Tasks – Path Building

A completed section of the steps.

The Ghyll Slope is a path up a steep wooded slope, following a fold in the hillside where water naturally flows. The path had become braided as walkers sought firm footing up the wet slope. Much of the path became churned mud in the winter.

The aim of the project was to create a single route up the slope, to allow the slope to return to a more natural state, and to improve the amenity of the site to walkers.

Preparation and Design

The project was planned and co-ordinated by ACG volunteers who proposed a sourcing materials from within the site and from a neighbouring housing development to build steps up the ghyll.

Tests with the locally available chestnut coppice wood resulted in a simple design of a split log riser, held in place by supporting pegs hammered into the ground, backfilled by stone. Chestnut resists rotting, and a sandstone backfill would allow water to drain away.

Splitting a chestnut log

The first task was to coppice the chestnut which was split and debarked to produce step risers. Smaller chestnut logs were cut to length, split, and then trimmed to a point at one end.

Delivery of sandstone from a local housing development

Sandstone produced from foundations being dug at a nearby housing development was delivered to the top of the slope. Later it would be hand barrowed down the slope and tipped in behind newly installed risers.

The path was planned and marked out. Some small trees were removed to create a suitable route.

 

Installing the Risers

Building the steps was done over several task days. Each day saw a few meters of path created.

Starting at the top of the slope, enough chestnut logs and pegs were carried down to create several steps. The top step was installed first, with subsequent steps being placed to create a consistent fall.

Installing step risers on the ghyll slope
Completed risers ready for sandstone infill

The first step in creating a step is preparing the ground, creating a level place for the riser to sit. The riser is then placed into position, and two pegs are hammered into the ground to support the riser. The top of the pegs are sawn flush with the top of the step.

Once the risers were in place, sandstone was barrowed down the slope and tipped in behind the riser. Care was taken to not overfill the barrows, as an overladen barrow is potentially dangerous. The sandstone was rammed into place using a manual ramming tool. Three to four barrows were required for each step.

 

The Bottom of the Slope.

Boardwalk linking bridge to bottom of Ghyll Steps.

At the bottom of the slope, there was an area where the water collected in a marshy area between the steps and the stream. Some months after the steps were completed, MSDC installed a boardwalk linking the two together.

 

Newly minted steps, and a ramming tool 

The entire project took two years from initial preparations to the final boardwalk installation.