Trailside design and management

The small-scale landscape created by the vegetation next to the trail should be considered as well as the larger-scale landscape, the sequence of views and features of interest described in the section on trail design.

If the trail is in a forest, the first few metres/yards away from the path into the edge of trees define an enclosed landscape. If the trail route is merely cleared of obstacles and any awkward branches removed this
misses opportunities to vary the shape, size and sequence of smaller spaces. A survey along the route should be compiled to record such small detail. There may be special trees, pieces of rock, sunny glades or interesting flora that can be revealed. Thinning the trees or pruning some of them to lighten a dark section can make a dense forest, especially one of plantation origin, less gloomy and oppressive for many people.

In open landscapes the management of the edges may include some vegetation cutting to prevent too much encroachment on to the path surfacing. If the edges are cut to varying widths along the route, perhaps wider in hollows than on knolls, this looks more natural than a standard width. Sometimes a more structured design involving maintenance of different patches of vegetation at different growth stages can produce valuable wildlife habitat, perhaps for butterflies, as well as a visually more interesting landscape. Each of these patches can be cut in sequence to maintain short grass, herbaceous perennials, low shrubs or tall shrubs (see Chapter 11).

In places, wear and tear of vegetation might occur if the path alignment has caused corner cutting, or sections of path have failed and walkers try to skirt around wet areas. As well as path repair or realignment the vegetation should also be restored. This will be easy in most areas where growth conditions are good, but mountainous, alpine or desert areas take longer to heal and probably need advice from appropriate specialists.