Who really gives a grit?
We’ve ploughed through search data from the last five years to find out who really gives a grit about winter maintenance in their local area.
Each winter season when temperatures drop and Jack Frost brings a sprinkling of the white stuff across the roads of the UK, you can guarantee people across the country ask the collective question; ‘where are all the gritters?’
With the UK’s weather conditions varying from the snowy Highlands, to the almost tropical conditions experienced by the Cornish, or the urban micro-climates of London, we were intrigued to find out which areas in the UK care the most about their roads being treated during the winter.
So, we ploughed through search engine data* from the last five years to find out where in the country the public really give a grit.
Firstly, we did a quick check to make sure anyone actually wanted to find this info out. Sure, we hear people mention they ‘wonder if the gritters are out’ in conversation or in a passing comment, but do they care enough to get on their smart phone or ask Alexa and find out?
The answer to that is yes.
In fact, on average every year Google gets searched for gritting related phrases 22,800 times.
That’s more than the amount of searches for ‘best Netflix shows’!
A quick search into Google’s Trend data shows us that people care when their roads are getting gritted. It also shows they become really bothered when heavy snow and yellow warnings are forecast.
Trend of users searching Google.co.uk for ‘gritting’ in any phrase.
There are several spikes in the general trend data for gritting, and there are no prizes for guessing which one of them shares a date range with the ‘Beast from the East’!
1. East Ayrshire gives a grit
2. The Highlands gives a grit
3. Bradford gives a grit
4. Midlothian gives a grit
5. Moray gives a grit
So, who does really give a grit?
Unsurprisingly, given the much colder temperatures north of the border, the Scots are the most concerned about their gritting routes, with four of the top search areas coming from Scotland…
East Ayrshire Council is pretty good at spreading the news about gritting to its residents, with a dedicated Twitter account @AyrshireRoads featuring regular updates about road and weather conditions.
The Highlands covers a huge 25,656 km². Home to the Cairngorms who the Met Office have described as the snowiest place in the UK, and with an average of 76 days of snowfall per year, it’s no surprise its residents like to know which roads will be treated.
Our only top five area not to be from Scotland, and to be honest, we were slightly surprised to see Bradford appear on the list. So, we got digging to see if there was any reason for the anomaly and found that Bradford sits in the part of the country where the average temperature starts to drop towards the North. Do you feel the cold more than your neighbours, Bradford?
We head back up to Scotland for number 4 on our list, where the town of Penicuik gets hit with snow so regularly the residents have come up with a very tongue-in-cheek Twitter hashtag to share any snowy updates.
Situated next door to the Highlands in the north of Scotland, and bordering the North Sea, the residents of Moray are often hit with bad weather. They’re very good at keeping their residents up to date on their gritting activities and recently celebrated hitting the milestone of gritting 40,000 miles of road – congrats!
Wondering who doesn’t give a grit? Here’s the areas less concerned about their gritting routes (in reverse order)
Given that 4 of our top 5 are in Scotland, and the scientific fact that the further North you go, the colder it gets, we thought best to shed some (sun)light on the rest of the UK and see who else gives a grit.
Map showing mean UK temperature vs our UK map showing gritting search trends
From the 2 maps side-by-side above, we can see some correlation between our findings from search data and mean annual temperatures across the UK.
Taking a closer look at the capital shows that only 2 London Boroughs return results in the search trends. Surprising, given the higher mean annual temperatures versus the rest of the UK. But nevertheless, the people of Sutton and Barnet have an interest in the winter maintenance of their streets!
Search trend graph**: Sutton (blue) and Barnet (red).
Surprisingly, given the colder mean temperatures experienced across much of North and Mid Wales, only Wrexham and Cardiff turn to the internet to find out about gritting in their area. Based on our results, the rest of Wales must be using old-school technology and looking out their windows waiting to spot a gritter.
Search trend graph**: Wrexham (blue) and Cardiff (red).
Even though they experience fairly average mean temperatures, we can safely say that the heart of the Midlands feels the cold! Dudley and Sandwell feature high up on the list and certainly give a grit about winter maintenance!
Search trend graph**: Birmingham (blue), Dudley (red), Sandwell (yellow).
We’d expect the North East to search gritting related phrases more, and Northumberland and Sunderland certainly do so. What’s more interesting here is that Newcastle and Tyneside appear to not give a grit at all! Perhaps they’re better drivers than the rest of the UK and a bit of snow and ice is no problem to them.
Search trend graph**: Northumberland (blue), Gateshead (red), Sunderland (yellow), County Durham (Green).
Is your location not mentioned above? Take a look through the full list below and see where you come in.
So, do you give a grit? Let us know where you are in the UK and if you’re surprised with our results… You can leave a comment below, or tweet us right here.
*Our findings were calculated by taking the average monthly search volume on local gritting routes between 2014-2019 and combining the data with the population of each area. Take them with a pinch of salt. **Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart.
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