Sometimes I feel people in Buckinghamshire are a little constrained in choice when it comes to choosing a driveway material and landscape scheme. Front gardens and driveways are the first impression of our much loved homes staging the entrance to our personal living space.
For the 30 years block paving has pretty much been the material of choice and I have to admit it does have some good qualities. I have said before the biggest problem with block paving is in time sunlight bleaches the surface and fades the dyes within the blocks. This is why I have always favoured the tegula cobble effect block paving as its grey tones very rarely fade. It also has a traditional feel in keeping with most Buckinghamshire housing styles modern and old.
But what are the alternatives to the traditional block paving in today’s market in Buckinghamshire and the South East?
Resin Bound Aggregate.
Resin bound aggregates did give a glimmer of hope for a revolution for the typical driveway in Britain. This smooth textured gravel surface looks good and is permeable slowing storm water runoff. This gave it both aesthetic and ecological attributes but as years have progressed still resin bound aggregate only has clad a hand full of driveways across the UK.
There is a few reasons for this. Having laid resin bound aggregates for numerous contractors and priced up many projects for resin bound it is always the same story. In order to base the underlying ground for maximum rigidity as to prevent cracking certain procedures need to be exercised.
To realise a truly ecological permeable solution a special type of free draining mot type one must be used as a base material. Then an ‘open textured’ tarmac must be spread to the surface leaving a 15-20 mm depth for the resin bound aggregate. The idea that tarmac is ecological in any sense in my view is false especially in a way that allows water to past through it into the underground aquifer.
The other option is reinforced concrete using a 6 inch slab again very non ecological and non permeable. The other problem with this is cost. All of the systems mentioned above for a robust installation that prevents cracking is extremely costly rendering it completely unviable for most people. Resin bound aggregate can crack if not based properly and also can get very dirty very quickly with its open textured surface a magnet for muddy shoes and loose materials.
I remember my best friends crazy paving driveway which was laid in the 70’s to this day it looks perfect when pressure washed like the day it was laid. This particular driveway was laid on top of a solid slab of concrete at least 5 inches thick. Each slab was laid on a solid mortar bed without any dobbing.
This robust labour intensive method of driveway construction is the only way to realise a paved driveway with materials such as slate and Indian sandstone. I personally think these make great driveways but they lack ecological attributes and there is the issue of drainage not in keeping with Buckinghamshire’s drainage policy. In my personal view the only way to have an ecological, permeable driveway or front garden is loose gravel full stop! The problem with modern sustainable urban drainage policies is they do not deal with the UK’s flooding problems.
I have visited many gardens around Buckinghamshire which are literally under water as all water runoff is channelled back into the ground at source. This means modern developments are riddled with underground voids full with water. In my opinion this potentially creates instability in surrounding ground as the seasonal flooding and drying of soakaways causes varying pressure under ground. The main reason most of these drainage strategies came into place was because of flash flooding and the drying of urban subsoil leading to shrinkage, cracking and subsidence. Today I believe we have the opposite problem with excessive ground saturation which also can lead to movement and property subsidence.
In my opinion sustainable drainage policy should focus on wild saturated landscapes such as the London wetland centre giving seasonal flooding habitats for local people to enjoy. Water should permeate back into the landscape not at source but via local wetlands designed within the landscape.
I personally feel there is a place for paving on Britain’s driveways materials such as slate and Indian sandstone are in my opinion far superior in look and longevity to block paving. The example here shows a slate driveway with the drainage gully leading to an underground soakaway.
I personally think there should be more options for Buckinghamshire’s driveways and front garden landscaping. With a reviewed drainage policy and more wetland habitat creation our modern landscapes can become more aesthetic and bio diverse at the same time.
When deciding a material for your new driveway we advise you contact the local council for their guidelines. Buckinghamshire landscape gardeners can advise you on your options and what driveway or paving design would look best for your property.
Please contact us for more information. Or visit our paving or driveway page.
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.