Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Well drained coarse loamy soils in places over sandstone. Variably stony. Some very acid sandy soils with bleached subsurface horizon in woodlands.

Cherty plateau drift and Cretaceous sand and sandstone
Cropping and Land Use
Deciduous woodland; grassland and cereals on some slopes; recreation.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
5.81 STONE STREET 25% Chromic Endoskeletic Luvisols
5.81 MAXTED 20% Ruptic Chromic Luvisols
6.31 SHIRRELL HEATH 20% Albic Podzols
5.71 FYFIELD 15% Chromic Luvisols
5.71 MAPLESTEAD 10% Chromic Luvisols
Covers 52 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining slightly acid loamy soils


Detailed Description

The soils in this association are on the more dissected parts of the Lower Greensand dipslope in east Surrey and west Kent between Limpsfield and Ightham. The strong relief reflects the occurrence of chert and hard quartzitic sandstones in the Hythe and Folkestone Beds, and the land consists of steep sided, mostly dry, valleys and ridges, reaching 210-240 m O.D. at the escarpment crest. Most soils on the valley sides are over sands, sandstones and cherts of the Hythe Beds. In the north, the soils are developed in small outliers of Sandgate and Folkestone Beds sands and loamy capping hills. Near Stone Street the Folkestone Beds include cherty layers which form a secondary scarp 60 m high. Most of the ridges are covered by coarse loamy, or sandy over clayey, stony cherty Plateau Drift. Valleys are infilled with loamy drift.

The principal soils, Stone Street and Maxted series, are typical paleo-argillic brown earths. They are coarse loamy, often stony, soils developed in cherty drift that incorporates layers with a brightly-coloured clay matrix. The associated coarse loamy Fyfield soils, typical argillic brown earths, and sandy Shirrell Heath soils, humo-ferric podzols, were formerly called Barming and Hothfield series respectively. They are developed in Lower Greensand and related drift. Maplestead soils, typical argillic brown earths, are coarse loamy and occur in less stony drift on valley floors. Small amounts of Marlow, Delamere, Anglezarke, Rivington, Ludford, Oxpasture and Wickham soils are also included.

Stone Street and Maxted series are dominant on ridges and there are small patches of Anglezarke and similar soils under heathland or in woods. On low ridges and valley sides Fyfield soils are accompanied by Rivington series but in woodlands the principal soils are Shirrell Heath and Delamere series. Deep and less stony Maplestead and Ludford soils are present on dry valley floors and footslopes but valleys where drift is underlain at shallow depth by Atherfield Clay, for example near Great Norman Street, wetter Oxpasture and Wickham soils occur. Most of the land was mapped in Kent as their Stone Street association.

Soil Water Regime

All the component soils are permeable and well drained (Wetness Class I) except Oxpasture and Wickham series which are seasonally waterlogged (Wetness Class III or IV). Excess winter rain is readily absorbed but there is a risk of erosion where bare soil is exposed on steep valley sides. Available water in Stone Street and Maxted soils is limited in many places by stoniness and these soils are moderately droughty for grass and slightly droughty for cereals; there is slightly less risk of drought for crops in Fyfield and Maplestead soils.

Cropping and Land Use

The main soils are generally easy to work but stoniness inhibits precision drilling in some fields. There is a negligible risk of poaching. On wetter Wickham and Oxpasture soils there are fewer opportunities for cultivating and grazing. Agricultural cropping is confined to the broader ridge tops and valley floors. Much of the land is in grass though production is restricted by drought. There are also small areas of cereals and winter oilseed rape. Some steep valley sides offer rough grazing. Top fruit is grown around Stone Street.

The common place name "chart" suggests that much of the higher land has long been rough common or woodland, and semi-natural woodlands, forest plantations and parklands are extensive on ridges, plateaux and steep valley sides. Many ridge tops have uneven, disturbed surfaces, the result of past quarrying to extract chert and gravel. In semi-natural woodland, the dominant species is sessile oak, often coppiced and mixed with other species such as birch, holly, beech and sweet chestnut. Scots pine, hornbeam, rowan and whitebeam also occur in places. Ratcliffe (1977) describes the assemblage in that part of Scords Wood, Brasted, on acid podzolized soils (Shirrell Heath series) as sessile oak high forest and coppice with a ground flora of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), ling (Calluna vulgaris) and hard-fern (Blechnum spicant). On the brown soils, Stone Street, Maxted and Fyfield series, sessile oak is mixed with birch and holly and the ground flora includes bluebell, bramble and bracken. Other conserved woodlands include Nosey Common, Oldbury and Seal Chart and Limpsfield Chart. Knole Park is a deer park with a large number of mature oak trees.

There are few limitations to commercial forestry on Fyfield and Maplestead soils. Little preparation is needed for planting, but weed competition is severe during establishment. The stony subsoils of Stone Street and Maxted soils need loosening by tine cultivation before trees are planted to encourage deep rooting. A wide range of species can be grown successfully including pines, Douglas fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, oak and beech. The very acid Shirrell Heath soils also need tine cultivation to break subsoil pans and mix the upper layers of the soil. Suitable species include the pines and Douglas fir. Phosphorus fertilizer is required to ensure satisfactory growth. Much of the land is used for amenity and recreation. The soils are dry for most of the year and provide good paths, though there is risk of erosion where they cross steep slopes.


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 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 19/07/2024

About Us

LandIS, or the Land Information System is one of the offerings of the Cranfield Environment Centre (CEC). Incorporating the National Soil Resources Institute, we are the largest UK national and international centre for research and development, consultancy and training in soils and their interaction with the atmosphere, land use, geology and water resources.

Cranfield Environment Centre
Cranfield University
Bullock Building (B53)
Cranfield campus
MK43 0AL
(01234) 752992

QR Code

Cookies: This site uses cookie. No personal information is gathered or held. You will need to enable cookies for this site to operate correctly.