Busiest month ever!

As it approaches the first anniversary of its hard landscape skills courses, the Hard Landscape Training Group (HLTG) has just completed it busiest ever month for training. August saw no less than 5 individual training courses held at locations throughout Britain and Northern Ireland.

The month started brightly with the one-day "Introduction to Conventional Block Paving" course being staged at Paver System 's premises at Carluke in Lanarkshire, about 15 miles south of Glasgow. After six weeks of what seemed like non-stop rain, the weather played its part (for once) and the trainees were able to enjoy the afternoon practical session constructing two block paved areas in warm sunshine and a gentle breeze.

Next on the agenda, three courses in the space of 7 working days over in Northern Ireland - the first courses run by the HLTG in the province. The new "Introduction to Patio Flag Laying" course was unveiled for Bradstone Ireland at their factory in Toomebridge, Co. Antrim. Unlike the previous one-day flag laying course, this new offering focuses exclusively on patio and driveway flag laying using a selection of popular concrete and imported stone pavings and is ideally suited to builders, landscapers, and anyone occasionally required to undertake patio installation.

patio construction training
Laying flags

The morning session looks at the theory and requirements of flagged patios and driveways, and then the afternoon is spent constructing a couple of pavements, concentrating on bedding techniques, correct use of tools and specialist lifting aids from Probst (supplied by Haven Engineering ), and is rounded off with a jointing demonstration by McMonagle Stone, the license holders for the Romex polymeric jointing products .

After a run of almost 12 months without losing a single course to the weather, our luck broke and it absolutely lashed it down during the afternoon, but, thanks to the very helpful people at Creagh Concrete and Bradstone, we were able to set up the practical session in one of the cavernous block sheds, so work could continue without hindrance and without anyone getting wet.

patio trainees
Jointing demonstration by McMonagle
jointing patio
The proud trainees

One day to recover and then it was on to Tobermore Concrete Products who had gallantly offered to host two events. The "Introduction to Conventional Block Paving" is, without any doubt, the most popular of all the landscape skills courses we run, and such had been the demand from builders, landscapers, and general contractors in Ulster that we had to stage the course on two separate days.

block laying

This introductory level block laying course is targeted at those with little or no practical experience of paving, and so is ideally suited for landscapers looking to improve and extend their skills repertoire, for builders who might undertake the occasional paving project, or anyone wanting to explore paving as a possible career option. The course explains the theory behind block pavements, and reveals what makes them so versatile, as well as detailing best practice and what not to do.

During the afternoon practical session, trainees are divided into groups of three and led through the steps involved in constructing a pavement of 10-15m². Each gang is required to screed the laying course, place the blocks in particular pattern, complete the cutting-in, compact and joint the paving, and all in just 3 hours.

All of the construction courses offered by the HLTG are designed to involve the trainees in creating a pavement or structure, and the sense of achievement amongst trainees on completing a block paved patio in just one day is immensely rewarding. In fact, it's a pity the paving has to be lifted when the course is completed....we usually do this after the trainees have left, to spare them the heartache of seeing all their hard work destroyed!

preparing a bed
group photo

So: three groups of trainees put through their paces and presented with their certificates, and then back to mainland Britain and the undulating hills of Derbyshire's Peak District where Charcon-Bradstone had offered the use of their Hulland Ward headquarters for us to run the "Introduction to Measuring-up and Setting-Out for Hard Landscaping" course. Another one-day introductory level course, this programme is aimed at those wanting to be a little more precise in their quantifying work than the all-too-common "pacing out" that is used by the lower end on the trade.

This course is largely practical. After a short introductory session, trainees are led through the process of measuring-up a real site (in this case, the car park and main building of Moordale House), using a variety of measuring tools and a number of basic techniques to determine perpendiculars, angles and offsets.

The afternoon session involves setting out a hypothetical (and very strangely shaped!) car park on what is currently the lawn, and the trainees are required to establish right-angles, arcs, semi-circles, bellmouths, free curves and quite a few parallel lines.

setting out

The course includes an element of basic maths and geometry, with some exercises on quantifying areas and distances, but the focus is very much on technique rather than calculation, and the aim is to build the confidence levels of the group by giving them a better understanding of how to go about measuring an existing site or setting-out for a new project.

In just 12 months, the HLTG has developed and presented a wide range of hard-landscaping skills courses. After years of our trade being regarded as low-skill or no-skill and the perfect money-making route for rogues and cowboys, there are now genuine, accredited training courses open to all at a greatly subsidised cost that will reinforce and validate existing experience as well as teach new skills. Don't allow your business to be an also-ran: get quality training and be a winner. The fact that you read this website shows you're already concerned about quality and best practice in the paving industry - why not get accredited and let your customers know about your commitment to quality?

Training courses from the HLTG will continue to be offered throughout the year, and in coming weeks we plan to stage a two-day "improver level" block laying course, along with courses on linear channel installation, natural stone block paving and many more. You can see the full agenda on the HLTG website or on the HLTG page of this website .