Everybody has a hobby. It can be anything as simple as collecting coins or stamps, partaking in certain sports, whether as a player or a spectator, or even cosplaying, but it can also be a bit more uncommon, like trainspotting, collecting pictures of doors, and rating benches.
Never heard of the last one? Well, then meet Samuel Wilmot, a 23-year-old recruiter from Bristol, England with an educational background in history studies who spends much of his time rating the various benches found around the UK on Instagram.
Bored Panda has collected some of Sam’s best reviews and compiled a list that you can check out below. While you’re down there, why not reach through our interview with Sam and vote and comment on the bench reviews you enjoyed the most!
Saint John The Baptist Old Sodbury, Rating 9/10
As benches go, this is as near to perfect as you’ll find. Beautifully crafted, perfectly placed and lovingly donated by a man’s family. My bio is this quote from Samuel Beckett: “we spend our life, it’s ours, trying to bring together in the same instant a day of sunshine and a free bench”. I fully believe this to be true. I waited patiently to sit on this bench as a courting couple spoke of life’s wonders and love. But it was worth the wait. A break in the rain and finally some sunshine offered the perfect chance to take in the view, and what a view it was. If you ever wondered why this page exists, it’s for moments like this. A solid bench, comfortable seating, firm arm rests, a touching plaque and a slabbed base. I have no recommendations for this bench other than to the people smoking dank in a graveyard at midday, have a little common decency for the dead and those around you. I’d love to have a bench such as this dedicated to me one day. Quality, 9/10. The reason this is not a 10 is because I don’t know what the perfect bench will be until I have rated my final bench and reflect on the best ones. But there’s every chance with hindsight this will be it. This is my favourite bench to date.
Golden Cap, Rating 3/10
The view was almost beautiful enough to forget about the shoddy bench, almost. I recognise there are geographical issues to overcome here to allow for a bigger and better bench to be built on a hill, but it’s doable. Mind over matter. The bench was rotten, covered in lichen and lacked support of any kind. It allowed for a momentary pause to gather your composure prior to overcoming the steps to the top but functionality shouldn’t compromise quality with benches. My biggest peeve wasn’t even about this bench, it’s the absence of a bench at the top of the Golden Cap that really irked me. The place was crying out for a bench to allow for breathless and panting couples to enjoy the surrounding vistas. But no, this was the best the area could conjure. An unfortunate, 3/10.
Brynmill Park Kiosk, Rating 8/10
“For Doris, A lady with style”. And style this bench has. I never knew Doris, but what a lovely memorial. It’s well made, the only bench here that’s painted and sits in a great park. Doris, if I could have a bench anywhere near this standard I’d be a happy man. 8/10.
So, Rate This Bench (@ratethisbench) is an Instagram page created by Sam and dedicated solely to reviews of benches found around the UK. But it ain’t your average one-liner comment and a random number rating that’s just too vague and ambiguous to base a decision on.
No, Sam writes up a detailed description of his experience of the bench, including everything from the overall aesthetic, the material used for the bench, and the feeling of sitting on it to the view you can see from it, its history, and, of course, the obligatory X out of 10 rating, along the way giving bench tips like having something with you to wipe off wet benches during fall.
Oh, and the descriptions are priceless, packed with well-worded explanations and a humorous take on some of the worse benches. But, words can't really describe how brilliant the descriptions are, so just go and read them for yourself!
Seaton Beach, Rating 5/10
As we move further into Autumn and the rain sets in be sure to carry something with you for wiping benches over before sitting, on this occasion I used a glove left in the pocket of my coat from last winter. As always, I try not to let the weather shroud my judgement of the bench, but it must be said it can put a dampener on things - literally. The bench is made from anti-vandal material, hence the plastic coating I often comment on, and I recognise needs must at times. Nonetheless, I still prefer a solid wooden seat. I do appreciate the colour of the seat mimics that of genuine wood/timber but it is just that, a mimic. For me the bench offers too many straight lines and angles, I’m a fan of curvature and something that flows with the body. Pros: a solid base along the promenade, decent height back support and a plaque. Cons: no arms, no curvature and was soaking wet. 5/10.
