split island pathIf we’re going to be led up the garden path, why not make it a lovely one.

Pathways are like mini-journeys and, like opting to take the cycle lane, the flyover or the Orient Express, the way we travel will affect both our pace and our mood.

Made of stone, glass, cobble or crushed shells, our routes might march, trip or languidly wind their way through our gardens. So a few ‘ticket-desk’ questions about the journey are useful before deciding on the right path to take:

1. Where are we going?

A stroll round the flowers will suggest a slower, gentler curvy route than a straight trip to the washing line. Try irregular or gapped paving interplanted with solanxxx or chamomile for the former, sawn sandstone or york paving for the latter.

Straight paths towards focal points further away, though, suggest the stately pace of a promenade. Setts interwoven with cobble or mosaic designs will provide interest along the way. Crossways laying patterns can slow wide, long pathways too, whereas lengthways joints shoot our eyes and feet down their lines to our destination.

Garden destinations that need accessing every day should be treated to navigable and hard-wearing stone or gravel. Occassional expeditions could take boardwalk, cobble or grass. Journeys further from the house can take rougher, cheaper materials (hoggin or grass) than those close to buildings, which should aim to match or complement the materials they’re built in.

grassy winding path

2. Will there be stops on the way? 

The best journeys engross us so entirely we return refreshed. Design in ‘moments’ on the journey to pause or sit and take in the views – either exiting or created purposefully by us.

Allowed to sprawl and arch over pathways, plants will provide their own temptations to linger. And the sensory drama of a laburnum or wisteria walk is reason alone to reach for our shoes.

crazy paving curve

3. Will we travel alone, or with a companion?

The width of a path will affect its speed and mood. The classic garden path width of 150cm is perfect for two people walking comfortably side by side, surveying their land.

Alternatively, the narrow bridges and stepping stones of the Japanese tea-garden require visitors to slow to single file and pick their way carefully in order to focus and free the mind of chatter. Narrowing our path to 8ocm will mean we change the mood again; travelling alone with our thoughts, possibly squeezing through plants to reach our hidden destination.

meadow avenue

4. What conditions will we travel in?

Our ideal travelling conditions might be warm sun with dappled shade. Consider arbours and covered walkways to green our paths and cool us. However in the UK, conditions are more likely to be post-downpour damp, so steer clear of slip-prone materials like decking and tile if the path is used very regularly, is in shade or used by older people.

Paths can be lit either practically or magically at night, depending again on their use… opting for dimmers will help change from ‘task’ to ‘mood’ lighting. Recessed lighting will mark the way and downlights fixed to posts or inserted in walls will wash floors with light. Lanterns and flares are gorgeous for parties and the occasional romantic turn around the rose garden…swoon.

ulf nordfell path