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Cranfield University 2021. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 07/12/2021

0572r Ratsborough

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Soil and site characteristics

Fine silty and fine loamy over clayey soils with slowly permeable subsoils and slight seasonal waterlogging. Some slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged fine loamy over clayey and clayey soils.


Drift over Eocene clay

Cropping and Land Use

Cereals and short term grassland; some potatoes, sugar beet and field vegetables.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.72 RATSBOROUGH 35% Endostagnic Luvisols
7.11 WICKHAM 15% Eutric Luvic Planosols
7.11 DUNKESWICK 10% Eutric Albic Luvic Stagnosols
7.12 HALLSWORTH 10% Clayic Eutric Stagnosols

Covers 157 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage


0572r Ratsborough

Detailed Description

The soils of this association are developed in thick drift over Eocene Clay in south-east Essex, mainly between the Blackwater and Thames estuaries, and on the Hoo peninsula and Isle of Grain in Kent. The drift deposits are varied and include Head, river terrace gravels and aeolian silty drift with Eocene Clay, principally London Clay, exposed patchily on bluffs between terraces and on lower valley sides. Though component soils vary widely, most are fine silty or fine loamy at the surface. Ratsborough soils are fine silty over clayey stagnogleyic argillic brown earths and, together with similar fine loamy over clayey soils, are usually the most extensive. The associated seasonally wetter fine loamy over clayey Wickham and Dunkeswick series are typical stagnogley soils and the clayey Hallsworth series are pelo-stagnogley soils. Dunkeswick soils are locally more frequent than Ratsborough soils. Inextensive inclusions of Bishampton, Prolleymoor, Waterstock, Hook, Park Gate and Southminster series also occur.

The association is most extensive on river terraces between 6 and 27 m O.D. on the Dengie peninsula and in the Crouch valley, where thick clayey drift, probably of riverine origin, lies over sands and gravels on near level land. Ratsborough and Dunkeswick series predominate, but at the gently sloping margins where the drift thins the soil pattern is more varied because of cryoturbation of underlying deposits. Wickham and fine loamy over gravelly Southminster soils occur here with deeper less stony Bishampton or Prolleymoor soils on gentle footslopes. The association is also present in minor valleys draining the London Clay upland. Here, soils are rarely stony, and silty Hook or Park Gate soils are frequent, especially on gentle east-facing lower slopes of asymmetric valleys around Wickford. Clayey Hallsworth soils are more common than elsewhere in the shallow valleys leading north to the Blackwater estuary, and some alluvial Fladbury soils are included.

Dunkeswick soils are locally more frequent than Ratsborough soils but Hallsworth soils are rare in Kent. Near St Mary's Hoo, inclusions of Southminster and Berkhamsted soils on patches of high level river terrace deposits form polygonal soil patterns identified by Fordham and Green (1980), who mapped this land in their survey of Kent as the Titchfield-Oak association.

Soil Water Regime

The principal soils have slowly permeable subsoils which cause seasonal waterlogging but Ratsborough and Dunkeswick soils respond well to drainage measures and can be improved to Wetness Class II or III, although they continue to suffer some winter waterlogging. There is little winter surface run-off. All the soils have useful reserves of available water for crop growth, but since the potential soil moisture deficits are large, water stress and yield reductions are likely unless crops are irrigated.

Cropping and Land Use

Deep drying out in summer and a late return to field capacity give good opportunities for autumn seedbed preparation and, if necessary, for subsoiling. Ratsborough soils are easy to work but opportunities for the spring cultivation of Dunkeswick and Wickham soils are more limited. The soils are suitable for direct drilling of autumn sown crops which are chiefly cereals. Potatoes, brassicas, maize and oilseed rape are also grown but there is very little grass. The soils are naturally acid and require periodic liming. Ratsborough and Dunkeswick soils have good reserves of phosphorus but contain small amounts of potassium and magnesium.


0572r Ratsborough