Martin Cowman Limited celebrates 70 years in business!

The timeline below shows the key milestones in our 70 year journey so far …

Bowling Bonanza

Last weekend Martin Cowman Ltd held a Bowling and Buffet evening at the Hollywood Bowl in Leicester. Terry Jones, from one of our hand lay gangs was crowned victorious having narrowly beaten his father, Dick Jones. A fantastic time was had by all!

Fact sheet: coloured asphalt

What is coloured asphalt?

For many years colour choice in asphalts and macadam was limited to black, dark red and dark green. Colour choice was restricted by the manufacturing process, which consisted of adding pigments to conventional asphalt where the binder was black bitumen.

Because of this, colours tended to be dull and somewhat variable.

The development of clear binders now allows production of asphalts in a wide range of colours (from subtle buffs to vibrant reds, blues and greens) without compromise to the durability of the surface.

Where is it used?

  • Play Areas

  • Tourist attractions

  • Residential Drives and Footpaths

  • Public Highway (for aesthetic appeal and safety demarcation)

Where do I get it?

Martin Cowman Ltd are approved installers for quality coloured asphalts including:

  • Lafarge/Tarmac’s “Ulticolour” range

  • Aggregate industries’ “Supercolour Ultra” Products

  • Bituchem’s “Natratex” and “Colourtex” materials.

Martin Cowman Ltd are qualified approved installers of all these materials & would be happy to help you with any enquiries you may have.

Contact: or alternatively call 01664 424840.

Related articles:

Solar panelled road ways

In the last six months or so it has come to light that an extremely innovative couple from Idaho, USA have come up with the idea of solar panelled roadways. There’s no disputing the concept, it’s an extremely forward thinking idea. The main hurdle the project now faces is raising enough funds to implement the idea. Two key pros are the fact that solar roadways are said to be able to melt snow, countering a problem that can bring communities to a stand still. Along with this they are said to cut greenhouse gasses by 75%!

Check out the link and watch the video provided on their page, it’s an extremely thought-provoking idea with many redeeming factors!

Types of specialist surfacing materials

There is a wide range of road surfacing materials available to suit various needs, offering durable surfaces to suit areas intended to sustain vehicular or foot traffic, such as roads, walkways or school playgrounds. But which types are appropriate for your requirements?

Stone mastic asphalt

This is a dense wearing course material developed to overcome rutting caused by heavy vehicles on road surfaces. The distinct advantage of stone mastic asphalt is its high resistance to fatigue and rutting.
This improved binder durability is a result of higher bitumen content, a thicker bitumen film and lower aid voids content. Stone mastic asphalt (SMA) is a mineral aggregate skeleton that is gap-graded; the voids are then filled with a mastic of fine aggregate, filler and binder.
SMA is commonly used as a heavy duty solution for large traffic volumes.
Benefits of mastic asphalt include durability, reduced noise levels, reduction in water spray and consistent appearance.

Coloured asphalt

The conventional colour of asphalt is usually black or deep red as a result of the black colour of the bitumen used in the mix. However, the discovery of a pigmentable clear binder has meant that a greater variety of colours are now available to suit different needs.
Coloured asphalt can be used for a multitude of purposes. However it is commonly used for visual awareness such as traffic or cycle line delineation, or simply to enhance the surface to blend into the surrounding areas.
Other uses for coloured asphalt can include marking out footpaths, brightening parks, play areas and sports grounds, highlighting roundabouts and bus stops or even enhancing entrances to historical sites.