Wapley Woods, Rating 3/10
This will be political. I make no apologies. We are admist turbulent and volatile times but burying your head in the sand or denying accountability for excessive deaths through ill managed pandemic plans or through racially driven police brutality does nothing but indirectly support racist and incompetent governance. Things are stressful and overwhelming of late, so take your time in nature, sit on benches, be thankful but don’t avoid the hard questions for too long. Ask yourself where you stand on these matters, the very fact you have a social media account gives you a platform to give a voice to those that are no longer with us or have been subjected to discrimination for their race or religion. Now for the metaphor, as humans we’ve gone full circle like this bench. We are stuck in a repeating cycle of exploitation and racism fed by Governments and the Media. Fuck Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. The bench was uncomfortable, as is the questions and arguments we need to have to make progress at times like these. 3/10.
Nick's House, Rating 6/10
It’s my granny’s birthday today and we had afternoon tea on the lawn. It was all very civilised. My granny said “I like the view, it’s a solid bench.” Short and sweet. That’s how reviews should be. Happy 77th Birthday Granny, welcome to the world of rate this bench. Bench is a 6/10, the company is 10/10. Much love.
“It’s cliché, but I really took inspiration from my friends to start the @ratethisbench account,” Sam explained the origins of the idea. “It was towards the end of my studies and I began commenting on the benches in the area when we were out walking one day and somebody joked it could be an internet sensation. I didn’t believe that, but decided to make the account for a laugh and something to joke with friends over, but also as a way to use my spare time wisely and explore where I live with a purpose.”
Well, what started off as a joke became a serious hobby as he’s recently posted his 200th review—that means he has sat on and reviewed 200 benches throughout the United Kingdom, and he ain’t stopping there!
We also asked if Sam was considering reviewing anything else instead of this, and he said this: “It’s not something I’ve given much thought too. Take, for example, food bloggers. There're so many people on the internet that review food and restaurants that it isn’t a viable option, nor could my waistline bear it. But benches are something I’ve always been fond of and it’s a niche thing that people haven’t really considered much as far as I am aware. The majority of people pass benches every day without realizing, so to bring a little bit of attention to something so humble but in a humorous way has been really enjoyable.”
Little Sodbury End, Rating 7/10
For those of you who had the misfortune to listen to me speak on @bbcradio2 with Vanessa Feltz, this was the bench I was on. It’s a bench in Little Sodbury and offered a nice place to talk, especially with the Chestnut tree offering shelter from the rain! The photo doesn’t quite show how the branches had been cut in a way to offer an unspoiled view. The bench has been well kept, the base solid, the seat curved and comfortable, and the back rest is a good height. There’s no plaque but the bench is engraved with the word “Millennium”. It sits a little near to a road, that may not be all that busy but the sound of the cars definitely cuts through the peace. The overhead shot doesn’t quite give do the location justice. It’s a good bench, 7/10.
Charmouth Beach, Rating 6/10
These benches, like sprouting trees in rainforests, were all vying for the same fresh air and spot of sunshine. I’ve never come across 4 benches so tightly packed in together outside of a major city; which in any year prior to 2020 was ideal, now 2 of 4 shouldn’t be occupied for social distancing reasons. I’d like to draw reference to the bench being so small, but actually the bench is perfectly average in size I’m just wider than most. There’s space for 3 people, more slender than I, to sit comfortably and revel in the views across the Jurassic Coast. Interesting fact, the 96 miles of coastline making up the Jurassic Coast was the first wholly natural world heritage site in the UK. The seat was comfortable, offering a slight curvature and plenty of support in the back and arm rests. The bench offered a lovely dedication to a Japanese woman who loved Charmouth. The concrete base was purpose built for 3 of the 4 benches hear, the 4th was clearly a late addition. But of the 3 “ogs” they were crying out for some varnish ahead of another savage winter on the coast British coast. All in all, an above satisfactory bench. 6/10.
