7. The construction of footpaths

This chapter offers advice on how to gather information that will aid in choosing the best design for a path corridor. The basics of path construction, access design and maintenance is summarised. The key to creating the best path corridor in terms of durability, safety, enjoyment and cost effectiveness is to combine an appreciation of geomorphological (water, soil and rock) processes, understanding of habitats, landscaping skills, psychology of path users and practical skills in path engineering. Creating a path is a matter of good judgement and an awareness of the many variables that can affect the structure and durability of a path. (SNH, March 2000: 3)

Once a path corridor has been defined, the necessary consultations carried out, permission for access obtained or under discussion, then the construction of the route may be considered. The construction of a path network is a process, which begins with an initial assessment of a site and ends with a simple maintenance regime.

7.1.3. The construction basics that are described in this chapter relate mostly to lowland recreational routes. However, many of the principles described also apply to upland routes. The construction of upland routes was deliberately not discussed, as there is a vast amount of specialised information required dealing with specific problems such as how to deal with steep slopes. As the land in the study area is mostly lowland, so it was considered that much of the information on upland paths was not required.

The nature of paths

7.2.1. There are two broad categories of path in construction terms, Natural paths and Path pavements.

7.2.2. Natural paths are in situ surfaces and usually follow desire lines that have been established for a long time. The "old drove road" will be an example of this. It has been in existence for the last three hundred years and though parts of it are now paved, it follows a long established desire line. These paths are usually quite durable if they are lightly trodden and are situated on firm, level ground. They usually do not require management and present a natural appearance, which can be pleasing to those wishing to "traverse the countryside". (SNH, March 2000: 4) However, if use of the path increases then dynamic changes take place. These range from the vegetation near the path being replaced by plants which are more resistant to trampling, to the topsoil becoming bared and eroded away. The more robust sub-soil is thus exposed and a period of stability may follow. However, if the path is subject to a gradient then the path may become subject to further erosion, as the damaged ground will become used as a drainage channel for surface run-off.

7.2.3. Changes in path conditions are often episodic and follow cycles. Once a path becomes damaged, people will step around it and once again start a cycle of damage on either side of the path. This leads to a braiding or widening of the path.

The management of paths usually doesn't begin until damage has occurred. Therefore early management action should be an objective of footpath maintenance and management. Natural or sward surfaces can be re-enforced using methods that do not require major construction. For example, gravels or aggregates can be added to their base combined with an adequate drainage system. (Wilson, 1997: 5)

7.2.4. Path pavements are put in place when the natural ground is not resistant to repeated trampling. These are engineered ground structures, which are designed to protect the ground from deformation by reducing the stress put upon it. They require surfacing to provide an even stable surface that is resistant to erosion and a sub-base layer that spreads the surface loads without deforming itself. The sub base is made from high strength, free draining granular material.

When constructing a path route or network, it is important to establish path parameters so that it can be determine what level of management and engineering is required in construction. Path pavements can come in a number of different forms depending on their function and the parameters established for them.

7.2.5. Key points to remember

Paths are dynamic and the form of which can be influenced by many factors.

The management of paths has traditionally been "knee-jerk" management in response to damage. Management action should be taken as early as possible based on an understanding of quality path standards, monitoring will be required to ensure this.

Definition of path parameters

Definition of path parameters need to be established, and depending upon the variations that will exist between different sites and path routes specifications for construction will occur. It is therefore not possible to provide any easy to follow formulae for decision making about how to construct the path. Basically, as much information as possible must be gathered and the best appropriate option chosen. Information should be gathered systematically.

There are two parts to the first phase of a path's construction.

Firstly, the logistics of the proposed path must be clearly defined and it must be clear what is trying to be achieved with the construction or restoration of any given path section. An example might be that a particular section of the Belhelvie Path Network is to be designed for cyclists so the path surface must be suitable for wheels while another path might not be for the use of cycles at all and the surface rougher. Establishing the path’s purpose is important.

What is the path's purpose? Is it a recreational route or a walkway, a cycle way or is it to be used for transport purposes? The path construction method should be chosen on the grounds of how appropriate it is for its defined purpose. It can have a range of uses involving many different user groups. Unfortunately some user group needs conflict. For example wheel chair users demand flat stable surfaces such as the boardwalks in the country park See Fig. 19, while horse riders require wider more natural surfacing. A degree of compromise is required.

