That crunch un­der­foot

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Gardening -

com­mer­cial project, we wanted soft-look­ing, in­ex­pen­sive paths (miles of them) that could cope with wheel­chairs. The so­lu­tion was to mix a sandy soil with a small­ish par­ti­cle-sized gravel and dry ce­ment. The re­sult was a light, sandy, firm sur­face (i.e. no loose gravel) that was ex­tremely eco­nom­i­cal. Soil and ce­ment roads were once com­mon in the States and at air­bases in Ger­many. Ap­par­ently, they cul­ti­vated the soil, added wa­ter, ap­plied the dry ce­ment and mixed the two so they were evenly dis­trib­uted. They added more wa­ter if needed and then raked it smooth. It was left to cure for seven days with no traf­fic. Th­ese tracks looked sim­i­lar to the colour of the soil, but were hard and did not “dust”. The Ja­panese method of adding the gravel gives ex­tra tex­ture to the mix, which looks bet­ter. Both are ideal for the gar­den, but al­ter the pro­por­tions and ma­te­ri­als to give you a colour and tex­ture you like. A brick or stone edge fin­ishes it nicely. A sur­face for all sea­sons: Julie Toll’s gar­den at RHS Wis­ley in Sur­rey shows gravel’s ver­sa­til­ity Self-bind­ing grav­els Self-bind­ing grav­els, such as Bree­don gravel (from Bree­don En­stone) is one of my favourites (bree­don-spe­cialag­gre­gates.co.uk). Self­bind­ing grav­els don’t move like or­di­nary loose gravel; they are fine tex­tured and have clay par­ti­cles mixed with the gravel. They are spread (usu­ally to about 50mm depth) over a hard­core base and then rolled with a heavy roller while hos­ing wa­ter over the roller to com­pact it. The wa­ter brings the clay par­ti­cles to the sur­face and seals the top. You can ride bikes and wheel­chairs over it; even your high heels won’t dis­ap­pear dis­as­trously into it. My out­door dining area at home is sur­faced with it, and I love it. One of the park­ing ar­eas at Althorp House is sur­faced with it. A few peo­ple don’t get on with it though. If you walk from soil to the gravel, bits of earth all over it are dif­fi­cult to re­move and look messy. At home when I am weed­ing ad­ja­cent ar­eas I use tar­pau­lin to cover it. Weeds can­not be pulled out, as this breaks the sur­face, so glyphosate is nec­es­sary and moss killers will be needed if you don’t like the mossy look. The old­fash­ioned hog­gin is sim­i­lar, be­ing nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring well-graded gravel with clay par­ti­cles. You need to find a lo­cal source, as trans­port is usu­ally most of the cost. Per­haps a more for­giv­ing ver­sion of this is Cedec (ced. ltd.uk). This is a per­me­able prod­uct (i.e. the rain runs through, not off it) that Michael Heap (who runs CED) de­vel­oped for public paths around Ca­nary Wharf. The client wanted a durable fin­ish like the boules courts in France. It is a crushed ag­gre­gate with a par­ti­cle size from 6mm. It packs down so it does not drift like loose gravel and is avail­able in yel­low/buff, grey and red. It can be laid on slopes up to 1:25. For steeper slopes use Su­perCedec, which has a firmer sur­face. Nei­ther is suit­able for regular ve­hi­cle use and the cost is from £10 per sq m.

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