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


« 0851b DOWNHOLLAND 2 Associations Soilsguide Home 0714a DUNKESWELL »

Soil and site characteristics

Deep stoneless clayey soils with a peaty or humose surface horizon. Some deep peat Some humose sandy soils over gravel. Flat land with groundwater controlled by ditches and pumps. Risk of wind erosion.


Marine alluvium and fen peat

Cropping and Land Use

Cereals, sugar beet and potatoes, some field vegetables; some stock rearing on permanent grassland.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
8.51 DOWNHOLLAND 50% Clayic Fluvic Mollic Gleysols
10.24 ADVENTURERS' 30% Drainic Rheic Sapric Histosols
8.61 ISLEHAM 20% Arenic Mollic Gleysols

Covers 96 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Loamy and sandy soils with naturally high groundwater and a peaty surface



Detailed Description

This association is found in Humberside, mainly on the carr lands of the Hull valley. Small areas occur near the Isle of Axholme, in the southern Vale of York, in both the Humberside and Lincolnshire parts of the Ancholme valley south of Brigg, and to the north of Gringley on the Hill in Nottinghamshire. Stoneless marine clays with peaty or humose upper horizons give humic alluvial gley soils, of which the Downholland series is the most extensive. These are associated with earthy eutro-amorphous peat soils, the Adventurers' series, in deep, well-decomposed peaty containing few or no identifiable plant remains, which formed under conditions of high groundwater. Where humose or peaty deposits overlie sand and gravel the Isleham series, typical humic sandy gley soils, is found. The ground is generally flat and between 1.5 and 7.5 m O.D. The soils form a complex pattern of easily worked peaty and humose sandy soils with more difficult clays and humose clays. Clayey Wallasea and Newchurch series are of minor extent in the Ancholme valley.

The association covers 68 km². The main soils, with locally important variations, form a complex pattern of easily worked peaty and humose soils and patches of sand and gravel, with more difficult clays and humose clays. Clayey Wallasea and Newchurch series, are of minor importance in the Vale of York to the south of Holme-on¬Spalding-Moor and in the Ancholme valley. Wallasea profiles are a minor constituent in the Hull valley, with occasionally the Holderness and Burlingham series in till. The clayey Foggathorpe series is included in a small area near the Isle of Axholme. Small areas of the sandy Gilberdyke and, less commonly, Everingham series occur in the Vale of York.

Soil Water Regime

The soils are severely waterlogged (Wetness Class V or VI) in their natural state but are permeable and very responsive to drainage measures. An arterial system with adequate freeboard is usually present resulting in well drained or occasionally waterlogged soils (Wetness Class I or II). Available water is adequate and drought is rarely a problem. The humose and peaty soils have a large retained water capacity but weak soil strength.

Cropping and Land Use

Given adequate control of groundwater level they are easily worked. Autumn cultivation of the Downholland series is advisable if compaction and smearing are to be avoided. Spring cultivations are best avoided in a wet year. Timeliness becomes more critical as the organic topsoil oxidizes and the soils become less humose. Drained Adventurers' and Isleham soils are more flexible to work than Downholland soils but autumn cultivation is still advisable. Spring work needs careful timing and machinery traffic should be kept to a minimum. Organic soils recover fairly quickly after damage because of biological activity and the shrink/swell properties of the soils. A wide range of crops can be grown but the soils are mainly in rotations of cereals and oilseed rape, with potatoes and sugar beet. Vegetables are common on the deeper organic soils. With adequate drainage, all three major soils are suitable for direct drilling and yields similar to those from well-managed conventionally-cultivated soils can be expected.