Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged reddish silty soils. Some coarse loamy soils with slowly permeable subsoils and slight seasonal waterlogging. Some deep stoneless silty soils in alluvium affected by groundwater.

Reddish till
Cropping and Land Use
Stock rearing on permanent grassland.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
7.11 VERNOLDS 40% Chromic Eutric Albic Luvic Stagnosols
8.11 HOLLINGTON 15% Fluvic Eutric Gleysols
5.72 NUPEND 15% Chromic Endostagnic Luvisols
Covers 87 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Slowly permeable seasonally wet acid loamy and clayey soils

Alert ! - slowly permeable soils with seasonal wetness read the alert


Detailed Description

The Vernolds association consists mainly of reddish brown fine silty slowly permeable soils and is confined to 88 kmĀ² of gently sloping ground in the Welsh Borderland. It is developed in reddish till, deposited by the Wye Valley glacier. The till has a silty matrix incorporating soft local siltstones and sandstones and occasional hard Welsh erratics and is often slightly calcareous below 1 m depth where little weathered, however, most soils are decalcified. The association is restricted to the bottoms and lower slopes of partially enclosed hollows or broader depressions in the Wye, Arrow, Lugg and Teme valleys. The association is dominated by the Vernolds series, which belongs to the typical stagnogley soils, and Nupend series (stagnogleyic argillic brown earths) both of which are developed in till. Narrow sinuous bands of reddish stoneless silty alluvium and colluvium are included along streams giving Hollington series, typical alluvial gley soils. There are small inclusions of Fforest (Wright 1981), Clifton, Claverley, Escrick and Newbiggin series. Most of the component gley soils suffer from surface wetness with mottling most intense at around 50 cm depth. Close to the alluvium, however, reddish profiles, otherwise similar to the Pinsley series (Palmer 1972), have porous subsoils influenced by a groundwater-table. On the northern flank of Titterstone Clee Hill, near Cleeton St Mary, soils formerly described as Tugford complex by Mackney and Burnham (1966), have now been mapped with the Vernolds association. These silty soils are developed in Head from the top of the Clee Hills, consisting mainly of dolerite fragments and occasional local sandstone and quartz pebbles set in a matrix derived mainly from red mudstone. Here the association also contains fine loamy soils developed in Head, formerly described as Haymore series (Mackney and Burnham 1966) but now correlated with the Clifton series. Small areas of brown soils represented by the coarse loamy Escrick and fine loamy Newbiggin series are widespread on slightly raised or sloping ground where natural drainage is good. Around Shobdon in well developed kame and kettle topography the larger enclosed kettle holes contain small lakes and associated pockets of peat around which there is a fringe of stagnohumic gley soils.

Soil Water Regime

Vernolds series, with slowly permeable subsoils, and Hollington series, with a high groundwater-table are waterlogged for long periods during the winter (Wetness Class IV and V). Drainage improves them to Wetness Class III though many of the wettest soils are in enclosed hollows and effective drainage improvement is difficult to achieve or is prohibitively expensive. Nupend soils are seasonally waterlogged in places (Wetness Class III) although with artificial drainage they are only occasionally wet (Wetness Class II). Slow subsoil permeability results in the horizontal disposal of excess winter rainfall at less than 60 cm depth as saturated flow.

Cropping and Land Use

Vernolds association is mainly under grassland, but some cereals are grown where adequate underdrainage has been carried out. The main wetness limitation results from periodic waterlogging of surface or subsurface horizons caused by slowly permeable subsoils. Under permanent grassland, organic matter contents are relatively high and so the topsoils retain large amounts of water. Subsoils are often waterlogged in spring and autumn and utilization at these times is a problem as the sward can neither be grazed nor cut mechanically without damage. Careful pasture management is necessary to restrict poaching damage and soil compaction if subsequent deterioration in grass growth and soil drainage is to be avoided. During dry summer spells grass growth is checked in much of central Herefordshire. Cultivations need to be carefully timed to avoid structural damage and formation of plough pans. If the soils are cultivated when subsurface horizons are waterlogged compaction occurs beneath the plough sole causing slower downward percolation of water thus producing saturated layers in which internal slaking causes further compaction. After a wet period, 4 or 5 rain-free days are needed before soils are sufficiently dry to allow cultivations to proceed safely. During most years, there are insufficient good spring work days to guarantee cultivations without damage but there are usually adequate periods for landwork in autumn. The bottoms of enclosed kettle holes and the floors of meandering channels often have semi-natural vegetation which provides valuable wetland habitats for wildlife. Recreational use is limited because of the difficulty of access over the soft wet land. Rough grazing is common and the land may remain waterlogged for much of the growing season. The lack of fall to the main streams often makes land drainage difficult and the pasture is frequently weedy, with rushes and coarse tufted grasses. Reseeding has to be carefully planned as suitable conditions may not occur every year. Around Cleeton St Mary on the flanks of the Clee Hills where the field capacity period of around 200 days is much greater than in central Herefordshire, spring seepage often aggravates surface wetness on these soils. Arable cropping is precluded here and although grassland can be improved, some remains under rough grazing.


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


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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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