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Cranfield University 2021. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 01/12/2021

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Soil and site characteristics

Well drained fine and coarse loamy soils usually over gravel with a calcareous matrix.


River terrace gravel

Cropping and Land Use

Cereals and short term grassland, potatoes and some field vegetables, gravel extraction.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.71 SUTTON 30% Endoskeletic Luvisols
5.71 ROUGEMONT 20% Ruptic Endoskeletic Luvisols
5.71 LUDFORD 20% Haplic Luvisols
5.71 MAPLESTEAD 10% Haplic Luvisols
5.41 WICK 10% Eutric Cambisols

Covers 110 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Freely draining slightly acid but base-rich soils


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Detailed Description

Level or gently sloping land over river terrace gravel or related Head in the Thames valley from Dorchester downstream to Slough is included in this association. The main soils are well drained, often stony, loamy typical argillic brown earths, usually over gravel at moderate depth. The gravels are mainly flint and although the matrix is calcareous, chalk stones are rare. Sutton series, the most common soil, is fine loamy over gravel, and the coarse loamy over gravel Rougemont soils and the deep fine loamy Ludford soils are the chief subsidiaries. Deep and coarse loamy Maplestead soils and Wick soils, of similar texture but classed as typical brown earths, occur locally. The association includes most of the land mapped as the Sutton association in their survey of Berkshire. The soils mapped as Purley series and some of those mapped as Sonning series are now correlated with the Sutton series.

The association is found on low terraces of the Thames which range from 1 to 15 m above river level. The distribution of soils on the terraces is complex although the range of variation in soil properties is small. Most are fine or coarse loamy with a range of 15-20 per cent clay. Seasonally or occasionally waterlogged clayey and fine loamy alluvial soils, such as Thames and Usher series are found locally on alluvium. Away from the river, near the Chalk outcrop which borders this association, Panton series is common on chalky Head. Around Henley and Marlow, Hamble and Hook soils occur in silty drift. Near Windsor and Slough, soils over non-calcareous gravels include Efford and Hucklesbrook series.

Soil Water Regime

The main soils are well drained (Wetness Class I) and excess winter rain drains rapidly through the soil into the underlying permeable gravels. On low ground the water-table rises seasonally to within I m of the surface, but rarely into the subsoil for any significant period. Sutton, Maplestead, Ludford and Wick soils have moderate reserves of available water and are slightly droughty for cereals and moderately droughty for potatoes and grass. Rougemont soils are a little more droughty as they are coarser textured and commonly shallower than Sutton soils.

Cropping and Land Use

The weak structure of the topsoils is damaged if cultivated when wet, but the main limitation to crop production is droughtiness. Locally, flints are numerous enough to interfere with cultivations, making precision drilling difficult and causing excess wear on machinery. These permeable soils are well suited to sequential direct drilling as they are on level or gently sloping sites and resist compaction unless wet. Cereals are grown extensively but vegetables need irrigation in most years to be successful. Under grassland the soils can stand high stocking densities with little risk of poaching, but droughtiness severely limits summer growth of grass.


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