Y-Not Festival, Derby, Rating 8/10
Sometimes the company and the cause is worth far more than the view and the back support. The people at the @samaritanscharity are the most selfless people around, they’re there for you night and day, 24/7. At @ynotfestival I requested they bring back their beer crate bench specifically for this photo and they did? I couldn’t leave without a photo on their bench. Mental health is one of the most important charitable causes around, and I’m thankful for their existence. This backdrop is worth more than any plaque, there’s contact information there for anybody who needs somebody to speak to and share with. Check on your friends and make sure they’re okay. Festivals don’t always get things right, the weather, the queues, the price of beer, but at least they invite the right charities along to help those who feel vulnerable and isolated. This review is not up for debate, thank you to the Samaritans, their bench is an 8/10.
Believe it or not, the rating system has deep structure and purpose to it, as explains Sam:
“So, all benches are marked out of 0-10, I never go higher than that. There are up to 3 marks for its location and view, then 1 mark for the following: arm rests, a plaque or inscription, a concrete base, curvature to the seat, it being wooden, and a good back support. Totalling 9. The final mark is for something inspiring or a ‘wow’ factor. But I’ve never given a 10/10 so far.”
He continued: “The majority of the benches are spontaneous. Often I’ll plan to visit somewhere in the hope there is a bench to be found, and more often than not, I find one. Some are planned in that I’ve been tipped off by somebody to pay it a visit.”
Kingswood, Stroud District, Rating 7/10
“Keep rocking in the free world.” This is a very heartfelt and warm dedication to Gaz, Kaz and Phil, 3 musicians from Kingswood. The sun came out to add to the warmth of this bench. It’s deserving of an extra photo too. It’s a great piece of craftsmanship, with attention paid to detail in the carving. The seat itself is very comfortable, the optimum recline of the back rest is between 95-105 degrees, I’d put this around 95. The seat was at a good height, and the back support was well above my shoulders which goes down well. It sits on a little green known as “The Chipping” and it’s home to a glorious red phonebox too as seen in the view. To step behind the bench and read “Don’t look back in anger” was something very powerful. This was a pleasure to rate, 7/10.
Lyme Regis, Rating 4/10
On the 12th September 1685 twelve men were hung in Lyme Regis following the failed Monmouth Rebellion. The judge who sentenced the men to hang was a distant relative of mine, the infamous George Jeffreys. This story bears no real relevance to the bench other than its location. The bench continued on either side of where I sat as a memorial to the fisherman and boatman who had passed. The location over looking the harbour and stench of fish was quite fitting. The “Cobb” was originally constructed to create an artificial harbour here, and provided great shelter from the wind. The bench itself was 2 beams of painted wood locked between rock arms/supports. Like the Cobb, undoubtedly built to last, just not for comfort or for beauty. 4/10.
Cwmbran Centre, Rating 2/10
I spent longer than anticipated sat on this bench, it was regrettable and displeasing. The Starbucks was whack, the view was grim, and the seat was terrible. To have a seat with such prominent curvature but to finish only halfway up your back is very uncomfortable. It’s left me with an aching back. The arm rests are little more than dividers in the seat and dig into your sides and hips. I’m not keen on back to back benches, they aren’t houses in Birmingham in the 1840s. This bench is an abomination. 2/10.
Like with many other things, the pandemic has had a bit of an impact on his hobby, but there’s also a silver lining:
“Certainly in the first lockdown in the UK, it had made it difficult because sitting on park benches had actually been made illegal. So I ended up reviewing garden furniture and tree stumps in my small back garden. But the pandemic has also propelled the account to heights I could never have imagined with people getting behind the notion of enjoying the simpler things in life.”
But the coronavirus isn’t the only thing that makes his hobby a bit of a challenge sometimes, as explains Sam:
“The biggest challenge is remaining consistent and trying to remain in the narrow margin of accurate but not offensive. I always try my best to remain impartial and often turn down reviewing particular benches people want me to in fear I’ll cause offense if I review it honestly. The aim of the page is to be polite and easygoing for anybody who’s willing to read or follow it.”
Almondsbury Garden Centre, Rating 4/10
Boats and hoes. Took a trip to Almondsbury garden centre this morning for a mooch around and came across this wee boaty. It’s good to see things being up-cycled. I’m not convinced I’d spend £514 on it though. It was quirky, and the seat had plenty of depth but there wasn’t a great deal of strength in the back - my guess is it’s more decorative than supportive. I was however fond of the view. It was like peering into my future, I’m looking forward to the day where I get to buy a shed and put it on an allotment with a radio, kettle and comfy chair. A nice idea as place to put your plant pots but as a bench it was less than shipshape. 4/10.
