Path excavation and surfacing

It is important to select the most appropriate methods of design and construction of the trail for different types of terrain.

Gentle terrain and freely drained mineral soils in
areas with low or moderate rainfall

If trail use is light, no surfacing may be needed. The route is merely cleared of debris, trees and protruding branches are cut back to clear the way, drains or small streams are piped, and obvious rough places are smoothed or filled with local material. The path width will define itself by the feet of the users, and over time any wet patches or eroding sections can be repaired.

In conditions of greater use and wear and tear, trail construction is relatively easy. Turves are cut from the path route and stacked to one side. Large rocks and roots should be removed from the excavated route, and any drains crossing the route should be piped. Around 150 mm (6 in.) of graded crushed stone is then laid along the route and rolled. The turves are used to neaten the path edges, or to patch worn areas. The surface can be sealed to prevent dust or to improve it for wheelchair access using one of the proprietary glass – fibre-reinforced surfaces, or by spreading tar and rolling on chips of local stone chosen to blend into the landscape.

The surface of the path should be formed into a slight crown or double camber to shed water off each side. If needed, ditches can be provided alongside the path. This crowned surface is important for easy use by wheelchairs or buggies, as a side grade tends to pull them constantly to one side.

Construction can be by hand labour using hand-operated rollers and dumpers, or by machine such as one of the mini­excavators now available. These are ideal for path widths of between 1.2 and 1.8 m (4-6 ft).