Follow Us:


Project Profile


2008 Award of Distinction

National Pass Walking Track

Horizontal Navigation Bar w/Rollover Effect

Technical Brief

Using Traditional Methods and Materials in Walking Track Restoration

One of the most important aspects of the restoration of the National Pass walking track was the repair and reconstruction of the different types of stone staircases and walkways that make up sections of the track.

Grand Stairway

The “dishing” of many of the steps on the long, steep “Grand Stairway”, resulting from the impacts of water and walkers’ feet, had created significant slip hazards. Previous maintenance programmes had simply filled the uneven steps with concrete, but the concrete had not bonded well and the colour differences had an unacceptable visual impact. Under the reconstruction project, the cut stone steps that were only slightly “dished” were restored by re-cutting the stone using antique hand tools and traditional techniques. The cut stone steps with significant dishing required the introduction of durable sandstone “inserts” that had to be cut to size then bonded to the step with an appropriately coloured mortar, but in a way that ensured the new work was still distinguishable upon close inspection. The front faces of the new stones were then “sparrow pecked” to minimize the visual impact for walkers as they climbed the long flights of steps.

The original line of the track was restored, for example in the reconstructed stone staircase below the Grand Stairway, wherever this could be verified from the presence of original fabric. In some cases relocating the track only required pruning of vegetation, in other cases careful observation and excavation were needed. Where the original stones of this staircase were badly deteriorated these were replaced and the original fabric was incorporated into the reconstructed staircase as edging stones, a good example of adaptive reuse.

Amphitheatre Stepping Stones

As the original fabric had been washed away in floods, new stepping stones had to be used. The original locations of the stepping stones were identified based on an archival photograph. The new stepping stones were positioned in a similar pattern to the originals, but larger and heavier stones were used.

Talus Slope Stairs

This staircase, located at the top of an unstable talus slope, was in danger of sliding downhill, which posed a significant hazard to walkers. To stabilize the talus slope below the stairs, the reconstruction project built terraced timber retaining walls, 250 metres in length. The retaining walls were landscaped by building dry stone walls in front of the timber and then overtopping with loose scree material that had been excavated from the site. Some original stone steps were incorporated into the staircase as treads but most were in a poor condition so these were adaptively reused as edging stones in places adjacent to their original locations.

Drip Zone crossing and stepping stones

The reconstruction of a minor creek crossing at “Drip Zone” was required as the original fabric had tilted significantly and deteriorated due to the constant impact of water. A handrail and metal posts had been placed on the outside of the track in 1987 to assist walkers at this hazardous crossing, but no restoration of the track surface was completed at that time. In the latest restoration project the original fabric was replaced with more robust stone blocks, resulting in a much more stable track surface. The hand rail and posts were no longer required, so these visually intrusive accretions could be removed, improving the aesthetic values in this section.

Stepping stones tilt or subside when they are located in a supersaturated substrate. These issues are exacerbated when overgrown vegetation forces walkers off the stepping stones onto the downslope side of the track. A footpad develops here and vegetation stabilizing the outside bank is trampled and dies. The side track swiftly becomes a drainage line that further destabilizes the stepping stones. With the replacement and re-levelling of all stepping stones and with the completion of vegetation management on the upslope, walkers were able to return to using the stepping stones. This allowed the vegetation growing on the downslope side of the track to recover and vegetation to recolonize the outside edge of the track, giving it greater stability.

Dry stone walls

Reconstruction techniques were utilized where the structural integrity of dry stone walls had been compromised. The walking track traverses the top of an unstable large dry stone wall, so the entire wall had to be disassembled. The wall was rebuilt on significant footings (largely subterranean) with a “false wall” behind it to maximize the strength of the retaining wall. The original stepping stones that had been located along the top of the wall were well worn so these were replaced with new blocks. The original stones were used as coping stones for the top of the reconstructed wall. These were shifted only 20 centimetres from their original locations. The resulting structure has much greater structural integrity than the original wall, meets all the relevant modern construction standards and provides a stable base for the track to traverse.

Adapted from the “National Pass” UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards entry submission