Garden trends - low impact paths

Paths are one of the most important aspects of garden design, allowing you to access different parts of the garden throughout the year.  They can take you directly to where you want to go or allow you to take a meandering stroll around the garden.

Traditionally brick and stone have been the most popular choices, but there has been a gradual shift in garden design towards softer options such as loose materials including bark, gravel, and grass.  These are easy to use and inexpensive options that are good for the environment, not least because they’re permeable surfaces which helps reduce flooding.

Gravel can be used for straight paths, but is particularly useful for meandering, curved paths which can be harder to lay in stone or brick.  These can be more inviting and interesting, especially when they lead you round a corner.  Gravel comes in a variety of colours from greys to buff.  In terms of size, anything between 10 to 20mm is good – smaller sizes tend to be nicer to walk on.  There are other options, such as seashells.  You generally need a solid edge to your path – such as metal edging which can be used for curves - but for a more informal feel, the gravel can be left to spill onto beds or indeed cover beds.

Bark or woodchip is an even simpler and more environmentally friendly option.  You can buy various barks, from coarse to more decorative types, or use your own woodchip if you have a shredder.  It needs topping up as it will break down over time, but this is easy to do.  These paths are great in between vegetable plots but also work particularly well in woodland areas, creating a path through woodland planting that suppresses weeds, or acting as a little meandering access path through large beds.

Paths can also be mown through lawns if there isn’t too much traffic in the winter.  This adds great flexibility and naturalism.  Of course, a brick path has its place but with the movement towards light touch landscaping, you may find you can take a softer approach to paths and see where it leads you.