The Mumbles, Swansea, United Kingdom, Rating 1/10
So @walesonline quoted somebody calling this the “stupidest bench in Wales”. They weren’t wrong. To me a bench requires a level of comfort to be considered a bench, this had none at all. The metal was digging into my back. Concrete and metal are a terrible combination for providing comfort. As views go, it’s quite something, felt like I was on the set of Bugs Life. The noise of traffic and smell of stale urine from the nearby toilets offer a displeasing roller coaster for the senses. For humour alone, the fact it exists is worthy of a solitary mark. 1/10.
River Street Bristol, Rating 0/10
Let’s answer the age old question amongst the fans of Ratethisbench: what comes first, the zero or the 10? Low and behold it’s the zero. It’s a real stinker. I hate anti-homeless benches and regularly save my lowest marks for them, but this takes the prize as being the worst bench so far hence receiving my lowest mark ever. I’m lost for words really. Who decides to do this to a bench? It’s upsetting. 0/10.
As he’s done over 200 reviews of benches so far, we finally asked Sam what the future holds for the Rate This Bench Instagram and all of his reviews:
“I’m really not sure what the future holds. Obviously, Christmas is coming up, so I might have to don the Santa suit and bring a little festive spirit to my followers, but it’s really just a case of enjoying the interaction with those that follow the page whilst I can. I’m not somebody who deems themselves to be an ‘influencer’ nor am I chasing fame from the account; it’s simply about enjoying it for what it is and the fun and laughter it brings. The attention it’s received certainly isn’t lost on me, I’ve done radio interviews, TV appearances, and podcasts, all of which have been thoroughly enjoyed and passed on to my grandparents for them to laugh and cry at. It’s been quite the highlight for my family during 2020, second only to the birth of my nephew.”
He continued: “There’s plenty of life left in the page and I hope that it’s something people can continue to find enjoyment and happiness from. I’ve received so many touching messages from strangers that it makes the page worthwhile and that’s all I could really hope for is that people continue to share and enjoy the reviews.”
If you want to check out more on the Rate This Bench Instagram, click here. But before you go, why not leave us a comment on what you thought of this in the comment section below!
Blaise Castle Estate, Rating 3/10
As view points go in Bristol this is right up there. As inaccurate place names go, this again is right up there. The so called “Lovers’ Leap” is not the spot where star-crossed lovers leapt to their death. It was given the name by Thomas Farr, who was well versed in story telling and creating false myths to do with his estate. The bench offered no plaque but there was plenty of inscriptions and names carved into the wood. The lack of concrete base begot a very dirty jacket when it fell to the ground. For a place offering such spectacular views over the Avon Gorge, Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park one can only assume the uncomfortable bench is to discourage people sitting for too long and hogging the view. For the view alone, this was a 3/10. Plus, benches that let my feet dangle give me a complex about my height.
Swansea University Bay Campus, Rating 3/10
Surround yourself with people that motivate and encourage you, whether that’s during your degree or rating benches. @girlsoncam_ you’re of the highest order. Today we graduated as Master’s of Modern History. This bench and the rain were in a close contest for being the worst part about the day. I was glad to have the robe to sit on. One would have thought on a campus full of engineers and design students they could have conjured up something nicer than this, it’s little more than sheet metal welded together. There’s next to no comfort, there was surface water, no plaque, no arm rests and ultimately its fairly unpleasant on the eye. Modern benches can be practical, comfortable and stylish. This was not. The company was the biggest redeeming feature of this bench. 3/10.
Downend Round Table Fireworks, Rating 9/10
Today I came across the daddy of all benches. This is a poignant tribute to Conor Hall and the @clipupforconor.info campaign. It is one of the sturdiest benches I’ve sat on, it’s practically made of railway sleepers. The back support is a great height and offers well treated and smooth timber. I’ve added in a 3rd picture so you can see the enormity of this bench, it was truly remarkable and clearly resemblance of people’s love for Conor. I sat in the middle for photograph purposes, but the seat with the arm rests looked good enough to spend hours comfortably seated in the sunshine. It’s well positioned in a super park too, I’m a little lost for words to describe the magnificence of this bench. This deserves my highest rating so far. 9/10. Superb.
