Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0411a Evesham 1

Soil and site characteristics
Slowly permeable calcareous clayey soils associated with shallow well drained brashy calcareous soils over limestone. Landslips and associated irregular terrain locally.

Jurassic clay and limestone
Cropping and Land Use
Permanent and short term grassland with much winter cereals; stock rearing and dairying in moist lowlands.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
4.11 EVESHAM 40% Calcaric Stagnic Vertic Cambisols
4.11 HASELOR 20% Clayic Calcaric Endoskeletic Cambisols
3.43 SHERBORNE 15% Calcaric Leptosols
5.11 MORETON 10% Calcaric Endoleptic Cambisols
Covers 948 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Lime-rich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage

Alert ! - slowly permeable soils with seasonal wetness read the alert

0411a Evesham 1

Detailed Description

The main soils in this association are calcareous clays of variable depth, differing in water regime according to the permeability of the substratum. They are found on Jurassic clays, particularly where they contain limestone bands, in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, through Gloucestershire into Somerset, and in west Dorset. Evesham series, calcareous pelosols in clay shales, predominate. They are only slowly permeable, but well developed structures in the topsoil and immediate subsurface horizon lessen the incidence of waterlogging. Haselor soils are similar to Evesham series but they have thin limestone bands at 50 to 80 cm depth. Where underlying limestone bands are thick and the substratum more permeable there are Moreton soils, typical brown calcareous earths, and shallow brashy soils of the Sherborne series.

The association is generally found on high ground adjacent to limestone soils, or on moderately sloping scarp slopes with extensive landslip features; in the clay vales it is found mainly on gentle slopes. Nationally the association is widespread covering 923 km², but in Eastern England it occupies only 60 km², the greatest part on clays and limestones of the Inferior and Great Oolite formations to the north-east of Corby, Northamptonshire, but extending into Cambridgeshire south of Wittering. Slopes are mainly gentle and moderate steepening occasionally up to 11 degrees. Though represented in the Midlands as a narrow band from Kilvington to Langar in the Vale of Belvoir (Thomasson 1971), the main occurrence of this association, an area of about 30 km², is on Lias clay and limestones in Warwickshire and Worcestershire near Southam, Kineton and Evesham. There are also 15 km² in east Leicestershire on clays and limestones in the Inferior and Great Oolite formations, where Moreton series is locally extensive, accompanied by shallow Sherborne soils and small areas of wet, clayey Denchworth soils.

The association extends over almost 800 km², much of which has been previously mapped in detail (Avery 1955, Findlay 1976). It is most extensive on the lower Cotswold dipslope where a gently undulating, often wooded landscape is formed in Forest Marble clay. From Cheltenham to Bath it is found on the upper slopes of the Cotswold scarp and on other minor slopes formed by outcrops of the Fuller's Earth. Where the scarp is deeply dissected around Stroud and Bath, the slopes are extensively landslipped and Haselor, Moreton and Sherborne soils are found on cambered spurs of Inferior Oolite limestone. South of Bath, where outcrops of the Fullers Earth and Forest Marble adjoin, Evesham with Haselor soils extend in a belt of land to the south of Sherborne and Yeovil, appearing again east of Bridport, generally on steeper slopes. On the Lias clay north of Bristol the association is inextensive but it is more common in Somerset on the flanks of the Polden Hills and to the south of Taunton, where some Evesham soils are associated with soils in calcareous drift. Evesham and Haselor soils occur in an intricate pattern because limestone bands are discontinuous, but Haselor soils are usually indicated by stony topsoils. The shallow soils of the Sherborne series are found on thick and more persistent limestone bands, often on local flats or benches. Evesham and Haselor are typically well structured soils resulting from the presence of free lime and a high content of swelling (smectitic) clay, though this is less marked in soils on Forest Marble clay, which is usually significantly siltier, in places giving silty Curdridge or fine loamy Bursledon soils. Further variations, found mostly on this formation, are shallow soils on calcareous shales, originally Ashton series on Liassic shales of the Wedmore district of Somerset.

