Resurfacing the Gravel Paths at Vaucluse House

One person tips a wheelbarrow of gravel onto the path whilst the other spreads it with a rake

Stephen Goldsworthy tips a wheelbarrow of gravel onto the prepared pathway, while Leigh Saeemadarae spreads it with a steel rake, at Vaucluse House. Photo Steven Halliday © for Sydney Living Museums

For as long as I have worked at SLM the Gardens team has cared for the gravel paths and roads at Vaucluse House. This work usually involves a weekly rake to remove leaves and other debris and also repairing the paths after heavy rainfall.

The number of times I have moved the gravel from the lower parts of the garden back onto the paths to repair wash-outs is unbelievable; it becomes a tedious constant during the extended wet periods. Throughout the Pleasure Garden, the years of washouts and high foot traffic has compounded the problem, and caused the top gravel surface to disappear, exposing the rough sandstone sub-base.

A major washout of the gravel path at Vaucluse House proir to resurfacing.

Our goal initially was to source more of the existing Vaucluse cream feature gravel to repair and replenish the path. We soon discovered that this was harder than expected as the pit at Lithgow where we had originally sourced the gravel from had closed. This meant the colour of gravel we desired was no longer available anywhere in Australia, and none of the colour/gravel combinations we tried seemed to come close either. This meant that we would have to start fresh with new gravel, of which we trialed a few varieties before making our final decision. The variety called Deco©-Gold was decided on by the curator and staff for its colour, drainage properties and the closest resemblance to our existing paths.

During November and December 2016 we worked hard on replacing the Pleasure Garden paths with this new surface, in manageable sections each time. The process was quite labour-intensive as we could not fully utilize machinery around the existing fragile brick drains/edging and narrow access.

The first stage of the work was to remove the existing upper layer of sand and gravel exposing the hard subsurface of either sandstone or clay and then replacing with the new gravel. Then the paths were re-laid with a slight camber to allow water to run off into the drains, then wet down and compacted with a plate compactor.

It’s been great being involved in the project - hopefully the finished product saves us many hours of path repair work in the future.

Come visit Vaucluse House and walk on the new paths for yourself - it’s a perfect time to see the garden with so much in flower!

About the author

Photograph of a man standing beside a garden shed

Steve Halliday


Steven is one of the horticulturists who takes care of Sydney Living Museums’ green spaces and gardens.