Saul Junction, Rating 7/10
The Gloucester and Sharpness canal in its original construction was 16 miles long, 16ft deep (one of the deepest in the world) and had 16 bridges over the canal, the math of the industrial revolution was mad. This bench was highly sought-after and it didn’t take long for the seat to be filled once again shortly after vacating. The bench was dedicated to Peter Crouch, not the 2 meter Peter we know and love from his premier league days and podcasts, but a local man who was the chairman of the Saul Junction Boatowners Club. The seat was comfortable with a subtle curvature, the arms were solid and purpose built to rest a drink, the back was a good height, and the base ample. It offered a lovely bit of shade beneath a large tree for those looking to bide awhile during a walk along the towpath. A solid 7/10.
Poole Court Registry Office, Rating 6/10
It’s my grandad’s 80th birthday today, he granted my wish of being a guest for ratethisbench. In his 80 years on this earth he’s seen a world war and now he must put up with his grandson rating benches for the internet. His view is “it’s a nice place to cogitate being that the building behind has history, it’s in a quiet corner of Yate and there is a bit of greenery nearby.” On this occasion, he is the authority on benches. I’d add that the loose plank could do with bolting back down, and a touch up on the paint would keep this bench looking tidy, but I’ll leave that for @yatetowncouncil to organise. It’s crying out for a plaque. Also the seat is 4 inches too low. The arm rests are decent and the back comes up a suitable height. A bench in the shade on a hot summers day is always refreshing. I’d give it a 6/10.
Lee Abbey, Rating 4/10
First off, thank you to everybody who read, shared and interacted with the Bristol post’s write up. Maybe the BBC will come knocking for some coverage next 👀 Back to the serious stuff, this bench isn’t pretty, nor is it comfortable but let me tell you it was very much needed. It’s not the most accessible bench/beach but for those of you who can survive the journey it is very rewarding. The bench is ideal for brushing off sandy feet or offering a moment’s shelter from the elements. There’s plenty of depth to the seat, boarding on too much given that my feet didn’t touch the ground if I sat back. But it’s built to last. There’s not a great deal of marks in the comfort value here but scores well in its sturdiness, it’s view and it’s functionality. 4/10.
Durdham Down, Rating 5/10
The Downs in Bristol are hailed as the ‘lungs of Bristol’ and have been a protected piece of land for the people of the city to enjoy it as a leisure resort since 1861. The description of the Downs as the lungs of the City is a fascinating and accurate description of the area. It’s a place to breathe, enjoy and appreciate the beauty here whether running, playing Quidditch, football, dog-walking or taking a seat on one of the many benches. There was a very loving and touching memorial on the bench that read “We sit with you to heal our hurt”. A lot can be said for allowing yourself time to sit a while and heal for so many different things in life. The bench offered a great place to sit and admire the changing leaves and passers by enjoying the park. It was a nice bench, the seat was a little uneven in place and the arm rests not to my preference. But the back rest was at a suitable recline and it had been well maintained. Overall, a nice place to sit, 5/10.
Filton Community Garden, Rating 5/10
Nothing quite beats the peace of mind given by the middle support on a bench. If in doubt about its structural stability, aim for there and the bench will hold. The curvature of the seat was subtle but substantial enough to provide comfort and even pressure. It’s in a nice community garden and the chestnut offered a nice area out of the sun. My favourite thing of the garden was seeing a gathering of older men and women enjoying the chat and company of others, even at a distance. A community garden being used by the community is wonderful. Back to the nitty gritty parts. The biggest drawback of this bench is the back rest, it provides no real support or comfort. The bench as a whole is a little low, the arms drop away too quickly, and it’s too near to the road. It was pleasantly average nonetheless, 5/10.
