Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0571w Hucklesbrook

Soil and site characteristics
Well drained coarse loamy and some sandy soils, commonly over gravel. Some similar permeable soils affected by groundwater. Usually on flat land.

River terrace drift
Cropping and Land Use
Cereals, field vegetables and some horticultural crops; some short term grassland, gravel extraction.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.71 HUCKLESBROOK 31% Endoskeletic Luvisols
5.71 MAPLESTEAD 30% Haplic Luvisols
5.54 EBSTREE 29% Arenic Chromic Luvisols
5.73 BREAMORE 10% Endoskeletic Gleyic Luvisols
Covers 389 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils

Alert ! - sandy soils read the alert

0571w Hucklesbrook

Detailed Description

This association consists mainly of well drained non-calcareous coarse loamy and sandy soils on river terraces adjacent to and slightly above floodplains along the lower Thames valley in Essex. The most extensive soils, Hucklesbrook and Maplestead series are coarse loamy typical argillic brown earths. Hucklesbrook soils have gravel at moderate depth but Maplestead soils are deeper. Ebstree soils, argillic brown sands in sandy drift, also occur. The associated coarse loamy over gravelly Breamore soils are seasonally affected by groundwater so have distinct grey and ochreous mottled subsoils, typical of gleyic argillic brown earths.

The principal soils are developed in loamy or sandy drift over flint gravel. Their distribution is related to depth to gravel, which is particularly variable in south Essex, and to groundwater level. Some of the lowest terraces were not disturbed by periglacial processes and the upper sandy or coarse loamy layers pass gradually downwards into gravel. The older, higher terraces are often strongly convoluted at the junction between upper layers and gravel below giving a complicated pattern of Hucklesbrook and deeper Maplestead soils. In places, Maplestead and sandy, gravelly St Albans soils are co-dominant, with Hucklesbrook and Ebstree soils the most important associates. Fine loamy Ludford and fine silty Hamble soils occur near terrace edges. Wetter Breamore and Hurst soils are rare but Hornbeam and Berkhamsted soils are locally present on the high terraces.

The association occurs on the river terraces of the Hampshire Avon, Frome, Piddle and lower Stour in Dorset. Those along the Avon are most extensive and here coarse loamy Hucklesbrook and similar fine loamy Efford soils are dominant. Sandy Ebstree soils are extensive north of Christchurch where they are accompanied by cultivated podzols belonging to Redlodge series. Wetter Breamore and Hurst soils occur mainly in low-lying ground away from the streams and along the small streams that cross the terraces. Small woodlands and heaths have Redlodge and Crannymoor soils and other podzols affected by groundwater. North of Bournemouth along the Stour, the terraces have Hucklesbrook soils with limited areas of sandy Ebstree series. The soils of the smaller terraces of the Frome and Piddle valleys are more varied. Hucklesbrook and Breamore soils are dominant on some terraces whereas others, especially those near sandy Tertiary formations, have Ebstree soils with some sandy Redlodge and Crannymoor soils. Wet Hurst soils are locally common on these.

Along the Kennet east of Newbury, the association includes soils mapped as his Sonning series, but most are now correlated with Hucklesbrook and Maplestead series. Fine loamy Ludford and fine loamy over gravelly Efford series occur locally. Sandy Ebstree soils are frequent in the Thames valley below Windsor, particularly where tributaries join the main river. There are small areas in the Wey and Mole valleys in Surrey. Here also Ebstree soils are most common. Breamore, and the wetter Hurst and Shabbington soils occur on narrow strips flanking the floodplains. In the Wey valley, Breamore soils occur most frequently between Woking and Guildford where the terraces overlie London Clay which holds up the water-table. The soil pattern is similar along the Mole, but where the valley crosses the Chalk near Dorking, Breamore and wetter soils are absent and Ebstree soils rare.

The Avon terraces between Breamore and Sopley have mainly coarse loamy Hucklesbrook with some fine loamy Efford soils. But the loamy soils near Breamore pass gradually to sandy soils downstream, reflecting the lithology of sediments in the catchments contributing to the terrace deposits. Wetter Breamore and Hurst soils occur on low-lying ground away from the streams and along the small streams that cross the terraces. Small woodlands and heaths have Redlodge and Crannymoor soils and other podzols affected by groundwater.

Soil Water Regime

Hucklesbrook, Maplestead and Ebstree soils are permeable and well drained (Wetness Class I) so readily accept winter rain. Undrained Breamore soils are occasionally waterlogged (Wetness Class II or III). Where the land is used intensively, surface soil structure breaks down and becomes compacted so reducing infiltration. Hucklesbrook, Maplestead and Breamore soils are slightly droughty in most years for cereals and sugar beet, moderately droughty for potatoes and very droughty for grass. All crops suffer more severely from drought on Ebstree soils.

Cropping and Land Use

In most years, the main soils can be cultivated over long periods in spring and autumn. Irrigated vegetable and salad crops are grown for local markets. Much land has been dug for sand and gravel. Some ground has been satisfactorily restored for agriculture but other worked-out pits are used for waste-disposal or recreation.

In the South West the land is almost entirely used for arable farming. The soils are well drained, have good bearing strength and are easy to cultivate; in most years the timing of cultivations is flexible, particularly in autumn. The soils are weakly structured however, so there is risk of compaction in intensive arable systems, particularly where organic matter levels in the topsoil are small. Such compaction reduces porosity and permeability causing surface ponding, and restricts rooting. There are long periods for autumn and spring cultivations in most years, but in wet springs there are some restrictions and only Ebstree soils can be worked safely for more than a few days. Cereals, potatoes and field vegetables are widely grown. Salad crops are most common near towns. Irrigation is necessary in most years for large yields of potatoes and vegetables. The soils are naturally acid and regular checks of soil pH are necessary, especially for sensitive vegetable crops. Varied depths to gravel also cause different rates of crop growth and yield.

There is much horticulture in the east Dorset valleys but the smallest patches are often under grass, particularly in the northern part of the Avon valley. Some of the land has been worked for gravel extraction and there is pressure on remaining land. With careful restoration, the land is returned successfully to agriculture or horticulture although many old pits are now lakes used for fishing and water sports since the groundwater-table is often within 2 to 3 m of the land surface.

In Greater London, sandy Ebstree soils are widespread in open spaces, such as Bushy Park, Dartford Heath and Old Deer Park, the latter providing excellent sports fields. In the Thames and Wey valleys there are large reserves of sand and gravel and much has already been extracted. With care, the land can be restored to agriculture, but worked out sites are often left flooded for recreation or used for waste disposal.

0571w Hucklesbrook

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

South Eastern Region

Typical Landscapes

South Western Region

South Western 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 15/07/2024

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