7.3.3. Who are the users? The path specifications will reflect who the users are. For example, if the users are predominately older people, they may need a path that caters for disabilities. Therefore the age structure of the users needs to be defined, as does the scope to provide for disabilities. The colours on the maps showing the individual path sections show potential user abilities. The routes marked with a yellow lines indicate users who will potentially be in need of either specialised facilities such as a formal paved surface as opposed to a countryside "rough" path.

7.3.4. What is the likely frequency of use? This is very important when trying to construct a path because the path has to be durable. Its durability will depend on the levels and types of use as well as many other factors such as climate and carrying capacity which in turn depends on substrate, gradient, surface drainage etc.

7.3.5. Are there any possible constraints to construction? These can be numerous but they must be identified. For example, there may be constraints of funding, the fact that it is limited or the lack of it. Maintenance is another constraint that must be considered when choosing how a path will be constructed for the feasibility of a path is obsolete if it cannot or will not be maintained.

7.3.6. Who has liability? This is important in the short term and in the long term. Before construction commences the legal responsibilities for user safety, for maintenance etc. must be established. During the construction phase there are several regulations such as the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, 1994, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1992, which must be adhered to and shall be discussed later in this chapter.

7.3.7. Secondly, before construction can begin, an on site assessment or physical survey is needed. There are several different types of survey, however only a specification survey is essential. The other survey types are carried out in order to get a through understanding of the path network and the wider area. Though each method is different, they are not mutually exclusive and so a combination of these surveys is strongly recommended before construction begins.

7.3.8. Specification survey- this type of survey is essential before any practical work can be carried out. The survey will establish and record current site conditions. It can then be used as a foundation for monitoring the condition of the footpath in the future. As this survey is specified it also provides the necessary information to carry out construction work. It can be used in costing for budgets, tendering and contract documentation.

7.3.9. Area survey- is a wide-ranging survey of a large-scale path network. As it incorporates surveying a large geographical area, it is often used only for budgeting and funding purposes. The information gathered should identify and class the routes and the current condition of the existing paths. If time and funds permit, the area survey can be more detailed to include path specifications or priorities for work. If the specifications have not been incorporated in the Area Survey then a specification survey is needed before work can proceed on any path section.

7.3.10 Condition survey- the information in this survey will consist of information about the condition of the ground. This survey normally applies to path sections rather than the network in its entirety. However, it can be carried out on a larger scale thus becoming an area survey. Though it applies to smaller scale path sections this type of survey is non-specific because it just gives a general overview of ground conditions.

7.3.11. Key points to remember
Time and planning is the key to the right construction type.
The durability of a path is affected by many variables, therefore, as much information as can possibly be gathered should be assembled in a systematic way.
The path’s purpose, the potential users, likely frequency of use, constraints, liability has to be clearly defined.
A physical survey must be undertaken and although only a specification survey is required a combination of other methods is recommended.
Take into account the short-term implications as well as the long-term implications such as maintenance.

Survey Information

7.4.1. Whatever method of survey or combination of survey is undertaken, they should include information on the following:

7.4.2. Information on the path or path route

The exact location - the location of the proposed network can be seen on map 2.

7.4.3. Length of path section(s)- the length of the path sections tends to increase as the path network moves away from the centres of population. This was deliberate as it was hoped that the paths nearer the town would be shorter, more specialised paths, in terms of construction. This is because nearer the town the paths will have to have larger carrying capacity, be multi-purpose and durable. Away from the town centres the paths become more single use and longer distance.

Cumulative path length – for the study area the cumulative path length is 31.6735 miles.

7.4.4. Path long gradient- for lowland paths the gradient should be limited to around 10 degrees. This limit is to allow access for the whole community. (SNH, March 2000: 25) However, this figure may increase to 15 degrees for short sections or path in rural areas. The topography and constraints of a path corridor may make it difficult to achieve these gradients. In these cases steeper gradients must be accepted and access denied to some users or major earthworks should be carried out. However, this approach is not practical or economical.

Path cross width/gradient- the path corridor will be narrow in the majority of cases, probably no more that 20m wide and usually less than 10m.

7.4.5. Path features (existing water courses. ditches, bridges, ….) - when designing a route, where possible bogs, marshes, depressions and river crossings should be avoided. However, watercourses may be beneficial for their aesthetic appeal and to provide natural drainage. Where ditches occur this may also be beneficial. Features of interest on the proposed path network include Balmedie Country Park on route BAL.3 .On route WC3 for Whitecairns there is a pond and the route also takes in the forest and joins the Potterton route PT2. There is a cairn towards Belhelvie and also a working quarry. Some of the paths follow burns, which make them more scenic and also provide natural drainage.

