There are a number of technical or unfamiliar terms that are used in the construction and management of upland paths. We've put together this simple glossary to cover the main terms that you might come across to describe the features on these paths in Scotland:
Abutment: the base on which a bridge is laid. Abutments may be dry-stone or cemented.
Aggregate: surfacing material, a mixture of fine granules and larger stones, some clay content helps to bind the aggregate, but in the Cairngorms this can be hard to find.
Anchor bar: large stone dug into gravel path to both stabilise path and reduce gradient by introducing a step.
Base: cobble or boulders, usually smashed and compacted, as the base layer of the path. If this is exposed it is a good sign that water is causing problems.
Blocker: a stone, mound or clump of vegetation strategically placed on the edge of a path to guide walkers onto a desired line, i.e. the path surface; should work as a peripheral visual guide rather than a physical barrier.
Braid: additional path line or lines developed alongside the original path line; strong indicator that walkers find the path line uncomfortable to walk on, e.g. because water has washed out the path surface exposing nasty boulders beneath, or because a path line fills with snow or ices up.
Cross drain: a stone-built open drain that carries water across the path; usually stone lined with splash plates at the down-flow side and feeder ditch(es) above; also functions to catch water flowing down a path.
Culvert: a closed cross drain; a historic feature often hard to spot – look out for tell-tale green sward on the outflow side. In some places plastic pipes have been used to create culverts – these should have stone ‘headwalls’ at either side to disguise the pipe.
Desire line: the route walkers want to take; influenced by trying to take the shortest / easiest route.
Ditches/drains: dug to catch and guide water, to keep it off the path; may be lateral (running alongside the path) or catching water further away from the path.
Dynamism: some paths are much more susceptible to change (dynamic) due to their location or features. The rate of change is important in judging when to intervene.
Gullying: the process whereby a path loses surfacing, usually through water flow, exposing a sub-soil that is unattractive to walkers – this often leads to braiding...
Pitching: a path surface constructed of carefully laid stones that lock together; hard-wearing but intrusive in wild landscapes.
Revetment: a tier or tiers of stones built to support the edge of a path.
Re-vegetation: transplanting of turves to cover over and restore ground damaged by trampling.
Scour: the process of path surface loss as a result of water flowing down the path.
Silt trap: a stone-built, square “open box” that traps gravel at the outflow of a cross drain or water bar.
Water bar: a stone-built barrier across the path to divert surface water. Loose surfacing often builds up along the bar reducing its effectiveness. This material can be used on the downhill side of the bar to replace surfacing.
For further information take a look at:
Upland Pathwork - Construction Standards for Scotland (UPAG 1999) – includes a bigger glossary!
Upland Path Management (UPAG 2003) – description of survey methodologies