Dealing with redundant cattle Grids

Once a Cattle Grid is no longer required a conscious decision should be made about its future. Left to rot is can present a serious danger to track users. Corroded bars can twist upwards when vehicles pass over it damaging this or any further vehicles which may pass.

Many are left to silt up.

The most satisfactory (safest) way is to remove the steel grid an fill the pit with suitable material.

Ensure the base has the capacity to carry the load now imposed through the fill when before this may have been carried by the enclosing walls

This excellent example installed on an INEOS site is to fill in with mass concrete allowing almost any vehicle safe passage

Why have British Standards?

There is a very detailed Standard complied by the most knowledgeable people in this field.

It clearly states what features a compliant cattle grid should have.

It is the legal duty of Loal Authorities to follow standards when they have the choice.

The country is littered with none standard cattle grids

Tatton Park is no exception. There are a number of Cattle Grids most of which are non compliant.

A cyclist had a heavy fall on one and was lucky to avoid serious injury some months ago. His bike was a write off.

The cyclist complained to the Site Management. and was airily dismissed.

The site is owned by the National Trust and managed by Cheshire East Council

They chose the wrong person to rebuff. The injured party has the professional skills, energy and determination to pursue the matter

The case came to court. Astonishingly the Judge dismissed the case even though a letter from your Guru (a Chartered Engineer) stated that the grid did not comply with the British Standard.

It makes one wonder why we have British Standards at all.

Do Cattle Grids need maintenance?

Put simply “yes”.

There is no point in spending a serious sum and then neglecting your purchase until it fails to do its job.

Depending on the location your Guru recommends at a minimum an annual clean out.

In an ideal world if you have bought a decent unit the grids can be removed while the work is carried out.

Avoid balancing the grids on end as this can lead to serious injury.

Ensure drainage holes are not blocked

Regret buying a grid which has not been galvanised!

Fish out, carefully, the various amphibians who have made the pit their home (willingly or otherwise)

Cyclists on Cattle Grids

Flat topped Cattle Grids are preferred by cyclists over circular ones
Flat topped cattle grids are preferred by cyclists

Cattle Grids have been a feature of our rural highways environment for generations. Cyclists on Cattle Grids were early adopters

Cyclists have generally used them with a degree of caution, without too many incidents. For the majority of cyclists this remains the case.

Provided Cyclists on Cattle Grids cross with the wheels parallel to the centre of the road the user will pass safely experiencing a vibration caused by the wheels passing over the spaces between the bars

Bars vary in section. Permitted options are rectangular or circular. Many grids have other not compliant sections. Clearly flat topped sections offer a smoother ride than circular ones.

Circular bars on Cattle Grid
Circular Bars give a rougher ride

The upper surfaces of bars can become polished. This does not improve traction, already restricted by intermittent contact. On Cycleway Cattle Grids the use of anti slip coating is well established. http://www.blackburnandroberts.co.uk/cattlegrids/ongie-cycleway-cattle-grid

Cycles have changed as have the users. The sport is growing strongly and as a life style attribute of a greener society it may become immense. Many Cyclists on Cattle Grids own cycles made from high tech materials and these weigh very little. The width of the tyres have been reduced, to improve wind resistance, giving less purchase on the road. Wheel rims have become wider to an extent where wind forces (and stability in wind) become an issue.

Ongie Cycleway Cattle Grids feature anti slip coated bars
Anti slip bars on cycleway cattle grids are well established

Newer materials may be less able to cope with intermittent impacts and the cumulative effect might be failure of the structure or reduced life of the machines the costs of which run to multiple thousands

Accident Statistics are unreliable and probably understate the incidence of accidents involving Cyclists on Cattle Grids

How long will a Cattle Grid last?

The life of a cattle grid will depend on 3 factors. Firstly has it been designed and made correctly. Secondly has it been adequately protected from corrosion and thirdly is it maintained. There are 3 or 4 firms which make units to an agreed standard – even based on British Standard occasionally!

There are any number of small fabricators who will have a go at making a unit with varying degrees of success. Using a local supplier is good for the local economy. It will save on significant delivery charges and is easy to do. If however it is incorrectly designed and/or made and it fails (and they do) the costs will outstrip any saving on purchase cost.

Attractive Ian Harvey unit, newly installed

There are really only 2 options to protect a cattle grid from corrosion. The right way and the wrong way.

