."

I think a 10/10 may come in hindsight once I've reviewed the last bench and decide to pick a favourite. But maybe people might think that's a cop out.

Which part of the UK has the best benches?

I'm really keen on the Gower coastline benches. They've got iron arm rests and wooden slats. They're placed all along the cliff path around Caswell Bay.

Down in Devon, there's a place called The Valley of the Rocks. All along the path, there are benches looking straight out to sea. I really like those.

Which area has the worst benches?


Cardiff and Swansea both have terrible benches. I really dislike them.

Hastings too - they've started removing their benches because of anti-social behaviour. They can have it as well.

Have you had any notable encounters while sat on a bench?

I've been recognised a few times.

I was doing a review not so long ago when an old man was walking through the park. He just said, "It's the Bench Man!", didn't break stride and just carried on walking.

Another time, I was in Weston-super-Mare with my girlfriend. We passed an elderly couple who were sitting in the sun, pouring a cup of tea while singing Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles.

It's become a song that both me and Sophie love now.