Functional landscapes

In mountainous regions

Mountainous landscapes are not uniform in any way. They have slopes varying from steep to semi flat, and are often shaped in a pattern of valleys and ridges. Since no two pieces of land in the mountains are the same, every site needs specific solutions to make the best use of the rain that falls on it.

To create functional landscapes we work from two angles:
– optimize access to all areas
– minimize water loss and erosion of the topsoil.
These two angles often combine: damwalls and water catchment systems can also be used as paths and roads. Because they are often made on contour, these pathways create easy horizontal access to parts of the land that are otherwise difficult to reach because of the slopes.

Creating swales and terraces in a gently sloped valley.

There are also some general rules of thumb we work with:
– achieve the maximum effect with a minimum of change
– slopes over 18┬░ (1:3 slope) should be forested for stability
– dams and ponds are ideally placed on the “key points” (where steeper slopes change to flatter land)
– move water from wetter areas to dryer areas (valleys are generally wetter than ridges)
– always create overflows for excess water, so it does not damage anything in fierce rain events
– never totally block off existing streams of gullies, because these are proven ways for excess water to exit the property. Rather than blocking those exits, modify them to prevent erosion of these channels.

Digging a road across a valley to allow for easier access. The road is dug slightly off contour to allow runoff to flow without doing damage.

If there is any doubt about the stability of a slope, we consult with an engineer from the local environmental agency first, to avoid problems later. For example if there is a spring with water coming out of the ground over a larger area, this might create too much instability and require a different approach.

When we design a landscape we look at the property as a whole. The end result needs to be a total system that connects things rather than one off solutions for specific spots only.

If you want to know more, please contact us.

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