7.4.6. Substrate type -nearly all footpaths are built on soil and will use soil in their construction. There are four generic soil types clays, silts, sands and gravels. What is important in path construction is whether the soil is cohesive or granular. This is dependent on the particle size distribution (PSD) of the soil.

7.4.7. The PSD is one of the most important parameters in deciding what engineering is required on a path section, as it is this factor which will govern a soil's ability to resist trampling and drainage. Usually a soil is made up of a range of particle sizes. Cohesive soils are more likely to be compacted and need more protection by building a thicker sub-base. Typically a more granular soil will be preferred for a path base because it is freer draining and this will prevent loss of strength under high moisture conditions.

Similarly, the plasticity of the soil, its moisture content, shear strength and permeability will also determine how "strong" a soil is and hence how much management will be required in order to create a durable, safe footpath.

7.4.8. Indications of present use: there are a number of disused road and rail routes that can form all or part of a new path. These existing routes usually already have a stable platform, gradient, alignment, and existing drainage system and may be essential links between communities.

7.4.9. Hazards: it is impossible to list all the possible hazards that can occur along a given section of a path network. However, one that deserves attention, as it will affect the success of a path is flooding. Where a path runs near to a watercourse there is the potential for flooding problems. The risk is greatest where the path crosses the flood plain of a river or stream. Predicting floods is not an exact science and the risk can vary within the same geographical area and on an annual basis. Constructing flood mitigation measures or protection is rarely a feasible option. Therefore it is advisable that before construction begins to consider realigning the path or raising the level of the path.

Other examples of possible hazards are unstable or decaying structures or over-mature trees in a state of collapse. However, in the context of disabled users hazard or risk assessment takes on another dimension and is discussed later in the chapter.

General character of the surroundings

7.5.1. Land use: The land use patterns are good indicators of changes in ground condition or drainage patterns. For example, intensively managed arable land may suddenly change to moorland which means that the soil regime may be different and the drainage ability of the soil will decrease.

There may be conflicts of land use interest. For example, residential land use may conflict with recreation. In the Belhelvie area there is a lot of open fields with housing. Many people, though in favour of a footpath network, were not willing to have the path near to their houses because they did not want a breach of privacy. That is why BAL2 was directed so that it by-passed the farm.

7.5.2. Vegetation: Path structure and sustainability can depend on the surrounding vegetation cover. Tree cover can lower the water table in the area as sub-surface water is absorbed by the root system. However, tree cover will result in leaf litter and shade, which will reduce ground plants and the durability of the path, if its surface is not engineered, because it will also prevent the drying effects of the wind and the sun. Vegetation is also useful as an indicator of ground conditions, e.g., whether the ground is water logged.

7.5.3. Topography: An appreciation of the relationship between topography, land use and drainage is essential in footpath construction. The footpath will have an effect on the surrounding land use. Similarly where footpaths go through fields, in order to gain access through the field boundary there must be an access structure put in place. Access structures will be discussed later, however the footpath will be affecting the land use in that the field boundary will have to be broken to allow access and this means that it increases the risk of grazing livestock or horses escaping.

The main assessment of topographical features will be path gradients, side slopes and natural obstructions. Some high points on a section of footpath may need to be removed in order to reduce gradients. (SNH, March 2000: 17) Where the excavated material is deposited should be considered because it may be used elsewhere within the path section or in the network. Similarly, there may be sections where the path level needs to be raised in order to reduce gradients or "fill in" hollows or depressions. The level of the path may need to be changed in order to alleviate drainage problems.

7.5.4. Substrate type: the substrate type of the surrounding area can give a good indication of the type of materials that can be used in path construction and is also important in the planning of the path network. For example, peat is a highly compressible material. Therefore peat areas should be avoided entirely or if they cannot be avoided extra care should be taken to minimise the loads by using supports such as "geo-textiles". Geo-textiles are man-made materials that allow water to pass through them. Their basic function is to re-enforce the soil by preventing the intermixing of the natural ground with the sub-base layer of the path. (SNH, March 2000: 9)
7.5.5. Drainage regime: drainage is the most critical factor in a successful footpath construction. It will have a major effect on the maintenance regime of the path. (SNH, March 2000: 18) Where it is possible a route should be chosen to make use of the natural drainage regime.

