The art of repairing footpaths in Snowdonia

Ranger with a pick-axe working on footpath repairs, South Ridge of Snowdon in the background.

The wet climate in Snowdonia means that footpath erosion is always going to be a part of what we do. In recent years there’s been a significant rise in visitors and the added pressure has resulted in 2.5 miles of critically eroded paths. Erosion can eat into precious upland habitats and it’s something our team takes very seriously.

There’s a lot of psychology involved in building paths. People will naturally want to take the path of least resistance, it happens on an instinctive basis. So, when we’re building or repairing footpaths we always have to bear that in mind. It helps us determine the route of the path, the design, the height of the steps and so on.

If you’re on a good footpath, chances are you’ll be busy admiring the view. But if you’re on a bad path, you’re more likely to be focussing on avoiding the mud.

If the path is eroded, people tend to skirt the mud and trample adjacent vegetation, which over time, actually increase the width of the muddy path or can even cause several smaller braided paths to form.

Snowdonia footpath erosion

In some places, these eroded areas can grow to huge proportions causing a significant scar on the landscape and eating into precious upland habitats.

What we’re aiming for is a clearly defined, durable path which is suitable for that specific location. In most cases a stone-pitched footpath is the best option, whilst in flatter wetter areas, large stepping stones are best.  

Very rarely can we utilise the stone on-site, as they are often protected as natural features.  A lot of the paths are in remote, steep areas, so we usually need to fly stone in, which means that repairing a meter of upland footpath can cost over £180.

A recent survey revealed that 2.5 miles of footpaths in Snowdonia are in need of urgent repair. In February we launched a special appeal to raise £250,000 to allow us to tackle the worst affected sections quickly.