2.3 Green surveys and path assessments
Green-level path surveys gather together the existing information on a route: who owns it; who uses it; the terrain it covers; and any other information that is published or known about the path, the site and its use for recreation. The survey is largely a desk-based exercise, but a site visit may be required for a visual inspection and to record the approximate levels of use, path condition, likely developments, impacts, work required and for monitoring needs.
The information contained in Green surveys has been agreed by UPAG and follows a standard format. This common ‘contents list’ forms the structure for Green surveys in SMiFI.
Green path description
|Setting||Route description (type of path, where it goes and any links)|
|Reasons for path (notable reasons such as climbing crags, Munro summit)|
|Associated features (car-parking, way-marking, tea shop)|
|Use (popularity, promotion, proximity to population centres, transport)|
|Physical setting||Land management (including access restrictions stalking, felling)|
|Geology and topography|
|Weather trends (including snow levels, rainfall)|
|Designations||Conservation status (Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),|
|National Scenic Area (NSA)|
|Access status (PROW, Access Agreement, Long Distance Route (LDR), PFA Network)|
|Recreational use (National Park (NP), Forest Park)|
|Land ownership and management||Owner’s name, address and contact number|
|Manager/factor’s name, address and contact number|
|Impact assessment of path||Visual|
|Work assessment||Previous path management|
|Path condition (overall assessment)|
|Construction considerations (access, materials)|
|Work identified (summary for each section)|
|Development issues||Design and style of construction|
|Priorities (general rating high, low, medium)|
|Additional information||For example, details about potential funding sources or description of how the path fits into an access strategy|
Sources of information
Using the data to be recorded in Green surveys as a checklist, the first step is to look for existing information about the site. Relevant information will be available from a variety of sources. The organisation commissioning the survey may already have some information and will undoubtedly be able to suggest useful local sources and contacts. Other sources are given below.
- The departments in charge of planning, the countryside or recreation in local authorities often hold relevant information. Useful information and documents include access strategies, structure plans, information about planning requirements, existing survey data, maps and photographic records. Many local authorities also fund access work and will give advice about their policy.
- Community councils may also have access to information about local historical points of interest, estimates of levels of use, alternative local routes and shortcuts. Information gleaned from community councils may be more anecdotal than that provided by local authorities, but it can be very useful.
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as a statutory body involved in designated area and recreation management, can provide detailed information about nature conservation issues and access strategies and legislation. SNH offices hold a wealth of useful reference material, which may include aerial photographs of the relevant area. SNH is also involved in funding access work and will be able to advise on this.
- Landowners, factors, land agents and estate managers may be able to provide information about many areas of path/access management on their estates, including any restrictions due to conflicting management requirements such as deer stalking or grouse shooting.
- Path users, including organised groups affiliated to The Mountaineering Council for Scotland or Ramblers Association, or individuals who use and know the path may be able to provide detailed information about path development and path drainage during heavy rainfall/thaws, seasonal variations, etc.
- Organisations such as local tourist information centres and businesses that promote access may be able to provide information about visitor numbers etc.
- Universities and colleges may be able to supply path surveys and assessments undertaken as dissertation or thesis projects. The information may be of varying quality but can provide useful reference material.
Do not expect to find pre-existing data on every aspect of your site: most Green surveys contain information in only half or two-thirds of the categories. If you are not able to find some basic information, then it will need to be collected. Additional Green data can be added as it becomes available, and it is not necessary to have all aspects covered before starting to manage the route.
Path assessments are, in effect, a mini-management plan for a path or area. They draw together existing information, identify the future management requirements and provide a brief plan to deliver it. Path assessments bring together all the information on the route: its setting (Green), its condition (Amber) and any plans for work on the site (Red). The assessment then decides how to combine all this information and place the path in a wider context. Path assessments are the documents that decide and set how the path will be managed, and the timing and costing of carrying out the work.
A path assessment describes the management of one route or access area. A number of plans can be combined to create area-based access strategies. In many areas, they will also integrate local plans, designated site management plans or biodiversity action plans.
Path assessments draw together a wide range of information, including information about the physical setting and condition of the path, ownership and management details, work required, and so on. It is useful to present the information in a structured way. A common format for path assessments that is consistent and easily used has been agreed by UPAG members.
|Location:||Include a map, with the route shown clearly on it|
|Grid references at the start and end of the path|
|Brief description of the path, and reasons for its existence|
|Habitat and vegetation|
|Path use:||Include details about type of users (climbers, casual users, etc.)|
|Number of users (information may be available from people counters or estimates provided by owner or estate staff, etc.)|
|Patterns of use|
|Land use:||Include information about designations (SSSI, NNR, etc.)|
|What is the land managed for – sheep grazing, deer stalking, etc.|
|Contact details of owners|
|Contact details of managers|
|Path condition:||Path management details, what type of a path is it (stalkers, evolved etc.), is it maintained etc.|
|Include any survey results that may be available|
|If no survey information is available include opinions gathered from estate owners/workers, path users, etc.|
|Likely impact of no action|
|Work required:||Much of the detail of this section will only be available after more detailed surveys have been completed. During the early stages of a project this section will be based on the opinions and views of estate owners/workers and users etc.|
|Identify priority sections for work|
|What techniques are to be used|
|Specification survey details including information about alignment|
|Quantity of work, time scale and length of pathworks|
|Maintenance and monitoring requirements|
|Other factors:||Estimated cost of work and funding available|
|Programming and timing of work (number of years over which work should be completed and time of year that work should take place)|
|Availability of materials on or off site|
|Health and safety considerations||May include altitude, remoteness and exposure of the site, steepness of surrounding slopes, popularity of the site, etc.|
|Contracts and supervision required||Recommendations about how the work should be managed, e.g. competitively tendered or direct labour organisation, who should manage and supervise the works, etc.|
Using Green Survey data and path assessments
The information that has been gathered together can be used for a number of purposes, for example:
- identifying gaps in the knowledge of path condition, etc.;
- identifying problem areas and potential solutions;
- bidding for resources to develop a programme of path management that will involve further detailed surveys and cost estimates;
- measuring long-term change on access sites in response to use and management.
Both Green surveys and path assessments should be treated as working documents that can be updated whenever new information becomes available. They provide a wealth of useful reference information that will be essential throughout the planning, implementation and maintenance stages of managing a path.