The natural drainage route of a path section and the surrounding area will depend on a variety of conditions that will vary considerably through out the route of a path. Such factors include the topography which will determine the direction the water will flow, the catchment size which will determine the potential volume of water flow, water table depth which determines the amount of surface run-off, and soil type. Generally, when soils are cohesive (clay or silt) a drainage system may be required. In more granular soils it may only be necessary to ensure effective discharge of surface water.

There are two primary functions in a path drainage system. The first is to prevent water flow from running onto the path and the second is to remove any water once it is on the path.

There are several drainage functions, these include:

7.5.6. Side drains: used to drain water from paths in cuttings or low lying ground where water cannot be easily removed from the path or they can be used in order to prevent the path becoming a drainage channel.

7.5.7. Interceptor drains: as the name suggests, this drain should intercept surface water/sub-surface water flowing down slope to prevent it crossing the path and transfer it into a culvert or existing stream/ditch.

7.5.8. Cross-drains/culverts: where side and interceptor drains run along side the path, there is a need to cross the line of the path and transfer the water into a water course or drainage system. Open channels are not a preferred option because they are a trip hazard for pedestrians and they also present a barrier to wheel chair users or cyclists. Therefore the water should be taken under the path.

7.5.9. Cut-off drains: are installed to divert water off the path and reduce erosion and are used on paths that follow the gradient of a slope.

7.5.10. Land drains and soakaways: land drains collect and feed water to a cross drain or culvert. Soakaways are used to discharge water from a cross drain and are only used in non-cohesive/ granular soil, to allow the water to disperse.

Generally drains for paths will be one of the following types.

7.5.11. Open ditches: are the easiest and least expensive drains to construct though they require regular maintenance. They are open channels and can be built to meet peak flow requirements. However, they can present a hazard to livestock and path users.

7.5.12. Pipes: are more expensive than ditches but require less maintenance. However they are not easy to repair should maintenance be required.

7.5.13. Filter drains: are ditches filled with stones that can have a perforated UPVC pipe installed along the base. Though they have less capacity than open ditches, they are more resistant to erosion and are more suited to intercepting sub-surface flow. They can be used on steeper gradients or as low maintenance side drains.

(For more detailed guidance on how to identify any existing drainage works see Scottish Natural Heritage’s technical guide on the Construction of Lowland Recreational Routes, March 2000: 19-20)

As the paths in the network are mostly lowland routes, filter drains will probably not be ideal except as side drains. The majority of drainage works will probably incorporate open ditches. However care must be taken that they do not alter the hydrology of the surrounding area as this can have negative impacts on the ecology of the area.

7.6.1. Sign posting and the dissemination of information is the key to a successful path network. Once it is decided that sign posting is required in order to disseminate information, then the following should be considered.

Who is the signpost for? Is it for visitors? Local walkers? Local cyclists? Horse riders?
What materials will be used? Wood, metal or stone.
Consider where the possible sources of materials are and how they should be used
Consider vandalism, the ease of repair and durability
Think about the size, colour and visibility of the signs, bearing in mind the different user needs.
Some information that needs to be disseminated may include the following:

Way markers: when using way markers should wooden posts be used or should discs be mounted on fence posts?
What frequency should the markers have?
Should symbols or arrows be used?
Should colour be used?

7.6.2. Fences/walls/gates: These structures serve two purposes, to prevent live stock from straying and to allow access for permitted path users whilst excluding others. Conflicts of land use interest may occur at a field boundary especially if access is restricted and the presence of these features may present an access barrier to some users of the path, especially mobility impaired users. However, this depends on the type of access required and whether the fence or barrier can be moved easily or not. There is a growing emphasis on "access for all" and social inclusion.

7.6.3. The Disability Discrimination Act, 1995, established new measures which prevent the discrimination against disabled people. This act makes it unlawful for service providers, when providing goods and service facilities, to treat disabled people less favourably than others. (SNH, unpublished: 4) The provisions currently in force since October 1999 mean that service providers have a duty to find reasonable alternative methods of providing access where a structure on a path is obstructing access. From 2004, if that structure makes access impossible or difficult then service providers have a duty to take steps to remove or alter the structure if access cannot be found by an alternative route.

The provision of disabled access is difficult to specify because it will depend on many factors. However where possible the footpaths should have a colour contrast with the surrounding ground which will assist partially sited people. Fibredec can be produced in a range of colours.

