On most trails, especially those used by families with small children, people with disabilities or elderly people, some resting places should be provided at fairly regular intervals. Where possible, benches
should be positioned with good views or in attractive places.
As in all aspects of design, benches should reflect the landscape setting in which they are placed. This means that in the wildest areas it may not be appropriate to have benches, and that the materials and styles of benches or perches will vary. In some places, conveniently positioned slabs of rock, logs with sawn-off tops or thick timber planks can be used. The edge of the trail might be excavated to receive one of these so that the bench becomes part of the landscape.
Where elderly people or people with disabilities use the trail, the benches provided should be suitable
A natural bench made from a slab of rock set in a slope becomes part of the landscape.
for their use. This might include raising the level of the bench, or providing it with arms and a backrest. Such highly finished furniture is best suited to the more developed trails near towns and villages. Even here the urban park bench should be avoided in favour of something more robustly constructed with thicker sections to withstand the rougher conditions. However, finishes should be smooth enough on the sitting or holding surfaces to prevent splinters, but paint and varnish should be avoided in favour of natural-coloured stains or leaving the timber to weather (see ‘Picnic furniture’ in Chapter 7).
An interesting approach to bench design in some landscapes is to create more sculptural examples. A scheme called Benchmark in Britain uses sculptors who take windblown timber and carve it into
A range of designs for timber benches: (a) This bench from Koli in Finland is made of two halves of a log and two smaller round posts. The bench is simple, stable, and suitable for a forest. (b) Two benches with backrests made from round timber. These work quite well, especially as they are set against some rocks and bushes. Central
interesting and evocative benches, so that using them becomes something more than merely resting and looking at a view.