Polymer modified binders

Modified bituminous can bring real benefits to road maintenance and construction. Modified bitumen through the addition of polymer can change the physical properties of bitumen such as the softening point and the brittleness of the bitumen, improving the elasticity and ductility.
The way polymer usually affects bitumen’s characteristics is by dissolving into certain components of the bitumen, spreading long chain polymer molecules to create an inter-connecting matrix throughout, making the bitumen more elasticated.
With so many types of road surfacing available these days, it is becoming easier to find a particular solution that can accommodate surface requirements.
Read more: Road surfacing and Quantity Surveyors

Road surface dressing

Surface dressing is a proven, long-established road maintenance technique.  It involves the even spray application of  a bituminous binder onto an existing road surface, followed by the levelled application of aggregate, clean crushed chippings to “dress” the binder.  This is then rolled into the bitumen to form a protective, water-resistant layer which improves skid resistance.

Using this process means that the treated road can be opened to traffic immediately as vehicles help to bed-in the chippings.

Another method of surface dressing is resin bonded surfacing, a technique using high strength polyuria resin to bind decorative aggregates to a base to create a hard-wearing and traffic friendly surface.  This produces an attractive, low-weight, natural gravel-like surface and is widely used in the commercial sector for use on car parks, schools and other public buildings as well as drives.

Surface dressing has many advantages:

  • Seals and protects the road surface against water, the major cause of asphalt deterioration (potholes, etc.).
  • Slows down the deterioration of road surfaces and underlying road pavement structures.
  • Improves skid resistance.
  • Well timed intervention can enable worn out road surfaces to last longer, increasing the time till structural maintenance needs to be carried out.
  • Helps with the reduction of spray caused by vehicles travelling in wet weather.
  • Maximises cost effectiveness of limited highway maintenance budgets.

When roads require surface dressing

All classes of roads can be surface dressed, from single track, footpaths and unclassified roads through to national motorways.

Roads tend to require surface dressing before the road deteriorates to the point where expensive patching or reconstruction is required, and also when surface skidding levels fall below the nationally accepted intervention level for the class of road in question.

All national roads receive regular assessments to monitor their condition.  Both mechanical and manual surveys measure cracking and deformation, as well as skid resistance.  Usually roads require surface dressing when small cracks appear with general wear, and skid resistance drops.

Its important to remember that surface dressing is not a permanent fix, it’s a maintenance technique that has a limited design life and is a temporary solution until structural maintenance is carried out.

Read more: Road surfacing and Quantity Surveyors

A history of road creation

Few of us consider the creation of roads that we drive on each day, but the concept of road creation was originally developed as far back as the Stone Age. So how did the simple trails lead to the roads that we have now?

Iron Age roads

The earliest engineered roads were developed in the British Iron Age, dating back to the 1st century BC. These were used by humans and beasts of burden. One such historical road was discovered near Shrewsbury measuring 1.5 metres high and six metres wide. This road was found to contain brushwood, a deep clay foundation and cobbles taken from the river Severn.

Roman roads

British roads were then improved during the Roman occupation in 43-410 AD, connecting London to various ports such as Chichester and Colchester for the purpose of invasion. There is an estimated 2,000 miles of Roman roads in Britain

The primary function of Roman roads was to allow for the movement of military troops and supplies, although they were also used for trade and the transportation of goods. These Roman roads were paved and could carry heavy goods in all weathers.

The roads were created using two layers: a foundation of medium and large stones were used, then a compacted mixture of smaller flint and gravel was added.

Medieval roads

During the Medieval Ages the rivers were the main system of transportation, and roads were developed to supplement this.

Pre 20th century

Control over the roads was legislated for the first time under the Highways Act 1555, this meant the introduction of rates to use the roads in the 17th century, known as turnpike roads. These rates were then used to maintain and develop more roads around the UK.

1900 onwards

As road traffic began to increase, the rate of deterioration of the roads increased, so in order to fund maintenance the Road Fund was invented in 1920. This worked as motoring taxation duty which provided funding to improve the roads.

In 1958, the first motorway was opened as the Preston Bypass, now part of the M6 motorway, with more motorways opening into the 1980s.

So with UK road traffic increased by 25% in 15 years, its important our roads need to be treated with care...

Related articles:

Read more: Road surfacing and Quantity Surveyors