Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations

0611e WITHNELL 2

Soil and site characteristics
Well drained loamy soils over rock. Sometimes reddish. Shallow locally. Steep slopes common.

Pre-Cambrian sandstone siltstone and conglomerate
Cropping and Land Use
Dry moorland habitats of moderate razing value; stock rearing; recreation.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
6.11 WITHNELL 40% Chromic Endoleptic Umbrisols
6.11 WINSKILL 35% Chromic Endoleptic Umbrisols
6.11 BATCH 15% Skeletic Endoleptic Entic Podzols
Covers 92 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Freely draining acid loamy soils over rock

Alert ! - brown podzolic soils read the alert

0611e WITHNELL 2

Detailed Description

This association of well drained, stony, brownish and reddish loamy soils is confined to southern Shropshire. It is mapped mainly on the Long Mynd and to the south and west on Hopesay and Linley Hills. A narrow arm extends north-eastwards along Lyth and Sharpstone Hill, culminating in Haughmond Hill east of Shrewbury. The underlying rocks are Precambrian Longmyndian sandstones, siltstones and flaggy mudstones which range in colour from grey to purple. The Long Mynd, an elongated fault block with a summit plateau gently undulating between 380 and 520 m O.D., is bounded in the west by a steep unbroken escarpment but its eastern edge is furrowed by steep-sided valleys with slopes ranging from 15 to 35 degrees. The distinctive Linley and Hopesay Hills are lower in altitude (320-400 m O.D.) than the Long Mynd, but the soils are found as low as 90 m O.D. on Haughmond Hill. The three main soils are all typical brown podzolic soils with iron-enriched subsurface horizons. The dominant Withnell series (Crompton 1966) is coarse loamy, very porous throughout and sometimes has a thin humose topsoil. The parent material is brownish sandstone, siltstone and mudstone. The subsidiary, reddish Winskill series is of similar texture and is developed in purple or red sandstones, which also form part of the local Longmyndian sequence. The sand fraction in both soils is mainly fine and the silt content is often around 30 per cent, giving the soils a silty feel. The other subsidiary soil, the Batch series, is similar but very stony throughout or in the subsoil, and is developed in conglomerates as well as sandstones or siltstones. The main soils of this association were mapped as the Batch complex by Mackney and Burnham (1966). The Portway series (Clayden and Hollis 1984) is found locally on the flat summits of the Long Mynd and was formerly grouped with the Portway complex by Mackney and Burnham (1966). Where there are rock outcrops or sparsely vegetated screes, as on the steep valley sides which dissect the eastern slopes of the Long Mynd, shallow loamy brown rankers of the Powys series are found. Also included are soils described by Mackney and Burnham (1966) as the Longmynd gley complex which are restricted to flush sites on the upper slopes of the Long Mynd. Here the main soil is the Hendraburnick series (Hogan 1981) which has a humose or peaty topsoil and coarse loamy subsurface horizons. Withnell and Winskill soils predominate on the Long Mynd with the more stony Batch series occurring in Head, especially on steep slopes. Iron pan and ferric stagnopodzols occur sporadically on the summit plateau in association with Portway soils but they are restricted to flat, receiving sites where organic matter has accumulated at the surface. The Hopesay and Linley Hills are composed mostly of reddish rocks and the main soils belong to the Winskill and Batch series; here there has been less podzolization than at the higher elevations of the Long Mynd. All the constituent soils are acid or strongly acid throughout and have the greatest percentage of clay in the topsoil, suggesting that weathering is most intense near the surface. Leaching has removed iron from the upper horizons and deposited it lower down forming a brightly coloured subsoil layer.

Soil Water Regime

All the soils are well drained (Wetness Class I) and readily absorb winter rain except on steep slopes where there may be considerable run-off.

Cropping and Land Use

Most of the terrain is uncultivated and the semi-natural vegetation is mainly Agrostis-Festuca grassland infested to a varied extent by bracken. The higher parts of the Long Mynd carry heather and bilberry communities but there are some enclosed permanent pastures supporting sheep, particularly on Linley and Hopesay Hills. Coniferous plantations are found on parts of Haughmond Hill. Vegetation on the Long Mynd is considerably affected by aspect with heather and bilberry extending far down on northerly slopes whereas at comparable altitudes with southern and western aspects bent-fescue grassland with bracken predominates. The grazing value of the grassland communities is generally good and the heather moorland moderate to poor depending on its herb richness. The land provides grazing for sheep belonging to nearby lowland farms but is also much used for recreation. The Long Mynd is managed by the Nature Conservancy Council which aims to conserve the various wildlife habitats and to safeguard the traditional farming interests. Part of Hopesay Hill is administered by the National Trust which has a similar management policy. Here and on the Long Mynd, heather is burnt on a regular basis to provide a suitable environment for rearing grouse. The balance between the various interests is a delicate one because sheep grazing, like burning, helps to maintain the heather and bracken vegetation by preventing the regeneration of trees.

0611e WITHNELL 2

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


Typical Landscapes


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 16/07/2024

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