Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Deep well drained coarse loamy soils mainly on steep scarps, locally very stony. Permeable peaty-topped and non-peaty soils affected by groundwater on some footslopes. Landslips and associated irregular terrain locally.

Cretaceous loam and sand
Cropping and Land Use
Grassland and woodland on steep slopes with diverse habitats; dairying and cereal cropping elsewhere.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.41 BEARSTED 35% Eutric Cambisols
5.41 LUPPITT 15% Eutric Endoskeletic Cambisols
8.71 HENSE 15% Dystric Histic Gleysols
8.31 QUORNDON 10% Eutric Gleysols
6.31 SHIRRELL HEATH 10% Albic Podzols
Covers 260 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils


Detailed Description

This association comprises well drained brown earths and podzols on the steep Upper Greensand scarp of Wessex. Most widespread are typical brown earths, of the Bearsted and Luppitt series, having brown, stony or very stony profiles formed in cherty, loamy Head. Bearsted soils pass to stoneless sand within 80 cm depth but the Luppitt series remains cherty to greater depth. The Upper Greensand in east Devon consists of up to 30 m of variably coloured, glauconitic, unconsolidated fine sands to fine sandy clay loarns, the so-called Foxmould Sand, overlain by up to 20 m of siliceous sands with chert, the Chert Beds. Further east, in Dorset, grits replace the Chert Beds. In south Somerset and north-west Dorset the narrow outcrop is mostly of greyish green glauconitic sandy loam with thin overlying cherty beds, which may in turn be directly overlain by the Chalk, forming a single scarp. On the south side of the Vale of Wardour and south of Warminster, the Greensand forms both a steep scarp and a gentler sloping dissected dipslope with a cover of cherty drift of variable thickness. Altitudinal range is between 100 m O.D. on the south coast to about 250 m O.D. on the Blackdown Hills and at Alfred's Tower, on the Somerset-Wiltshire border. Other associated soils include groundwater gley soils of the Hense and Quorndon series. Bearsted series is most common on the scarp in thin cherty Head over Foxmould or over glauconitic stoneless sands. Where the head is thicker on the scarp crest or on the Chert Bed dipslope, Luppitt series predominates. In west Dorset typical brown earths are mixed with typical argillic brown earths of the Ardington series. South-west of Warminster, humo-ferric podzols belonging to the Shirrell Heath series are rather more extensive than in Devon, where these soils were formerly mapped as Telegraph series. In east Devon and south-west Somerset, Hense and Quorndon series have been included in this association where wet flushes on footslopes are too small to separate as the Hense association. Further east these wet soils are replaced by Wickham series where Greensand drift overlies Lias, Oxford or Gault Clay. Around Burbage in the Vale of Pewsey on Chert Beds, stony Luppitt soils are associated with Ardington soils, and wetter soils around springs.

Soil Water Regime

Bearsted and Luppitt series are well drained (Wetness Class I) with porous profiles overlying permeable Upper Greensand, mostly on steep slopes. On the limited flatter sites compaction from ill-timed cultivations may cause the soils to be occasionally waterlogged (Wetness Class II). Gradient is an influence on run-off, but on most sites winter rain is readily absorbed.

Cropping and Land Use

Slope dominates land use on the Greensand scarp, which carries permanent grassland, rough grazing or woodland. Maintenance and improvement of grassland is both troublesome and dangerous, and pastures poach more easily than on gentler slopes. Only where the ground flattens, above the scarp as around Shaftesbury and Warminster, or more locally along its foot, is there scope for more intensive use of the soils, although stones in the Chert Beds can seriously hinder cultivations. Because of the free drainage, poaching risk is small where grassland on this relatively level ground is grazed throughout the growing season, and it will stand reasonable winter stocking. Growth is slightly restricted by droughtiness in most seasons particularly where rainfall is lower, as around Warminster.

The scarp soils, with their deep rooting, good natural drainage and substantial moisture reserves, have potential for afforestation, with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga mensiesii) or, in exposed sites, Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) as productive species. Old woodlands of limited economic value form wooded rims to the valleys and combes dissecting the Greensand country, enhancing the landscape and, with the adjoining wetland of the Hense association, providing an extensive wildlife habitat and attractive sites of high amenity value.


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

Typical Landscapes

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 18/06/2024

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