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.

Are Cattle Grids noisy?

The short answer is “Yes, but manageable”.

The fact that the surface is broken generates noise but this can be more or less depending on other factors.

The shape and spacing of the bars is a crucial issue. The BS defines the permitted size and ranges of spaces for bars. This is to ensure effectiveness and to protect animals who become stuck in a grid.

Circular Bars with maximum permitted spaces are the noisiest.

Round bars with large spacing

Square or rectangular bars with minimum, permitted, spacing are the quietest solution to this particular aspect.

Square or rectangular bars are quieter

but there are further relevant factors….

The steel unit needs to be a good fit with the concrete sleeper walls or base. Steel banging on concrete does not aid sleep! This is best dealt with by ensuring high quality concrete forming to ensure a snug fit with the flat steel structure.

It is increasingly difficult to secure the services of Contractors with the necessary skills. This is a driver for the switch to the Pitless Units also known as Drop-in Units . These units if correctly fitted are very quiet.

Hopkins Drop-in unit. Painted finish is a false economy

These Pitless or Drop-in units avoid sleeper walls by providing a steel base for the grids to sit on. It is vital that these are well made so the removable grids do not bang against the base creating another source of noise.

What is a cycle-way Cattle Grid? – more thoughts

Cyclist segregation on the approaches to Bath University – through National Trust (Grazed) Parkland

Sadly this installation has left a strip of concrete (on the right hand edge) a sheep would find both enticing and easy to use to thwart the grid.

They are not only used by mildly eccentric elderly gents!

The main aim is to improve the users experience by avoiding repeatedly dis mounting to open and close gates. They also help to lower the extraordinary high blood pressure experienced by farmers when their stock escape.

An optimum arrangement for all users

What is a cycle-way cattle grid?

Cycle-way cattle grids hugely improve cycling enjoyment on routes with many fences to cross

Ongie Cattle Grids are the brainwave of “laughing” Scott Roberts. An inventive soul with a cruel sense of humour . It is not true that he hates cyclists – allegedly

These useful smaller Cattle Grids do not need to carry the same loads as a vehicle grid. They do need to conform as closely as possible to BS spacing and grid bar ranges. Correct pit depth is vital if stock control is to be effective.

There are some designs which are frankly deadly! One used around Cambridge made from small diameter ridged rods is particularly unattractive.