Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0555 Downham

Soil and site characteristics
Deep permeable sandy and coarse loamy often ferruginous soils variably affected by groundwater. Some well drained sandy soils on higher ground.

Glaciofluvial drift over Cretaceous sandstone
Cropping and Land Use
Cereals, sugar beet and potatoes; some permanent grassland.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.55 DOWNHAM 35% Arenic Magniferric Endogleyic Luvisols
8.41 WATLINGTON 30% Luvic Eutric Gleysols
5.51 NEWPORT 20% Eutric Lamellic Arenosols
8.21 BLACKWOOD 10% Arenic Mollic Gleysols
Covers 46 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining slightly acid sandy soils

0555 Downham

Detailed Description

The Downham association consists of deep sandy and coarse loamy soils mostly affected seasonally by groundwater. It covers 46 kmĀ² of gently sloping, generally west-facing land fringing the Fens between King's Lynn and Downham Market in Norfolk between 5 and 30 m O.D. The soils are formed partly in glaciofluvial sands and partly in thin sandy Head resting on the ferruginous Lower Greensand. Two-thirds of the land is occupied by Downham series, gleyic argillic brown sands, and the Watlington series, typical argillic gley soils. Both are ferruginous, with ironstone nodules as well as flints, and pass downwards into the Greensand. The former is sandy with slight subsoil mottling, the latter coarse loamy with grey mottling at shallow depth. Newport series, typical brown sands, occur mainly on the glaciofluvial sands together with Blackwood series, typical sandy gley soils, on lower lying sites. Ollerton series is also found. Newport and Ollerton series tend to occur on the highest ground on spurs and upper slopes. Downham and Watlington series are mainly on the middle slopes with Blackwood series on footslopes and flat or sometimes hummocky ground adjoining the Fens. Massive concretionary ironstone is found locally in the subsoils of Blackwood and Watlington series.

Soil Water Regime

The soils are permeable or moderately permeable but their water regimes vary according to site. On the lowest ground Blackwood and Watlington soils are naturally waterlogged for appreciable periods in the year (Wetness Classes III and IV). On the slopes Ollerton, Downham and Watlington soils are seasonally wet because of seepage from higher ground (Wetness Classes II and III) whilst Newport soils are well drained (Wetness Class I). The water regime of soils on low ground responds to drainage in the adjacent fens and, where this is controlled by pumping, Blackwood and Watlington soils are now well drained (Wetness Class I), but inaccessible and hummocky ground is still seasonally waterlogged to some degree. Downham, Watlington and Blackwood soils are of moderate waterholding capacity so are slightly droughty for most arable crops, moderately droughty for potatoes and very droughty for grass.

Cropping and Land Use

The land is mainly arable growing barley, wheat and sugar beet, but there is a little grassland for dairying and beef cattle. Where drained there is generally ample time for late harvesting and autumn and spring cultivations by traditional methods on this easily or moderately easily worked land. There are slight restrictions on landwork in late autumn and spring on the loamy Watlington series in wet years. Newport and 011erton soils are very easily worked and can be cultivated within a day or two of rain even during the field capacity period.

0555 Downham

Typical Landscapes

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Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2022. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 14/08/2022

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