Go with the flow!

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A path is a way of getting from one place to another. A good path makes the journey enjoyable, and an important part of that enjoyment is the way the path fits with the landscape.

The materials you use to surface the path play an important part in making it look right. But the line the path takes and its relationship to landscape features like knolls or large trees are vital too. They make the difference between a path that invites you to explore and feels as if it belongs in a landscape, or one that's a scar, with no sense of adventure.

A lot of work went into designing and building this section of path here at Oatridge College so that it 'flows' along the side slope of the hill through the woodland. The end result not only looks good, it also means there are fewer steep gradients, and so fewer problems with erosion as well as fewer restrictions to access.

path flowing through woodland

To achieve this sort of result, you need good communication between a path designer and the contractor working on the path construction project. You may well need help from a path designer to plan the path line, but on a typical rural path it is not practical to specify every bend and dip. You need contractors with plenty of experience and a real feel for their work, so they can make their own decisions on site with an eye for the landscape as well as for the structure of the path.

Getting the flow of a path right is particularly important in open landscapes, which are common in the Highlands. You will find a detailed analysis of different landscape types and how paths and tracks can best fit with them in section 3 of the manual 'Constructed tracks in the Scottish Uplands', published by Scottish Natural Heritage, available as a PDF. Much of the detail in the manual is relevant to lowland path construction work too. There is also information about the process of blending a path into a landscape here.

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