Hazards such as trees and signposts should be highlighted. This can be done using colour or by using a tactile agent. The footpath needs to be 2.0 m wide, (1.8 m minimum) to allow for wheel chair access. Handrails should be provided where the slope is greater than 1 in 15 or where there are changes in level. They should extend 450mm (300 minimum) beyond the changes in level at either end. Where there is a sharp change in direction or where there is a junction between two footpaths, the corners should be rounded or splayed respectively. This will allow for ease of progress for wheel chair users and aid visibility. Signs- people in wheel chairs benefit from signs that are 1.4 m-1.6 m above the ground.

7.6.4. There are many access design structures. Many of them can be seen in the Countryside Access Design Guide that is due to be published shortly by SNH. The "least restrictive option" is now considered to be the main objective of access design. (MacPhearson-personal communication) Therefore structures like stiles are not considered to be the best design for accessing a field boundary. Gaps in the fence are the mostly desired option but do not always suit all land uses as they allow for unauthorised use and unwanted users and they are not stock proof. The width required for a gap would be 1525 mm (optimum) and 1200 mm (minimum).

Table 9 shows a rating of the ease of access that each access design allows.
  Able bodied people Ambulant disabled people Users of manual wheel chairs Users of motorised wheelchairs People with prams or single pushchairs horse riders pedal cyclists motor cyclists cars
Gap width

1525 mm

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *
Gap width

1200 mm

*** *** *** *** *** ** *** *** *
Gate width

1525 mm

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *
Gate width


*** *** *** *** *** ** *** *** *
Gate width


*** *** ** ** *** ** *** *** *
Gate width


*** *** * * *** * ** ** *
Kissing Gate



depth 1600 

*** *** *** *** *** * *** *** *
Kissing Gate depth 1400mm *** *** *** *** *** * ** * *
Kissing Gate depth


*** *** *** * *** * ** * *
V shaped enclosure


*** ** * * * * * * *
Stile – step through *** ** * * * * * * *
Stile- step over *** ** * * * * * * *
Ladder stile ** * * * * * * * *

Table 9. Showing restrictions for different users with various access designs. (Source: Draft Countryside Access Design Guide)

Key to table:

*** Accessible with ease
** Accessible with some potential difficulty/inconvenience
* Not accessible or accessible with extreme difficulty

When installing a gate, kissing gate or stile it is worth considering whether the structure is necessary and to what extent it will restrict some users. The types of users who may be restricted include those who have visual impairment, balance problems, dexterity, lack of strength or are mobility impaired. These users may not have to strength to be able to operate the latched gates or manoeuvre without hand holds.

In Balmedie, on BAL1 there is an old people's home and so the path nearby will need to cater for older people and is an example of a path section whose potential users require special access specifications.

7.6.5. Access points: the construction costs of the path will be reflected in the accessibility of the path from the public road.

7.6.6. Potential materials supplies: the availability of materials on the site and the distance from the source of engineered materials will determine the cost of the path's construction.

7.6.7. Hazards: it is impossible to list all the hazards that may occur in an area where the path network may be. However, from the questionnaires many people in the study area listed safety as a primary concern. Many areas along the proposed network are in open fields and could pose a hazard. Trail bikes are a hazard as this use of the path network conflicts with other users. Structures such as walls, if they are in poor repair, will present a hazard to path users.

7.6.8. Future conditions: A good survey should also give some clues as to what the site will be like under different weather conditions and at different times of the year.

7.6.9. Key points to remember

A survey should include information on the path itself including the location, length, gradient, width of the path and path features.
Fundamentally it should include information on the path and the surrounding area especially substrate type, drainage regime (both natural and present man-made structures) and topography. It is the relationship between these physical factors, which will influence the nature of the path
construction requirements, and how successful the path will be.
Information on present use of the path, land use in the surrounding area, and hazards are essential information for path managers and designers.

There is a growing emphasis on "access for all", therefore information on potential access barriers such as fences, walls etc. need to be defined and provisions for all potential path users should be included at the earliest possible stage of a path’s design.
There are many access design structures such as stiles and gates. The least restrictive option is the prefered option.
Though the provisions for disabled access are hard to specify, ideally footpaths should have a colour contrast with the surrounding ground and hazards such as trees and sign- posts should be highlighted.

Gathering and recording the information

7.7.1. The process of making a survey and taking notes and photographs gives the opportunity for the task to be thought over and for solutions to potential problems to emerge. (Agate, 1983: 16) An estimation of the quantities of materials, time and labour that will be required can only be made if the information from the survey is reliable and accurate.

