All information Copyright, Cranfield University © 2021

Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2021. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 01/12/2021


« 0633 LARKBARROW Associations Soilsguide Home 0571x Ludford »

Soil and site characteristics

Thick very acid peat soils. Largely undrained and perennially wet. Many areas cut over or partly burnt.


Raised bog peat

Cropping and Land Use

Lowland bog and wet moorland habitats of low grazing value, some coniferous woodland; peat extraction.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
10.11 LONGMOSS 100% Ombric Fibric Histosols

Covers 224 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Raised bog peat soils



Detailed Description

The Longmoss series, oligo-fibrous raw peat soils composed predominantly of Sphagnum remains, is the only important soil of this association, which occurs in the lowlands of Cumbria, Lancashire and South Yorkshire. It consists of raised bogs, often of considerable thickness, formed under the influence of high groundwater levels. Longmoss soils represent the last sequence in the development of raised bog peat. The association is also present on higher ground where north Cumbria adjoins Northumberland, the peat forming initially in shallow basins but extending upwards and outwards to form a type of blanket bog. Typical soil profiles have an upper horizon of dark reddish brown or yellowish brown unstratified acid peat with little structure. Lower horizons are generally composed of yellowish red peat formed chiefly from Sphagnum and cotton-grass remains. Because many profiles have been truncated as a result of peat cutting or burning, this layer is often at the surface.

There are large raised bogs around the Solway Firth and in a number of south Cumbrian valleys, particularly those of the Duddon and Leven; also at Thorne Waste and Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire. The main upland occurrences are in the upper Irthing valley, Cumbria, and in nearby Wark Forest, Northumberland; also on Stainmore, Durham. There are generally few other soils or types of peat, but in north-east Cumbria the Kielder and Wilcocks series are present on more strongly sloping land. The Floriston series occurs in former basin peat where the upper layers, derived from Sphagnum and cotton-grass, have been removed. Earthy surface horizons and eutrophic or amorphous peats are rare, other than in thin layers, although in some soils they overlie more humified Sphagnum peat containing heather and cotton-grass remains. A small patch of Wick series occurs in the middle of Hatfield Moors, and some profiles on the eastern edge are modified by warping and have mineral or earthy upper horizons.

Soil Water Regime

These deep peat soils are more or less permanently waterlogged (Wetness Class VI) although some bogs are slowly drying in response to a lowering of groundwater levels in surrounding land and are being colonized by scrub.

Cropping and Land Use

The soils are uncultivated and of little agricultural value without extensive reclamation measures. If reclaimed and cultivated the surface layers of the raw fibrous peat would be rapidly converted to a black earthy (amorphous) state by oxidation and breakdown of the fibres, with subsequent loss and shrinkage of the peat, as with the Turbary Moor and Altcar series. In the uplands, the short growing and grazing seasons, which are the consequence of exposure, low temperature and high rainfall combined with difficult access and severe poaching risk, exclude any agricultural use other than rough grazing. Whilst the risk of poaching is severe on the lowland mosses there is agricultural potential in drier districts if the peat is drained and fertilizer applied. Many bogs are of great biological interest because of the special lowland environment, and their extent near the Solway Firth is unique in England. Several, such as Bowness Common and part of Wedholme Flow, have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and there is a National Nature Reserve at Glasson Moss. Butterburn Flow, in the upper Irthing valley, has been described by Ratcliffe (1977) as the most important example of a Sphagnum-rich bog outside Scotland. The present vegetation is mostly cotton-grass with Sphagnum, Molinia, Nardus and heather of little grazing value.

Peat is extracted for the horticultural trade from a number of bogs, including Hatfield Moors and Thorne Waste in South Yorkshire and Solway Moss, Bolton Fell and Wedholme Flow in north Cumbria. On higher ground there has been much afforestation (Spadeadam and Wark Forests) although trees are very susceptible to uprooting and plantations are left unthinned, which increases resistance to the wind. Part of Foulshaw Moss in the Kent estuary, south Cumbria, has also been planted. Lodgepole pine is predominant, with some Sitka spruce, these species being often mixed. Scots pine and western hemlock have been planted at low elevations. Lodgepole pine has been less productive than expected (Lines 1976). Wetness and instability necessitate deep ploughing using wide-tracked vehicles. Phosphorus and potassium fertilizers are necessary for satisfactory establishment and growth (Kellie 1976).