Deciding which path to take

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There are a multitude of path construction and management options, many of which will depend on the considerations already outlined. You will need to work out what the network has to provide and who is going to use it, rather than approaching from what you think the path should look like. There are large variations in the cost of the different options, which you will also need to take into account. There may need to be compromises and some difficult decisions might need to be made – going through the planning steps also helps to give you a rationale for your choices which can be helpful when you need to justify the project to users, landowners or potential funders.

One way of assessing the opportunities and options available is to look at the 'whole life' costs. It may be cheaper in the long run to spend more on the construction and have a low annual cost. However, if the location of the path is, for example, prone to flooding, it may be cheaper to maintain a low-key resource, rather than end up with a large repair bill for a high specification path that has been seriously damaged. The whole life assessment needs to look at the current level of demand and environmental conditions, but also requires some 'crystal-ball gazing' to evaluate the potential changes that might affect the path.

Surface Pros Cons Long term management
Natural Cheap, fits in well with the landscape May not stand up to heavy use. Not easy for people on wheels to use Vegetation will need to be managed on an annual basis. Surface wear and drainage need to be monitored
Unbound Can provide a good surface for many activities. Hard wearing on level ground or shallow gradients Surface is liable to scour if water is allowed on the path. Not very stable on gradients. Easily marked by horses during and after wet weather. Very susceptible to frost heave (whin dust) Frequent maintenance required on gradients. Vegetation encroachment may occur
Semi-bound Can harden to provide a durable surface. More robust on gradients than unbound surfaces. Suitable alternative where bound (sealed) surfaces are unacceptable in the setting. Cheaper to install than a bound surface Materials may not be locally available. Susceptible to wear and tear if material is loose and not hardened off. May be affected by frost heave May need occasional repair on steeper gradients
Bound Can provide a very durable smooth surface. Good surface for wheeled users. Okay for horses on level or shallow gradients. Low annual maintenance costs Very expensive to construct. Intrusive in some landscapes. Slippery where leaf litter covers surface. May need gritting in winter. Experienced surfacing contractors required for laying. Good access for plant required. Only suitable for laying in the summer Annual removal of leaf litter required
Porous Helps to meet SUDS requirements. Robust surface – reinforced grass can fit well into the landscape Expensive to install. Base and surface layers need to be carefully constructed with tightly specified materials. Experienced contractors required for installation Reinforced grass paths need regular inspections and aftercare (mowing / fertiliser application)


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