In Buckinghamshire the soils are on slopes below extensive spreads of chalky till which carry Hanslope or Ragdale soils, whereas in north Oxfordshire the association is found in nearly flat landscapes dominated by limestone soils of the Aberford or Sherborne series. Moreton soils are common where the underlying interbedded limestone bands are closely spaced and the shallowest soils include some fine loamy Elmton soils.

Soil Water Regime

Evesham and Haselor soils have slowly permeable subsoil horizons and are seasonally waterlogged when undrained (Wetness Class III). They respond well to underdrainage and much has been carried out in recent years, both for grassland improvement and arable cropping. The limestone bands at shallow depth in Haselor soils may hinder drainage operations. Winter rain is accepted more readily than on the clayey gley soils due to well developed soil structure and presence of limestone bands. The soils are slightly droughty for cereals but moderately droughty for grass. Moreton, Sherborne and Elmton series are well-drained (Wetness Class I).

Cropping and Land Use

In the drier east of the Midlands, there is much arable cropping, mainly winter cereals, in rotation with ley grassland: more grass is grown in Warwickshire. Around Evesham the presence of shallow Haselor series within the more extensive Evesham clay soils was related to poor fruit tree growth by Osmond et al. (1949). Autumn-sown crops are favoured as, even with drainage improvements, there is little opportunity to work the land in spring. In Eastern England Winter cereals and grass are the main crops. Grass yields well in wet years but poaching limits the grazing season and drought restricts production in dry years. For arable cultivations the main soils are sticky and plastic when wet and harden quickly on drying, so careful timing is essential. The soils were traditionally ploughed in autumn and left to form a frost mould, but because there are few opportunities for spring landwork they are now almost entirely autumn sown. Direct drilling is successful, if slot smearing can be avoided. After several seasons of direct drilling a marked granular mulch usually develops at the surface, partly by increased worm activity. The layer immediately below, however, often becomes compacted and requires loosening at intervals. In dry summers cracking may damage plant roots, especially in Haselor soils where limestone limits rooting depth. Potassium levels are usually good, but little phosphorous is available in these calcareous soils.

In the South West the association occurs in two distinct landscapes, which dictate agricultural use. On steep landslipped slopes there is little opportunity for improvement or intensive use and most is in permanent grassland or woodland. Springs can be drained locally, though levelling of hummocks has sometimes led to further slipping. Grassland can be improved in situ without cultivation, and with controlled grazing can support quite heavy stocking.

Elsewhere the land has good agricultural potential and with careful management the main soils are highly productive for cereals and grass. Winter cereals and grass are the main crops, the emphasis depending much on the character of neighbouring land. Grass yields can be large but poaching limits the grazing season and drought may restrict production in dry years. On Lower Lias clays in central Somerset molybdenosis (teart) is common in grazing cattle. The soils are sticky and plastic when wet and harden rapidly on drying, so careful timing of cultivations is essential. They were traditionally autumn ploughed and left to form a frost-mould, but with few opportunities in spring for landwork they are now almost entirely autumn sown, before mid-November. Direct drilling is successful when slot smearing can be avoided. After several seasons of direct drilling a marked granular mulch usually develops at the surface, partly by increased worm activity. The layer immediately below, however often becomes compacted and requires loosening at intervals. About eight per cent of the land is occupied by broadleaved woods of little economic value. Small coniferous plantations are found in Dorest, Somerset and Wiltshire where the only species of any significant commercial value is Norway spruce (Picea abies). Calcifuge species should be avoided on these soils, particularly the shallower ones. Woodland is common on the steep, landslipped slopes of the Cotswold scarp though management is difficult on the uneven ground. Planting new trees has been found to be an effective means of stabilizing some of these slopes where they have been disturbed by road cuttings etc.

0411a Evesham 1

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

South Western Region

Eastern Region


Typical Landscapes

South Western Region

South Western Region

South Western Region

South Western Region

South Western 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 15/07/2024

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