Bolton's Bench, Lyndhurst, Rating 3/10
They say never work with kids or animals and I can see why. This New Forest Pony decided to get a little closer to the review (swipe right for a surprise). For a place with “Bench” in its title I was expecting to be met with something large or grandeur but it was neither. The hill upon which these benches sit was supposedly the remains of a dragon slain by a Knight called Berkeley, and the Yew trees behind me grew from the Yew bow of the Knight. There were no survivors. And there are no prisoners, the bench was lack lustre and uncomfortable, I didn’t find a plaque nor an arm rest in sight. No curvature and no solid base. Displeasing, 3/10.
Yate, Rating 6/10
Recently in Yate vandalism of benches and play equipment has increased by 100% during August, so to find a group committed to improving and tidying up the community is refreshing and admirable. Today’s bench was a request from my location Action Group to review a bench during today’s “Abbotswood Autumn Clean Up”. The 4 photos attached are a comparison of today and 1 year ago, the efforts of the Action Group to transform this area are commendable. I grew up in this area and it was forever under an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) but the dedication to the area over the past few years have transformed Abbotswood. The play area, newly laid pavement and planters have really given this place a new lease of life. The benches were receiving some TLC too. As a bench the back is upright and supportive, a good height, a solid new base and a sound seat. The previous mark was a 5/10, today’s score is 6/10. Community is everything.
Malmesbury Abbey, Rating 6/10
A wonder around the quaint village of Malmesbury was rewarded with a bench in the grounds of the Abbey. Here’s an interesting fact, Hannah Twynnoy is buried here, she is believed to be the first person in the UK to be killed by a Tiger in 1703. The irony is that she was working in a pub named the White Lion at the time. The bench itself structurally is very solid and could have scored very well had it been maintained and given a concrete base. I also didn’t appreciate having to walk across the grass (and potentially graves) to get to the bench. It scores moderately well despite its drawbacks, 6/10.
Top Of Wotton Hill, Rating 5/10
Let me start off by saying we did pick up the San Pellegrino before leaving this bench. When I first sat down I did so carefully to be sure the bench was structurally sound, once I was satisfied in that I sat here with my better half for 3 hours watching the sunset and enjoying a picnic. The bench itself was nothing compared to the company but it provided a lovely setting nonetheless. I could sit here and moan about the bench but what’s to be admired here is the age and the weathering it has faced. The bricked ring of trees were originally planted in 1815 to celebrate the victory at Waterloo and replaced in 1952. I’d guess the bench was installed around a similar time. At the foot of the bench was the remnants of a stone base, so I’ll hold judgment on the dusty shoes. Arguably more could be done in the upkeep of the bench, but the view was stunning and it was hella old. Worth the climb up the hill, 5/10.
Singleton Abbey, Rating 6/10
The authority on benches has just finished his Masters Degree. I cannot judge the thesis because I’m not the authority there. As benches go it was reasonable, a nice curve to the seat, the back is adequate, the arms are comfortable and the base is decent. The view of the meadow makes for a pleasant change on campus. Ideally it could do with a paint job and a dedication. It’s a glorious day. 6/10.
Old Sodbury, Rating 4/10
A couple of early notes: what a glorious start to autumn and remember to social distance even when in public spaces. In my time refereeing I’ve come across this bench many times but never reviewed it because it was always wet and I never made too many friends during the games to ask for a photo after! This bench was so sheltered from the sun it was cold to the touch and I’m pretty sure the darkened colour is to do with the damp deep set in the wood caused by a lack of sunshine. It made for a brief, cold seat. It was very upright and bore no plaque. To me it looks clumsy in its design and offers an obstructed view of the football being played. 4/10.
Sand Bay Beach, Rating 7/10
Talk about unpredictable weather! 10 minutes prior to this we were in warm sunshine and then a sudden downpour typical of British summertime! Windbreakers aren’t waterproof either kids. Don’t let my expression fool you, this bench was a surprising gem and it had the best lumbar support possible. In my case it was more like lumber. The side profile picture showed this along with the quirky design. The seat had a quite the recline to it which done wonders for taking the weight off. It’s nearly brand new and in great condition. Somebody had also drawn a love heart in the concrete base which was a nice touch. The usual grumbles about a wet bench still ring true but it was comfortable and supportive. The walk around Sand Point was also a great Sunday activity. 7/10.
Note: this post originally had 50 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.