Stone pitching

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What is it?

A hard-wearing stone surface using large stones, set into the ground in the manner of rough cobbles, to provide a reasonably level surface. From a bird's eye view, looking down on to stone pitching, it looks like the side of a dry stone wall.

stone pitching surface oatridge college

Stone pitching is generally used on steep slopes for upland paths. It can also be used on level ground in remote lowland settings, where a very durable surface is required and other path surface types will not be robust enough for the intended purpose. It can be used as a surface for dealing with specific problems, e.g. where a durable surface is required to take the weight of livestock or farm vehicles crossing a path. A strong stone surface would be sturdier where an unbound surface like whin dust would eventually be damaged by livestock or vehicles.

At Oatridge College, stone pitching has been used to sustain a path surface that would otherwise be washed out by floodwater from the nearby watercourse. In this case, stone pitching provides a sustainable surface that can withstand water flowing over the top.

stone pitching oatridge college

What are the benefits?

Stone pitching can provide a number of benefits as a path surface:

  • A very durable surface on steep slopes or level ground where other path surface types are impractical.

  • A solid and immoveable surface that will withstand the most extreme pressures of use and water flow.

  • A path surface with a long life expectancy and minimum maintenance requirements.

  • A surface that blends in well with the surrounding landscape.

Is it suitable?

Stone pitching may not be suitable for all lowland locations and can be unsuitable for some path users. Its rough and uneven surface can be difficult to negotiate, particularly if you are in a wheelchair. Stone pitching requires a source of suitable, preferably hard-wearing, stone available on site which may not be the case for some lowland sites. If stone has to be found and brought onto site, it can make stone pitching a very expensive choice.

How much will it cost?

Stone pitching may cost between £100 - £250 per square metre (labour costs only). The cost of the stone will depend on whether it is already available on site, or whether it needs purchasing and transporting to site.

How do you install it?

For detailed information about how to construct stone pitched paths on steep slopes check out Pitching.

Here at Oatridge College, where the ground is more level, the method of construction was:

  • A machine operator, using a tracked excavator, excavated a formation tray along the line of the path to the required width and depth. A 1.5m wide tray was dug to take large stones and the finished path surface. The tray was dug deep enough to take the largest stone size available.

  • The machine operator used the tracked excavator to lift into place large stones that were set flush with the existing ground levels along each side of the tray. These large stones were dug in deep, side by side, to form strong path edges that are solid and immovable.

  • Once all the large stones were installed, starting from both ends of the tray and working towards the centre, path workers placed large pitching stones lengthways into the tray in rough rows across the tray width, between the two edge rows. All stone was butted tightly together against adjoining stones, on all side faces. All gaps between stones were wedged firmly with small stones, before the next row of stone was pitched. This ensures that the pitched stone was solid and would not be dislodged when the next row of stone was laid. Joints on adjoining rows of pitched stone were overlapped to give a solid and immoveable structure.

  • Once all stone pitching was completed, the path workers infilled and compacted all gaps between pitched stones with smaller stones. This sealed the joints, preventing water getting in and under the pitching, as this would eventually loosen, wash out, or break up the stone when the water freezes and expands in cold winter temperatures.

  • That was the stone pitching done, but work had not quite finished yet! Path edge finishing work was still needed to blend the pitched path into its surroundings. The path workers, using available turfs and excavated spoil from the tray, landscaped the edges to ensure all the side faces of the edge stones were covered. The line of the path was defined and the appearance of the stone surface 'softened'. Landscaping work is an important element of path construction work – it can help to soften the path's appearance in the landscape.

Detailed drawing - Stone pitched path (lowland style)

If you like the look of the stone pitched path at Oatridge College, as a potential path surface for your project, download the detail drawing here icon Stone Pitched Path (Lowland Style) - Standard Detail Drawing & Specification Details

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