Descriptive (Green) surveys

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A descriptive 'green' survey brings together the basic descriptive information about the path: who uses it; the terrain it crosses and who owns or manages the land around it. The purpose of the survey is to provide you with enough information to make decisions about what type of action is required and any issues that will need to be considered, or dealt with at early stage in a project. It is essentially a desk-based exercise, but a site visit can help to get an idea of path condition and the type of path construction work required.

The information contained in green surveys has been agreed by Upland Path Advisory Group and follows a standard format. However, this has been adapted to be more appropriate for the use of lowland path management.

The survey should collect as much of the following information as possible:

Setting and features
  • Route description (type of path, where it goes and any links or gaps, landscape features, etc)

  • Associated features (car parking, directional signs, tea shop, etc)

  • Location (proximity to settlements, transport options)
  • Current user groups, activities, frequency of use (manual or automatic counter data)
Physical setting
  • Land use and management (including access restrictions)

  • Geology and topography

  • Watercourse locations (including known wider site drainage issues)

  • Weather trends (including snow levels, rainfall, etc)
Designations and status
  • Natural Heritage interests (Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Scenic Area (NSA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), etc)

  • Cultural Heritage interests (Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), etc)

  • Access status (Core Path, Right of Way, Long Distance Route, Local Network, etc)
Land ownership and management
  • Owners’ name, address and contact number
Assessment of path condition
  • Visual – how bad does it appear?

  • Safety – are path workers or users in danger as a result of the path condition or other site hazards (steep slopes, mine shafts, cliffs, contaminated land, etc)?

  • Physical – existing surface condition, known physical barriers, known structures (bridges, gates, signs, seats, etc)
Assessment of path construction work
  • Previous path management (including maintenance)

  • Path condition (overall assessment)

  • Construction considerations (access, materials, public utility service locations, etc)

  • Work identified (major repairs, upgrade, replacement, construction)
Development issues
  • Design and style of construction

  • Priorities (general rating low, medium, high)

  • Planningg permission (yes, no or possible but not sure)
Health and safety file
  • Is there a Health and Safety File available (yes or no). If yes, make note of its name, where it is kept, and in what format (Word or PDF or hard folder)
Additional information
  • For example, details about potential funding sources or a description of how the path fits into an access strategy


Sources of information

Using the data to be recorded in green surveys as a checklist, the first step is to look for existing information about the site. Relevant information will be available from a variety of sources:

  • Local authorities are a key source of information. Look for access strategies and local development plans. They may have information about planning requirements, existing survey data, maps and photographic records. Many local authorities also fund access work and will give advice about their policy

  • Paths for All will be able to point you towards a community path group or local access officer who may have specific information about a path or network

  • Community councils may have access to information about local historical points of interest, estimates of levels of use, alternative local routes and shortcuts. Information gleaned from community councils may be more anecdotal than that provided by local authorities, but it can be useful

  • Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will provide detailed information about nature conservation issues and access strategies and legislation. SNH offices hold a wealth of useful reference material, which may include aerial photographs of the relevant area

  • Landowners, factors, land agents, farmers or estate managers will know all about the ground they manage on a day-to-day basis and may be able to provide useful information about many areas of paths and access management on their land. You will need to find out about how they manage their land (i.e. farming, shooting, recreational activities, woodland or forest management, vehicle access), and how that might impact on paths, and vice versa. Pay particular attention to livestock management. Sometimes improving a path can help land managers to do their work more easily

  • Path users who use and know the path may be able to provide detailed information about path development and drainage during heavy rainfall/thaws, seasonal variations, etc. You may be able to find information from organised groups affiliated to Ramblers Scotland, British Horse Society Scotland or International Mountain Bike Association UK. Your local access panel may be able to help in relation to people with disabilities. For contact details of the local access panel visit the Scottish Disability Equality Forum website

  • Organisations such as local tourist information centres and businesses that promote access may be able to provide information about visitor numbers etc

Do not expect to find information on every aspect of your path or path network: most green surveys contain information in only half or two-thirds of the categories. However, if you are not able to find some basic information, then it will need to be collected. Additional green data can be added as it becomes available, and it is not necessary to have all aspects covered before starting to manage the route.

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