Take a rest

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Thinking about the least restrictive way to plan a path does not just apply to gates. It also means providing places to rest. People with less stamina or impaired balance will feel more confident about using a path if they know they will find somewhere to catch their breath now and then.

Seats do not have to be elaborate. The 'perch' designs at Oatridge College are a cheap, easy to install option that will work just as well, or you can use logs or rocks. What is important is how often seats appear along the path, and where they are placed.

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You will find recommendations for different types of countryside settings in the Countryside for All standards, developed through the BT Countryside for All Project by the Fieldfare Trust. Not every path will be able to meet these standards, but by making what the Equality Act 2010 calls 'reasonable adjustments' you can make a big difference to improving access. For example, in urban or formal settings like parks, the guidelines recommend installing seats every 100 metres along a path. On a long urban route that might be impractical. A reasonable adjustment would be to provide seats at the recommended distance for perhaps the first 500 metres of the path from the main access points, with more widely spaced resting places in between. That will open up many more options for people who are unable to venture too far.

It is also important to think about where seats will be placed along the route. It can take time, and perhaps some additional construction and landscaping work, to create resting places that offer good views or something interesting to look at, but it will make a big difference to the experience people get as they use the path. Also, think about how someone may feel when they are challenged with a slope or flight of steps. Providing resting places at the top and bottom, or along its length if it's a long slope, may be very welcome.

It is best to build resting places and install any furniture as the path itself is constructed. You can install them afterwards, but transporting materials can damage the path surface.

A resting place can also be a natural passing place. It is important to allow space for different users to pass each other, and the Countryside for All standards recommend installing passing places every 50 metres along paths in urban settings. Again, on a narrow path that can be difficult to achieve, but combining a passing place with a resting place can be a reasonable adjustment.

You can download detailed drawings and specification details for icon Resting Place - Standard Detail Drawing & Specification Details and for icon Resting Perch - Standard Detail Drawing & Specification Details used at Oatridge College. You will also find more guidelines and specifications for benches in the Countryside Access Design Guide, published by Scottish Natural Heritage and available as an online version or as a PDF.

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