Block of the Week: Grass Path

Leading Lines

What's long, brown and impossible to pick up? No, I'm not talking about the BIGGEST STICK IN THE WORLD. The answer is actually our block of the week: Grass Path!

Grass paths were added to Minecraft in version 1.9 - the combat update - even though there's nothing especially combative about them. They're made by right-clicking a bit of grass with a spade, presumably whacking the top of the ground so it's easier to walk on. They're quite satisfying to make, in fact. TAKE THAT, GRASS! Okay, maybe they're a bit combative after all.

You'll know you've done it right because the grass will turn brown, and the block will lose its topmost layer, becoming a little recessed from the blocks around it. The shovel will also lose one durability. Grass paths do spawn naturally in the game - in villages with grass blocks on the ground. But they're also easy to destroy - if you put any solid block on top then they'll revert back to dirt.

There are rumours out there that you walk slightly faster on footpaths in Minecraft than you do on grass. That's not actually true - they're pretty much just decorative. Though they do come with the benefit that hostile mobs won't spawn on them - which could be handy in animal pens and other places where a creeper would really ruin your day. You can't put torches or ladders on them, either.

At the time of writing, you also can't pick them up - if you break them, then they'll just drop a dirt block. And they're not even in the creative inventory. But that'll be changed in upcoming patch 1.13, which will let those of you who want to put paths everywhere place them in creative mode without having to faff about with a shovel.

In the real world, footpaths have existed for pretty much as long as feet have. Long before humans evolved, animals travelling repeatedly along the same routes compressed the ground beneath them, creating paths that would be followed by their children and their children's children. You can spot these animal trails in forests, if you're looking carefully.

Image credit: Shajiarikkad // CC BY-SA 3.0

These kinds of paths - which emerge naturally without being planned out in advance - are also created by humans. They're called "desire paths", and once you start looking for patches of dirt in grassy areas then you'll see them everywhere. They often form when there's a shortcut between two places that people want to travel between - like a car park and a shop, for example.

Some of these paths get made official. Maybe the best-known example is Broadway in New York, which was originally the Wickquasgeck Trail, carved into the island of Manhattan by the Native Americans. You can tell it's old by looking at a map, because it doesn't fit into rest of the city's grid system. Can you find any other ancient trails by looking at maps of other cities?

In Minecraft, you're given total freedom to put paths wherever you like. They look particularly good around the outsides of houses, and along routes that you frequently travel. But my favourite paths tip is to use them when traversing the overworld. Make a path as you travel and then you can easily follow it back to where you started. You'll never get lost again!

Duncan sadly went missing five minutes after writing this article. So much for that theory.

Written by
Duncan Geere

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