Two ways to board a walk

PDF Print

< Back to Battleby demonstration path

Building a boardwalk can take a lot of time, effort and money. However, it can all be worth it when you need to:

  • Provide access to sensitive sites, which might be damaged by traffic crossing them.

  • Offer visitors a chance to experience places that might be difficult or impossible to access otherwise - wetlands are a classic example.

  • Avoid changes to the hydrology of a site (the way water moves around and is stored underground) that might be caused by building a conventional path.

timber boardwalk with plastic support posts battleby

If you are going to use a boardwalk, make sure it is at least 1200mm wide. This will allow the boardwalk to be used by pedestrians, people with buggies and wheelchair users, although they will not be able to pass each other. On a route that will not get much use, you can build in passing places. If it is going to be busy, the boardwalk should be at least 1700mm wide to allow two-way traffic.

You can build boardwalks with different features to suit different users. Many have deck level or raised edging rails so that people in wheelchairs feel more secure. You can also provide a handrail, which will help people with mobility or balance difficulties. You should also consider providing a handrail if your boardwalk is high or passes over water. Think about how people will get on and off the boardwalk. Any ramp should have a slope of no more than 8% (about 1 in 12).

You can build a boardwalk using either timber or recycled plastic. There are examples of both at Battleby's demonstration path.

plastic boardwalk battleby

Recycled plastic has several benefits: it re-uses plastics that would otherwise go to landfill, it does not get slippery (algae cannot grow on plastic), it does not rot, cannot be vandalised that easily and does not need maintenance. However, it can be a lot heavier and more flexible than timber. Many people find timber more visually attractive, so you might use the two materials together. Timber for the more visible parts above the ground, such as the decking boards, and plastic for the parts that will make direct contact with the ground. Algae and moss can grow very easily on timber, making it slippery, so you should make sure the surface of timber decking has some non-slip treatment: see non-slip strips further along the path.

Whatever materials and design you use, a boardwalk is a significant feature in the landscape. If it is to run for anything more than 20 metres, design some curves into the line it takes. This will make it more interesting to follow as well as less of an intrusion – a long straight line will look as if someone has just laid a ruler across the countryside! Just like a path, a boardwalk should fit into the landscape that it will cross.

You can read further technical information about the recycled plastic and timber boardwalks installed at Battleby here. You will find more discussion about boardwalks, together with specifications and a table to help you choose what type to use, in the Countryside Access Design Guide, published by Scottish Natural Heritage. It is available as an online version or as a PDF file.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh