Hadrian's Wall Path

Northumberland National Park is home to the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail, an unbroken 135 km (84 mile) signposted footpath stretching from coast-to-coast across England.

Hadrian’s Wall Trail Rangers Gary and Tess work to preserve the National Trail for visitors; improving access and helping to protect the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall.

We talked to Gary about how grassland management is a vital part of maintaining one of the most popular walking routes in the UK.

“The ideal surface for the National Trail is ‘green sward’ or grass. It’s sustainable, self-repairing and natural within the landscape. It helps to create a wearing membrane between walkers and the underlying archaeology. 

Much of our time is used maintaining this important ‘green-belt’, trying to present as wide a path as possible. If users of the Trail can walk side-by-side, then you’ve halved the impact on that particular section.”

two people walking side by side on the Hadrian's wall path

The main ingredients of an ideal path

A southern aspect means the sun (when it’s shining) always hits the trail and subsequently stimulates the grass to grow. A northern aspect generally lies in the shade and consequently gets less sunshine.

Spreading the load

Generally, people choose the middle road and by that I mean they walk in the middle of the available space and if that space is wide enough they’ll walk side by side. If the width is insufficient, then they’ll walk in single-file which can quickly develop into a distinctive line on the ground which is what we look to avoid.

Such a distinctive line draws the eye and causes people to think ‘that’s where everyone walks, so that’s where we’ll walk’ which strengthens the line and perpetuates this pattern.

However, if when walking they are presented with wide and uniformed surface they will spread out and by doing so, they’ll lessen the impact on the underlying archaeology, helping to protect the monument for generations to come.

a grassy path of hadrian's wall national trail

Repairing the Green Sward

When the surface is uneven or rocky, erosion can quickly develop. One of our techniques to manage these areas is to utilise molehill soil and fill in the troughs that develop.

We then compact the soil down, mix in some grass seed and cover with a wearing surface (in this case a flexible rubber matting) to protect the soil whilst the grass gets established.

The matting is removed when the grass is sufficiently established.