Vegetation management

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Encroachment of vegetation can have a large impact on the accessibility of a path and the experience for the users. Managing the vegetation is probably the most frequent maintenance task required. It is important to maintain a clear corridor along the line of a path, often referred to as the ‘path corridor’. This is to ensure easy access, assist with sight lines and also to prevent possible injury to path users, such as visually impaired people, cyclists and horse riders. If a path is for walking and cycling only, the clear corridor should be kept at a height of 2.5-3m. If horse riders are expected to use the path, this should be extended to 3.5m. The clear path corridor should extend at least 1m on either side of the constructed/ managed width. This can be reduced to 0.5m where the corridor is narrow.

Tall vegetation close to the path can make some users feel unsafe or at risk, particularly in urban situations. Users report feeling safer on paths with wide open verges and clear sight lines. Large trees close to the path will drop leaf litter onto the surface, causing mud formation, and will prevent sunlight and breezes from drying out puddles and muddy areas. Leaves falling on path surfaces, even bridges and boardwalks, can present a slip hazard.

Routine tasks

Mow or strim the path verges to keep vegetation below 150mm - 200mm height, for a width of 0.5m to 1m from the edge of the path. Depending on the location you can plan for between 2 and 4 cuts a year. Wayside shrubs and bushes will need to be cut back to retain the full width of the path.

Cut back overhanging branches to keep the specified clear path corridor, and remove trees that are in danger of falling. Follow good practice in tree care to ensure that limbs are safely removed and that cutting does not cause damage to the tree itself.

Remove leaf litter from path surfaces and structures (use a rake or leaf blower). This may need to be done twice in the autumn and winter. This is most easily achieved when leaves are dry and they should be moved so that there is minimal chance of them being blown back onto the path or in to open ditches.

Applying herbicide

It is good practice to spray weeds on path surfaces to reduce encroachment. However, care is needed to make sure that there are no undesirable effects or impacts on the vegetation and wildlife. Ensure that anyone applying herbicide is qualified to use the equipment, chemical and understands the management objectives of the path. Excessive application of herbicide can sterilise verges, making them visually unattractive and exposing them to potential for soil erosion. Regular verge mowing will reduce encroachment of vegetation, reducing the need to apply herbicide. If weeds appear through unbound, semi-bound or bound surfaces use spot applications of herbicide rather than treating the whole area.

Take extreme care in choice of amenity herbicide. This is particularly important if you are planning to treat drainage features where vegetation growth is dense. The herbicide may affect local burns and could cause damage to important flora and fauna. Check the safety information sheets for the amenity herbicide that you plan to use to see if it can be used near or in watercourses. Safety information sheets can be obtained from herbicide manufacturers e.g. Monsanto Roundup Amenity.

Make sure that path users are aware that herbicide spraying has been carried out. People will be reassured to know which herbicide has been applied and where on site. This is particularly important for people out walking their dogs.

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