The right way is to galvanize it. The galvanizing process strips off the Mill Scale and metallurgically bonds the zinc to the steel. This is not a coating it becomes part of the grid.

The wrong way is to paint it. Painting, no matter how well applied will wear off and corrosion will begin. Galvanising gets inside and protects the tubes from the inside. Paining does not.

Grotty painted Hopkins unit -paint wearing already.

Can animals escape from a Cattle Grid?

Most large animals quickly decide Cattle Grids are impassable and learn to live with them.

Generally properly designed and constructed Cattle Grids will successfully contain stock. They can rarely get stuck if they try to cross the grid. If the bars are made from materials and in sections permitted by the BS their legs will not be injured. If the pit is the correct depth their chests will not come into contact with the bars.

The most common reason for escape is the grid becoming full of debris.

Smaller wild animals (Mice, hedge hogs and amphibians) are more at risk.

Sad experience has taught lessons which need to be learned.

Firstly the pit needs proper drainage. Without this they may fall into standing water and drown or die of cold. Drains can be a mixed blessing. The pit is lower than the local ground level and if there is no active drainage and the drain is not sealed water can come INTO the pit!

Wild animals need to have provisions made for them if they fall through the bars into the pit. Larger mammals will usually cope with or be deterred by the Cattle Grid.

Secondly they need a ramp to escape from the pit. Thirdly there needs to be a duct or pipe which allows them to get past any sleeper walls to access the ramp.

History of the cattle grid.

All species and all sizes are readily contained by a cattle grid

It is not clear where or when Cattle Grids emerged as an effective solution to confining stock while allowing wheeled traffic unimpeded access through fences. There are indications that it emerged separately in regions hemispheres apart.

In the UK there were units in place in Victorian and perhaps Georgian times as Country Estates grew in popularity. Tricky to open a gate wearing a crinoline while up to knees in poo! Ask Ian Harvey!

The intervention of an Engineering Genius in the form of Geof Freedman, Chief Civil Engineer of the Forestry Commission was a game changer. The FC used huge numbers of Cattle Grids and he needed to standardise them and reduce the cost for installation. His design is now the Industry Standard. It is modified to deal with different loads. The beauty of this elegant design is its speed of installation – road closed for hours rather than days.

A proud, Coded Welder shows of a Pitless Unit. The lower section is fixed permanently in the ground and the grids are removable for cleaning. Craig is now on a diet!

There has been an attempt to offer a “Standard Unit” by IAE but these rely completely on the quality of the concrete works with often dire results. Grids banging as they are crossed are irritating and in time the repeated flexing can made welds fail or members to fail. It is impossible to hold down a grid which does not fit properly onto the concrete.

A novel, (novelty?)approach by Ian Harvey Fabrications is to supply a pre cast concrete base for the units. Laugh – I thought my trousers would never dry!!

You may gather that your guru prefers the Pitless/Drop-in units as they usually work instantly and for a very long time. There are occasions when a conventional unit is the best solution and it can be the cheapest.

Why do I need side fences?

Side fences keep stock safe and prevent them from by-passing grid

The side fences serve to different purposes.

When deer are present the height of the fence needs to be increased

Firstly they prevent stock from bye passing the grid and breaking through the fence/hedge or walking along the edge of the pit

Stone walls are a very effective side fence provided more agile stock do not jump off them into the pit!

Secondly they prevent animals from blundering into the pit from the side

Conventional versus Pitless Units

There are 2 main kinds of Cattle Grid.

The Conventional Cattle Grid rests on has a concrete slab placed below ground level. Cast onto this as a series of concrete sleeper walls and a surround which usually includes a shelf along the sides of the pit for the ends of the steel cattle grid to rest on. The grid itself is a large fabricated grating which rests on the shelves and the sleeper walls. Its performance depends on : Precisely cast base & Properly designed and fabricated grid

A Conventional Cattle Grid before it has been galvanised

The Pitless or Drop-in Unit can be installed onto either a flat concrete slab at a particular level or a bed of compacted DoT Type1 or similar, to spread the load and not crumble over time. The delivery vehicle arrives and the unit is placed into the excavation and back filled. It is ready to use.

Proud Coded Welder shows off a Pitless Cattle Grid. The lower section is fixed permanently in the ground and the grids are removable for cleaning out unit.

Although there is more steel, labour and galvanising costs in a Pitless or Drop in unit this has to be set off against the cost to provide the concrete base and sleeper walls and the disruption of the track/road being closed for days.