The following from late July early August this year:
I started at 5am because the rain was forecast to arrive at 11am, and I hoped to get the back of it broken by then. And right on schedule, it started raining, but softly, so I carried on until lunchtime. The gravel had been laid straight onto a bed of builder's sand, the perfect medium for couch grass and dock weeds, so they all had to be dug out. Garden paths need sturdy foundations as they can remain in place for generations if laid out as part of a well thought out design. Simply chucking in a 6" bed of builders sand and topping off with an inch or two of the more expensive gravel only provides a luxurious bed for deep rooted weeds. So out it all came. I mixed the sand and gravel into heaps and barrowed it across to a quiet area of the garden to await another project over the winter.
Then I began to skim off the layers of hard, impacted soil underneath the path until about four inches down I started to hit evidence of the original Victorian path. Bits of clay pipes, broken crockery, usually blue and white patterned, shards of broken green glass bottles, bottles likely to have contained medicine or poison, given the ridges along the bottle sides, clay and glass marble-shaped spheres used as the stopper in bottles of Victorian ginger beer, even a couple of tea pot lids. All these treasures are the classic domestic detritus of earlier dwellings on a landscape, and point to the origins of my house and garden. At the time they were thrown into waste pits and perhaps later dug out to join clinker when the garden path was originally laid.
Clinker is the general name given to waste from industrial processes particularly those that involve smelting metals or burning fossil fuels. In this area of Derbyshire that's likely to be coal. Clinker often forms a loose, black deposit that can consist of coke, coal, charcoal or grit, together with other waste materials, and was often reused to make hard paths. It is laid & rolled, and forms a hard path with a rough surface. If my clinker path has been in situ for maybe a century or more, it is the perfect structure to reinstate and use again.