The information can be gathered and analysed in both a desktop study and in a walkover site assessment. The best method for recording the site assessment data is to use a blown up 1:10,000 scale map with a pad for field notes and more detailed sketch plans.

7.7.2. Key point

Gathering information is important but so is recording it and this allows for potential difficulties to be highlighted and thought over in an informal way.


7.8.1. Site clearance: is required before work can start on the construction of a new path or to improve an existing one. This may involve clearing fallen tree, boulders, grubbing stumps and clearing vegetation.

7.8.2. Materials: Natural surfaces can be reinforced with top-up seeding with trample resistant seed mix and fertilising if necessary.

When a path is surfaced with aggregate it is composed of a base layer (100 mm-150 mm) of aggregate. A Type 1 material has a graded content of particle sizes from 38 mm. down to dust and is accepted as being the ideal material for base layers. The base layer is laid on the natural mineral base material under the path line. (Wilson, 1997: 6)

The final layer is composed of fine aggregate dust, which is laid to a thickness of 10-25 mm and compacted to fill any voids in the base aggregate layer beneath.

7.8.3. Whin dust is the most commonly used surfacing material and though it is not produced specifically for path construction, it is cheap, it can be applied manually and provides an informal surface which can be used in many different areas. It is not suited to heavy use and is subject to surface water erosion and therefore requires a good drainage system. It is suitable for wheelchair use only if it is well compacted and maintained.

Bound gravel is similar to whin dust but has the finer particals removed in order to improve its drainage capabilities. It provides an informal surface layer, it can be applied manually and though there will be loose stones a well laid bound gravel is adequate for wheelchair use. It is susceptable to water erosion and therefore the performance of this material as a surface layer is dependent on drainage. It will require raking and re-compaction after two or three years. (SNH, March 2000: 31)

7.8.4. Tarmac is an aggregate with a bitumen binder to glue the aggregate particles together. It is resistant to water penetration and physical surface damage. It provides a smooth surface for wheeled traffic and has lower maintenance requirements than other aggregate materials. It is the most expensive initially and when maintenance is required is expensive.
Tarmac can be in various graded forms

7.8.5. Cold Bitumen binder achieves a sealed surface cheaply. This material is gravel sealed with a spray-on emulsion binder and is then compacted with whin dust or sand. The surface is then rolled before a second coat of binder is applied and a final surface layer of 6-mm chipings is rolled. This material may require small-scale haulage but can be applied mannually. Dry weather conditions are required for rolling. Once laid it has good erosion resistance though is not suitable for heavy use. It requires over-coating every 6-7 years.

7.8.6. Dense Bitumen Macadam provides a smooth sealed surface, suitable for all areas except bridleways. A 40 mm layer can be placed directly onto a Type 1 sub-base. It is resistant to erosion but will deteriorate at the edges after 6-7 years and degenerate rapidly after that, therefore good edging is required.

7.8.7. Fibredec combines aggregate, bitumen emulsion, and glass fibres. It produces a sealed surface, which is resistant to erosion . It has to be applied with specialist personal and equipment and so is more expensive than bitmac or asphalt.

7.8.8. Hot rolled asphalt is 20 mm layer laid on top of bitmac forming a formal sealed surface. It is the longest last surface though subject to deterioration around the edges. The construction of this surface requires supervison to ensure that it is laid to specifications and it requires access to a specialised plant for rolling and heating. This surface is not suited to rural areas and this is highlighted by the fact that Aberdeen Access Strategy follows a policy that outside the settlement boundary the paths will be "rough countryside paths" i.e., should have an informal surface. (Zoe Griffin, personal communication, 27/1/00: Appendix 7) Within a more urban setting the paths may be more sealed or formal in appearance.

7.8.9. Concrete is usually only used in short lengths e.g. for an animal crossing.

7.8.10. Wood-chip is laid as a surface layer usually over an aggregate base. They are commonly used in woodland areas and are an aesthetically pleasing option. However this material does retain water and degrades, therefore has a large maintenance requirement such as regular replenishment and cleaning the aggregate base periodically.

