Planning For Garden Paths

The ancient footpaths of the countryside link house to chapel, hamlet to village, village to town across the fields. In a garden people will similarly make paths in the right places: from the house to the washing line, to the potting shed, to the gap in the hedge with the view, to where the sun lingers last.

Decide what key spots you wish to link and plan your paths accordingly. The outside doors of the house must also be served by a path or paving (sloping away from the house) and flower beds and borders should be easily accessible. Tending the plants in a large bed, especially in heavy soil, is a sole-clogging task unless you provide unobtrusive stepping stones. Plotting. An easy way to plot your paths is to get a ball of string and lay out their course, pegging at intervals to mark angles and curves. In a large garden, broad paths look better than narrow ones. In grass, stepping stones, placed at intervals that admit the width of a lawnmower, look far more attractive than a straight solid path. Materials.

What materials you choose for your paths will be governed not only by expense but by the character of the property. In an old cottage you may have easy access to stone, but you will also need the strength and stamina to shift it. In such a case gravel (i.e. chips of the local stone) is easier to lay and still in keeping with the environment.

Weathered bricks, set on edge, make beautiful paths but are not easily available. Pavement flagstones can sometimes be bought from local councils. Cast concrete, broken slabs, gravel, asphalt and bitumen are alternatives.

Foundations are all-important in the laying of paths. Any material laid directly on soil will usually soon subside in parts, leaving an uneven surface. Even where traffic is light and plants are to be grown between paving stones, a shallow underlay of rammed small stones will make the path or patio longer-lasting (and provide the plants with useful drainage).

Builder’s rubble can be pressed into service. Anything hard — brick rubble, stones, even scraps of metal — all supply foundation material.

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