Descriptive data

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Path location

This information should provide clear and unambiguous instructions about where the survey commenced and where it ended. Subsequent to survey completion other people should be able to locate the path and be confident about the start and end points. Provide grid references (or GPS coordinates) at the start and end of the path and a note of the feature(s) at these points.

Path sections

Each path is divided into sections in the field and a new section commences when an obvious change in path character occurs, for example, a significant change in width, gradient or adjacent land use or vegetation. Path sections are numbered consecutively from the start point and path length is measured using a measuring wheel. There is no set length for path sections (but less than 250m gives rise to reams of data to work with!), but you should be able to divide a path ‘logically’ on the basis of common characteristics within each section – it will require you to make a judgement about where to end a section. The reason for a section change should be noted on the survey sheets.


The average ground cover and main species within surrounding vegetation should be noted. Surrounding vegetation can have a large impact on path development: certain species may be extremely tolerant to trampling or may confine the path width. However, surveyors should not spend a long time running through the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) methodology, the important point is to illustrate how the surrounding vegetation may affect path development.

Path type

Although many lowland paths have evolved largely as a result of recreational use, some paths have been constructed to cater for recreation and/ or active travel. The following categories can be used to describe path type:

  • Evolved line - informal path that has evolved to get from place to place or run across open space ar around the coast

  • Evolved slope - informal path that has evolved more or less directly up or down a slope

  • Single use path - a path that has been designed with a particular user group in mind such as mountain bike 'single track' or equestrian path

  • Shared use path - a wide path constructed with unbound, semi-bound or bound surface for unsegregated recreational use or active travel

  • Pavement - a roadside path with a bound surface

  • Stalkers' path - a narrow path constructed in remote rural locations as, or in the style of, a stalkers' path. Typical features are relatively low gradients, unbound surface, drainage by top side open ditch and pipe or stone culverts or cross drains, and occasional water bars

  • Forest or estate road - a wide off-road route with unbound or bound surface for unsegregated recreational use

  • Public road - a minor road without any verge or roadside pavement (generally connecting other sections of a network and do not need to be surveyed in detail)

  • Other - a route that does not fit into any of the above categories

Path surface

The existing surface may be ‘natural’, ‘unbound’ or ‘semi-bound’ or 'bound'. If the path section is a mix of different materials (e.g. some steps but mostly aggregate) select the one that is most common, but put a note in the comment section so that these features are not forgotten.

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