7.8.11. There is limited information about the performance of specific materials for path surfacing. Scottish Natural Heritage has summarised a report by Drumchapel Footpath Study (DFS) which is based on a series of case studies of paths in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow. (See SNH, March 2000: 30-32)

If it is possible, materials should be obtained from local sources. This would reduce transport charges for materials, increase economic benefits to local suppliers and it may also be in keeping aesthically with the surrounding area, for example local stone would look more "natural" than stone brought in from other areas.

The Paths for All Partnership run courses in construction skills.

7.8.12. Key points to remember

The material chosen will depend on the purpose of the path, the users, the location, the budget and funding constraints, procurement and access.
The materials used in a country path will have to provide an informal surface whereas in an urban setting they may be more sealed.

Creating the path

7.9.1. Improved knowledge in path survey and construction techniques can help access practitioners and service providers to control the process of contracting and tendering and help them contribute to the delivery of sustainable paths.

7.9.2. If it should be decided that the project of building a path section would be tendered out to a contractor there is a wide range of approaches that can be taken. The simplest case is for a client to agree on a defined path corridor i.e. start and end points and the width and surface type, with a contractor. The contractor then agrees in writing to carry out the work for a lump sum of money or at a specified rate per metre. Drawings or sketches to describe the work required can be used.

7.9.3. A more formal approach is where a contract to build a footpath is tendered in a similar way to a small-scale engineering works. This should be done using formal contract documentation, which comprises specifications and methods of measurement in addition to drawings and sketchings. The client is then billed by the quantities of material, which are required and are individually priced, and the contractor is then paid for the work done against the rates of his tender.

7.9.4. Alternatively a contractor will be asked to provide a lump sum price for the work based on the specification and the drawings. This method means that any unforeseen costs go to the contractor. In practice however this can be more costly to the client because the contractor will price the risk into his tender. (SNH, March 2000: 36)

7.9.5. Though tendering the contract is the most conventional way to create a path route, attempts should be made to involve the community as much as possible. An environmental task force should be set up incorporating local volunteers. However, it is essential that procedures be taken to ensure volunteer safety. There is also the "New Deal" which is a Central Government initiative which is funded in part by the Windfall Taxes levied by the 1997 government, the employment services budgets and from the public an private sectors. (Edwards, 1999: 19) The aim of it is to give unemployed 18-25 year olds the opportunity to gain, among other things, practical work experience. Employment services have the responsibility to launch the Environmental Task Force on behalf of the government. The establishment of a path route would perhaps give the young unemployed people in the area the chance to gain some practical construction experience.

7.9.6. A formal approach is recommended by SNH. There will be a need to obtain procurement advice in order to select an appropriate contractor. This may add an extra expense, however, the cost is outweighed by the fact that the construction delivery of the path will meet specifications and lead to lower maintenance costs. Also there will be a requirement for the client to prepare the documentation for the contract which involves preparing the various parts of the tender including instructions for tendering, preparation of bills of quantities and drawings, tender assessments and appointing the contractor. It should also include an allowance for staff that will be involved in enforcing construction prescriptions and supervision.

7.9.7. When preparing the documentation try to…

7.9.8. There will be conditions of contract in any contract that is procured. There are many standard conditions of contract within the construction industry. SNH recommend the ICE Conditions of Contract for Minor Works, for lowland footpaths. This is because the potential risks in the work are low, the work is relatively straightforward and the value of the contract does not usually exceed £250,000.

7.9.9. There is an absence of a published standard of specifications for footpath work. This means that there will be variations in specifications for footpath marks that have been developed by various clients and designers. Some specifications will be more prescriptive than others will. Specifications should ideally be restrictive enough to ensure the quality of a footpath corridor but not too prescriptive. (SNH, March 2000: 37)

7.9.10. Within a tender there will be various elements of the work that will be itemised for pricing by the contractor. There are many standard methods of measurement however the Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement (3rd ed.) is compatible with the ICE Conditions of Contract for Minor Works. (SNH, March 2000: 37)


7.10.1. It is important to note that any construction work may be subject to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 which were introduced to provide specific management regulations for the construction industry to bring them in line with the duties imposed by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992. The construction (design and management) regulations must be applied in a project that involves construction work, if it involves more than 5 people working on site and if the project involves more than 30 days. In the case of the later it is notifiable to the Health and Safety executive. These regulations do not apply if it is a fixed term project such as maintenance or emergency work on a frequent/irregular basis or over an extended period.

7.10.2. Key points to remember

Scottish Natural Heritage recommend the client and a contractor with a prescriptions and a written agreement tender a formal contract. However this approach is only suggested and advice must be sought before decisions are made.
Attempts should be made to include the community as much as possible in the path creation process. This may involve enlisting a local environmental task force, of volunteers to carry out some of the work.
Care must be taken to ensure volunteer safety.

