Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0571e FYFIELD 2

Soil and site characteristics
Well drained coarse loamy and sandy soils over sands and sandstones. Some very acid sandy soils with bleached subsurface horizons on heaths and in woodlands. Risk of water erosion.

Cretaceous and Jurassic loam and sand
Cropping and Land Use
Cereals, potatoes, some short term grassland and field vegetables; some lowland heath and deciduous woodland habitats; sand extraction.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.71 FYFIELD 60% Chromic Luvisols
5.54 FRILFORD 15% Arenic Luvisols
6.31 SHIRRELL HEATH 10% Albic Podzols
Covers 257 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils

0571e FYFIELD 2

Detailed Description

Coarse loamy and sandy well drained brown soils are dominant in this association on moderately or strongly sloping, mostly agricultural land. There are also significant areas of well drained sandy podzols under heath or woodland. Developed mainly on Lower Greensand and related drift in West Sussex, east Hampshire, Kent and Surrey, the association also occurs in south Oxfordshire between Kingston Bagpuize and Abingdon on Corallian sands. In Kent, the association is chiefly on Folkestone Beds which form a distinctive narrow belt of rounded hills at the foot of the Lower Greensand dipslope extending from Westerham to Folkestone. This land was mapped in Kent as their Barming-Bearsted association. Following the rationalisation of soil series, Barming and the associated Hothfield series have been renamed Fyfield and Shirrell Heath series respectively.

The Lower Greensand in Hampshire and West Sussex is strongly dissected. Here, some flat summits are capped by river terrace deposits. The association is also mapped on the steep Hythe Beds escarpment between Leith Hill and Sevenoaks. In south Oxfordshire it occurs on a low east-to-west ridge of gently sloping land up to 5 km wide. Fyfield soils are coarse loamy, almost sandy, typical argillic brown earths passing to sand or sandstone, as do the subsidiary Frilford soils, argillic brown sands. Under semi-natural vegetation, sandy Shirrell Heath soils, humo-ferric podzols with a bleached subsurface horizon, are dominant.

Frilford soils are found mainly toward the top of the steep slopes. Shirrell Heath soils occur most frequently on ridge tops but are also present on some steep upper slopes. Deep, well drained, coarse loamy Maplestead soils are developed in thick drift on the floors of the dry valleys of the Lower Greensand, with similar but fine loamy Ludford soils occurring locally. Coarse loamy Bearsted soils are particularly common on Folkestone Beds in Kent. Dundale soils occur occasionally particularly on higher ground often associated with Bursledon soils and similar glauconitic soils on more clayey seams in the Lower Greensand. Bursledon series, where it is found over interbedded Jurassic and Cretaceous strata in the Abingdon district, was mapped as the Shellingford series. Shabbington, Swanwick and Wix soils are restricted to wet footslopes near streams. The latter are particularly common around Ashford, Kent, where they were formerly mapped as Ditton series. At Buckland Warren, Frilford Heath and around Tubney, Frilford soils are co-dominant with Fyfield series, but Shirrell Heath soils are absent. Wet fine loamy Kingston soils occur in some shallow valleys and basins in Oxfordshire.

Soil Water Regime

Fyfield and Dundale series are both well drained (Wetness Class I) and permeable so readily accept normal winter rain, although locally there is rapid run-off and erosion where soil structure has been broken down and the soil compacted by intensive arable farming. Bursledon soils are seasonally waterlogged in winter (Wetness Class III). The soils have good reserves of available water for common crops. Dundale and Bursledon soils are slightly droughty, and Fyfield non-droughty, for cereals. All the soils are moderately droughty for potatoes and grass, except in the wetter districts of West Sussex where they are slightly droughty.

Cropping and Land Use

Fyfield and Frilford soils can be worked easily. Cereal crops are widely grown even though yields on Frilford soils are reduced by drought in most years. There are also significant areas of grassland, in spite of droughtiness. There is little risk of poaching and stock can be outwintered in many districts. Potato, field vegetable, soft fruit and salad crops are grown locally and are generally successful but irrigation is essential for large yields. There are a few orchards around Ashford and Maidstone. Fyfield and Frilford soils are naturally acid and require regular liming. Potassium and magnesium reserves are small in south Oxfordshire and in Kent.

The soils erode easily especially on steeper slopes when the crop cover is sparse. Erosion is accentuated where topsoils contain only small amounts of organic matter and when the soils are compacted by traffic and become saturated. The risk of erosion is less where the land is cultivated across the slope, and topsoil organic matter levels maintained. Near Redhill, there are some restored soils where the Sandgate Beds have been worked for Fuller's Earth. These are similar to Fyfield or Frilford series but are commonly badly compacted.

Trees grow well in these soils which are generally suited to a wide range of coniferous and broad-leaved species, but where Fyfield soils overlie rock at moderate depth, trees are shallow rooting and windthrow is common. Shirrell Heath soils require deep cultivation to break subsurface pans and encourage deep rooting. On former heathland with Shirrell Heath and Frilford soils, tine cultivation helps to control ericaceous weeds but soil acidity and small reserves of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen restrict the choice of species to Scots and Corsican pine and Douglas fir. Fyfield, Bursledon, Dundale, Maplestead and Ludford soils are well suited to pines, Norway spruce, larches, Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar. Oak and beech are suitable for less acid soils and sweet chestnut does well on fertile sites. Phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers help crop establishment and growth.

Most sites with semi-natural vegetation reflect the acidic nature of the soils. The vegetation of the Hythe Beds escarpment between Leith Hill and Sevenoaks is particularly varied; on Leith Hill, escarpment woodland is of birch and Scots pine with holly, yew, rowan and bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). In contrast, Reigate Heath has both dry and wet heathland. Further east, Scords Wood consists of sessile oak high forest with birch and holly, and bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) and primrose (Primula vulgaris). Acid grassland with common bent-grass (Agrostis capillaris), sheep's fescue (Festuca ovina) and common tormentil (Potentilla erecta) occurs at Hatch Park near Ashford, and wet heathland occurs on Hothfield Common.

0571e FYFIELD 2

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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