How to collect Amber survey data

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Amber surveys require a field survey followed by desk based analysis. Data are collected in the field and recorded on pre-prepared survey sheets. Data can also be recorded directly into a hand-held computer at the site. This can save time, but there is some concern about the reliability of hand-held computers in cold and wet weather. Dictaphones can also be used, but a survey sheet will still be required to ensure that all measurements are recorded.

Distances are measured using a measuring wheel which provides relatively accurate measurements over most terrain. Shorter lengths and path widths are measured using a tape measure. A hand-held global positioning system (GPS) is used to generate accurate eight figure GPS grid reference information. Gradients are measured with a lightweight clinometer (Don't make the mistake of guessing a gradient). A digital camera, which should be waterproof, is essential for recording path condition, etc.


A lightweight clinometer...

If you are surveying a large number of paths, storing the data on a spreadsheet or in a database may be the best way to manipulate the data. However, do not lose sight of the purpose of this survey – a quick assessment of path condition and its management needs.

Survey tips

  • Be objective - Do not emphasise the most damaged parts of a section. Data should reflect the characteristics of whole path lengths

  • Be consistent - Some data collection relies on the judgement of the surveyor. Apply decisions consistently throughout the survey, and if more than one surveyor is involved spend some time together in the field to standardise the approach to surveying

  • Be aware of the function of the survey - Do not describe paths in minute detail. This is a broad-brush look at path condition and management requirements and will not provide costs with a dependable accuracy of more than ± 20%

  • Use suitably experienced people - Amber surveys rely to some extent on the judgement and experience of the surveyor. Useful and relevant data are likely to be collected if the surveyor has extensive experience of path development processes and construction techniques

  • Work safely - Produce a risk assessment for the field survey stage and monitor the effectiveness, especially reporting-in procedures.

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