If the contract is tendered the CLIENT must prepare the documentation for the contract. This involves setting the conditions of the contract. SNH recommend ICE Conditions of Contract for Minor Works.
The client must also set the prescriptions for the footpath work.
The client must also set the standard methods of measurement. SNH recommend the Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement (3rd ed.)
Whether the contract is to be tendered or not, it is essential that the responsibilities of the parties are clearly defined and that there are set procedures to deal with any problems that may arise.


7.11.1. One of the most important considerations in path design is the cost of construction. The cost of the whole path project should be given consideration; from the initial costs to the maintenance of the path.

The cost will depend on many variables that cannot be controlled by the path designer. These variables include the availability of materials on

7.11.2. A quote from Aberdeenshire Council- Transportation, Roads and Property states that the construction of a 150 mm Type 1 sub-base and 50 mm Quarry Fines = £10- £12.50 per square metre which means that a 1 m wide footpath will cost £10,000- £12,500 per kilometre of footpath. (See Appendix 31)

Surfacing material costs as quoted in Scottish Natural heritage's technical Guide to the Design and Construction of Lowland Recreation Routes. These costs would include a 150 mm Type 1 sub-base.
Table 10: Costs of Surface Material

Surfacing Material Cost/m2
Fibredec £15.00
Hot asphalt £12.00
Bitumen sealed gravel £11.00
Bound gravel £9.80
Bitmac £8.00
Whin dust £4.50

If the path is a simple construction and has timber edgings, minimal earthworks, and straightforward drainage then the cost of the path is expected to be 1.5-2 times the costs quoted in the table. For a complex construction including significant earth-works and drainage then the construction costs are 2.5-4 times the costs quoted above. (SNH, March 2000: 39)

Monitoring and Maintenance

7.12.1. Maintenance one of the elements of path construction and management that is often neglected because of budgetary reasons. However, during the design process, if information has been gathered systematically and careful consideration has been given to many of the factors that effect the performance and durability of a path then many potential maintenance problems will have been identified early. The paths should be constructed with maintenance in mind.

Post construction and initial inspection should be carried out in order to detect faults and consequently every three-four months during the first year after construction. An inspection should also be carried out as soon as possible after the first severe weather as problems will become apparent after this.

7.12.2. The survey should be systematic to allow for comparison between follow-up surveys. After the initial 12 months after construction, surveys should be carried out on an annual basis. It is advisable to conduct the surveys at the same time each year for comparison. SNH suggest conducting the survey in the spring to assess the damage from the most severe weather in the winter and to allow the summer months to undertake any remedial action. (SNH, March 2000: 41)

7.12.3. The exact format of the survey will depend on a specific path. Some problems likely to be found on the paths may be overgrowth and action may include using hand tools or herbicides for clearance, or the removal of fences to allow grazing to keep the path clear, the provision of way marking to increase use which will keep the path open. Water flowing across path in which action may include diverting the water at source or building a cross drain or culvert. (Agate, 1983: 31)

It should be determined what needs to be assessed, for example, the surfacing, the edgings, the drainage, the side slopes and the alignment. Once this is decided it should be established what should be expected in observation. For example when observing the surface, the pattern wearing down of the pattern is expected to some degree however water erosion is not expected ideally.

Once observations have been made then the different maintenance options should be explored. Keeping a photographic record of the path is recommended as this will supplement any descriptions of the paths present condition and any problems.

Funding for footpath maintenance comes from funds raised by voluntary groups such as the Footpath Trust who enter partnership footpath agreements with community councils and the landowners. (Hunt, 1999: 14) Often the Footpath Trust takes the responsibility of maintenance and distributes the funds through a steering group. Funds can also come from the private sector and the public sector in the form of the Woodland Grant Scheme and the Landfill Tax. Sometimes, bodies such as Forest Enterprise and SNH carry out maintenance when a footpath runs through their estates but usually maintenance is carried out by a contractor using a team of trained staff or by volunteer groups. These volunteers can be local youth groups or people on working holidays. These groups need a small amount of training, which is done through groups such as Footpath Trust, or Paths for All.

Volunteers can also take on the responsibility of monitoring in the form of volunteer warden systems. Often these wardens will use the path themselves and with a small amount of training can detect any problems.