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


« 0431 WORCESTER Associations Soilsguide Home 0572a YELD »

Soil and site characteristics

Deep well drained sandy soils in places very acid with subsurface pan. Widespread small scale polygonal soil patterns. Risk of wind erosion.


Glaciofluvial drift and till

Cropping and Land Use

Coniferous woodland and lowland heath habitats; some barley and sugar beet.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.54 WORLINGTON 40% Eutric Hypoluvic Arenosols
5.54 EUSTON 20% Arenic Chromic Luvisols
5.51 NEWPORT 20% Eutric Lamellic Arenosols
6.31 REDLODGE 10% Albic Podzols
6.31 SANTON 10% Ruptic Albic Podzols

Covers 301 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Freely draining sandy Breckland soils



Detailed Description

The Worlington association covers 302 kmĀ² in Norfolk and Suffolk, mostly in large blocks on the extensive almost level Breckland plateau but also on flat crests or very gentle upper slopes of nearby ridges. In the more undulating, less dissected, eastern Breckland, the association is found only on high ground. It comprises deep, naturally acid, permeable sandy soils. The main soil the Worlington series, argillic brown sands, is formed in a whitish or yellowish brown chalky drift consisting of finely divided chalk, sand, chalk stones and flints. The junction between the very slightly flinty, sandy soil, often over a metre thick, and the drift beneath is marked by a thin, sharply defined brown argillic horizon of clay-enriched sand. The upper layers of the soils are derived partly from the chalky drift by decalcification but include some locally-derived aeolian sandy material. The Worlington series is naturally acid, but it has been heavily marled in places in the past. The Euston series, also argillic brown sands, occurs on the eastern margins of Breckland. Here the chalky drift is yellowish-brown with a loamy matrix and is probably a till. In these soils the argillic horizon is clayey and thicker than in Worlington soils. These two series together everywhere cover more than half the land. The Santon series, humo-ferric podzols, has dark, slightly cemented humus-enriched subsurface layers and occurs locally where the decalcified drift is thickest. The similar Redlodge series, (humo-ferric podzols) occurs with the Newport series, typical brown sands, on spreads of glaciofluvial sands and gravels within the chalky drift. Most soils in central Breckland are sands and contain less than 5 per cent clay and as little silt, but on the fringes of the Breckland, the drift contain more clay and silt and here the coarse loamy Moulton series occurs. Brief descriptions of Worlington, Euston and Santon series are given below. Newport series and Redlodge series are described elsewhere in this bulletin as indicated.

The Euston series is dominant south-east of Thetford near Coney Weston, Honington, Great Barton and Thurston. Redlodge and Newport soils occur mainly on flat crests in north-east Breckland. Much of the land is closely patterned. Frost heave in a periglacial climatic thrust up the underlying chalky drift giving shallow soils at centres 5-7 m apart surrounded by a polygonal network of deeper soils. The patterns are best seen where all the soils are relatively shallow. They commonly show both as differential growth and differential ripening in cereal crops. Patterns show too in semi-natural vegetation as on Weather Heath, Elveden, where ling (Calluna vulgaris) grows on the deeper, acid soils and bent grasses (Agrostis spp.) on the shallower soils over the polygon centres. Locally they show on bare arable ground where deep ploughing has brought white chalky material to the surface at the centres of the polygons.

Soil Water Regime

All the component soils are well-drained (Wetness Class I). The surface and subsurface layers are very permeable and the ground relatively flat so that the soils readily absorb winter rainfall. The soils are not water-retentive and are moderately droughty for most crops in average years. For shallow rooted crops such as potatoes and grass they are very droughty.

Cropping and Land Use

Being naturally acid, the soils require regular liming. They have a low nutrient status and the Redlodge and Santon series with moderate organic matter contents may be copper-deficient, especially if newly reclaimed from heath. All the soils can be cultivated very easily soon after rain even in winter, and there is ample opportunity for landwork. The soils compact easily and are unsuitable for direct drilling. Wind erosion is a hazard when the ground is relatively bare in spring. Large cultivated fields, bounded by shelter belts and coverts are common. The main crops are barley with some sugar beet, especially on the deeper more loamy soils. The association is mainly low quality agricultural land with low crop yields, so much is in non-agricultural use including airfields, military training areas and grass heath maintained as nature reserves. More than a third is under woodland, forming part of the Forestry Commission's Thetford Forest, the largest pine forest in the country. It was established between 1922 and 1937 and is now mature, the main species being Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra). About a tenth of the forest is broadleaved woodland mainly in amenity belts along roads. The forest is now being gradually felled and replanted to obtain an even aged forest. Fomes annosus, a root fungus is a widespread problem in Scots Pine on land previously cultivated and heavily marled. Replanting is with Corsican Pine which yields rather better, and is more resistant to Fomes than Scots Pine, now planted only in frost hollows.