Garden Details: English Edition – Walks and Paths

This series is from Dartington Hall garden, near Totnes, England.  I’ve written about this place earlier here.

Now I want to highlight the design elements of walks and paths in the garden.  I define both walks and paths as transportation channels.  Both may be narrow or wide. Walks are always paved, and may be linear or free form.  Paths are typically unpaved and are generally free form.  Walks are primarily found in formal settings, while paths are generally found in more naturalistic settings.  Below I show seven types of walks and paths.


The walk above is a formal element, bounding the “tilting” area on the left and located at the lower wall of the formal garden, at right.  A perennial and annual boarder separates the path from the wall.  The path is flagstone and is approximately five feet wide.   The paving pattern is shown below.


At first glance, the paving module appears to be fairly regular.  Closer inspection reveals a highly irregular set of stones in harmonious arrangements.  The stones are flush with the surroundings and appear to have a very slight peak down the middle to force drainage off to either side.

The walk below embraces a seating area.  This area is semi-circular and is separated from the walk by a four inch riser.  The seating area terminates a minor axis at 90 degrees to the left of the walk.  Paving in the seating area is very regular.  The path intriguingly disappears around and into the landscape.


The walk below traverses the upper end of the garden.   It is both aesthetically pleasing – note the long curve radius – as well as functional, allowing for easy access for maintenance vehicles.   It is approximately eight feet wide.  A six inch granite curbing stone creates a tiny retaining wall, giving a solid edge to the walk, as opposed to simply having the slope meet the walk.


The picture below shows a blend of walk and path.  Like a walk, it is paved – with river cobbles – and it has a very definite axial purpose.  But the  landscape into which it leads gives the impression of wild nature; precisely where a path would lead.  Note the low retaining wall on the left side and the curbing stone on the right.  The immediate grove is Witchhazel; the last yellow remnants of winter’s flowers are on the branches.


Below, a path.  Unpaved, but still with a trace of formality in the border.  The path material is made of tiny compacted gravel.  The path forks wonderfully, inviting a choice as to which way to explore.


The scene below may almost be classified as a glade, but for the object in the distance.  This object is not only visually attracting, it invites movement through the space toward it.  To me that transforms the glade into a path.   Contrast this informal path with the one below.  If this path were to be changed significantly, the structure of the garden would be changed as well. That is not the case with the path below.


Finally, below, an informal path.  This swath of grass is simply mowed to create the suggestion of movement.  This path is transitory;  it could be reclaimed by growth and would not alter the essential structure of the garden.


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