Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0342d WANTAGE 2

Soil and site characteristics
Shallow well drained calcareous silty soils over argillaceous chalk associated with similar soils affected by groundwater. Deeper well drained coarse loamy soils in places. Complex soil patterns locally.

Cropping and Land Use
Cereals, especially barley with sugar beet and other arable crops.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
3.42 WANTAGE 40% Rendzic Leptosols
3.45 BURWELL 20% Calcaric Gleyic Endoleptic Regosols
5.11 SWAFFHAM PRIOR 5% Calcaric Endoleptic Cambisols
Covers 150 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Shallow lime-rich soils over chalk or limestone

0342d WANTAGE 2

Detailed Description

This association contains well drained, shallow, calcareous, loamy and locally clayey soils, as well as similar occasionally waterlogged soils, on the footslopes of the Chalk escarpment. It covers 139 kmĀ², mainly in Cambridgeshire, on a line from near Luton to north of Newmarket. The soils are formed in chalk rubble or chalky drift overlying impermeable argillaceous Lower Chalk and harder chalk above. The height ranges from about 60 m to 80 m O.D. in Bedfordshire to 15 m to 30 m O.D. near Newmarket. Springs rise from the top of the Lower Chalk so small streams or ditches often cross the lowest ground. Wantage series, (grey rendzinas) and Burwell series, (gleyic rendzinas), both contain 60-70 per cent calcium carbonate in the topsoil which is thus greyish in colour . The well drained Wantage soils pass downwards to soft chalk within 45 cm depth, and Burwell soils pass to soft but impervious argillaceous chalk at a similar depth and show some yellow mottling, an indication of occasional winter waterlogging. Swaffham Prior soils, typical brown calcareous earths, are deeper, slightly flinty and usually have 20-40 per cent calcium carbonate in the upper layers. The topsoil and subsoil are brown and are coarse loamy. Thin white chalky drift passing downwards into rubbly chalk is usually encountered at between 40 and 80 cm depth. The Wantage series covers nearly half the land, Burwell and Swaffham Prior series each about a sixth. Other associated soils include well-drained fine loamy Soham and fine silty Coombe soils which are moderately deep over chalk rubble or chalky drift. Block series, also moderately deep fine loamy soils on chalky drift are on relatively flat sites and suffer occasional waterlogging. Lode series resembles Burwell series but is clayey, glauconitic, and rather less calcareous. There are also some very shallow stony soils of the Upton series with chalk at less than 30 cm depth.

Wantage soils are usually found on level or gently sloping ground. Small included patches of Upton soils occur on higher ground on harder chalk. The deeper brown earths of the Swaffham Prior, Soham and Coombe series also tend to occur on the higher ground where chalky drift is commonly found. Burwell soils are most common near streams or ditches, where they are associated with Block soils. Wantage and Burwell series are fine loamy with a considerable silt content. Similar but clayey soils are found around Hitchin where they are associated with the seasonally waterlogged Lode series which contain glauconite grains from the Cambridge Greensand. Striped patterned ground caused by the varying depth to chalky drift occurs locally.

Soil Water Regime

Except for the Lode series and the moderately permeable Burwell and Block series, the soils are permeable and well drained (Wetness Class I). Burwell and Block soils are waterlogged for short periods in winter (Wetness Class II after drainage) mainly because they are on receiving sites. Lode soils are seasonally waterlogged (Wetness Class III after drainage) because of the slow permeability of the clay subsoil. Wantage and Swaffham Prior soils have a moderate to large waterholding capacity and in the dry climate are slightly droughty for most crops in a normal year, but moderately to very droughty for grass, as too are Block soils where they are efficiently drained. Soham and Coombe series hold rather larger amounts of water available to plants but are nevertheless slightly droughty.

Cropping and Land Use

The well drained soils that form the greater part of this association are easily worked and allow access to land under good working conditions for long periods in the autumn and spring. In winter the land can be cultivated two or three days after rain. Because of groundwater, Burwell and Block series are slightly less flexible to manage. Lode series and similar clayey soils around Hitchin are less accessible in winter and although there are ample opportunities for autumn cultivation landwork is restricted in wet springs. The association includes the so-called whitelands around Cambridge which were traditionally sown to spring barley for malting. However, with the general increase in tractor size and the suitability of the soils for the sowing of large autumn acreages after minimum tillage, the principal cereals are now autumn-sown barley and wheat in about equal proportions. Commonly, two or three years of winter cereals are interspersed with beans or peas and spring barley. Some sugar beet is grown especially in the deeper soils of the Swafffiam Prior series but it is not a suitable crop for the Lode and similar clayey soils in Bedfordshire where cereals are dominant.

0342d WANTAGE 2

Distribution Map

Note that the yellow shading represents a buffer to highlight the location of very small areas of the association.

Keys to component soil series

Eastern Region

Typical Landscapes

Eastern Region

Eastern Region

All information Copyright, Cranfield University © 2024

Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2024. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 16/07/2024

About Us

LandIS, or the Land Information System is one of the offerings of the Cranfield Environment Centre (CEC). Incorporating the National Soil Resources Institute, we are the largest UK national and international centre for research and development, consultancy and training in soils and their interaction with the atmosphere, land use, geology and water resources.

Cranfield Environment Centre
Cranfield University
Bullock Building (B53)
Cranfield campus
MK43 0AL
(01234) 752992

QR Code

Cookies: This site uses cookie. No personal information is gathered or held. You will need to enable cookies for this site to operate correctly.