“The oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land and not spoil it.”

– Aldo Leopold.

Wicklow Mountains Path Survey

One of the key issues facing land managers and path volunteers alike is the need to have a realistic understanding as to how paths are changing over time. We tend to notice the change in paths if we haven’t been on them in a year or so. However our memory of the path is often not as clear as it should be if we are to make scientific judgements on the rate and type of change that may be occurring.

Mountain Meitheal saw the need to establish a baseline study which could be used to monitor the deterioration or improvement of paths over time.

This was an ideal project for the club as not only would it provide a baseline study but would also educate members (walkers and others) on the impact of our feet on the mountains.

The Wicklow Mountains Path Survey was carried out during the summers of 2002 and 2003. The project was supported by a grant from the Heritage Council and the work was undertaken by contract and by volunteers from Mountain Meitheal. The project was administered by Mountain Meitheal.

The Dublin / Wicklow Mountain region was divided up into 8 areas, each roughly equal in size with an equivalent number of summits. The areas are bordered by the roads which run through the region.

The Glencree, Sally Gap, Laragh, Drumgoff, Aghavannagh road effectively bisects the region.

In the absence of a through road, areas 6 and 7 are divided by the Glenmalure road, Table Track (shown dotted on the map below), and the Knickeen to Donard road. See the attached Map.

From an organisational point of view, paths were defined by start / finish co-ordinates.

Two types were identified:

(a) from road or other access point to summit and
(b) from summit to summit.

An example of the former being Sally Gap to Carrigvore, the latter, Maulin summit to Tonduff summit.

Each path was walked and its condition noted with particular emphasis on erosion. Problem spots (wet / eroded / or otherwise) were identified, photographed and their positions fixed with a GPS.

Features noted and measured included path width, path surface, gullies, ruts, water damage, path splitting or braiding, vehicle tyre tracks, peat depth and surrounding vegetation.

Path width was difficult to measure in some areas, the path surface a mix of stone, bare peat, grass, heather or whatever. The total width was taken in such cases i.e. from undamaged vegetation on one side to undamaged vegetation on the other.

A feature of paths in the Wicklow Mountains is their sudden changes in width, surface and condition over short distances.

Three types of photograph were used:

Long distance, showing the general condition of the path ahead or behind,
Middle distance, showing features or problems on the path, and
Close-ups, showing details e.g. the effects of trampling or water damage.

A tape measure was included in the photograph for scale and background features such as mountains, outcrops or forests are included where possible for orientation.


Each survey can be downloaded for saving and printing for your own use.

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