Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged fine loamy fine loamy over clayey and clayey soils.

Drift from Palaeozoic sandstone and shale
Cropping and Land Use
Stock rearing and some dairying on permanent grassland; grassland and winter cereals in drier lowlands.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
7.13 BRICKFIELD 50% Eutric Stagnosols
7.11 DUNKESWICK 30% Eutric Albic Luvic Stagnosols
7.12 HALLSWORTH 10% Clayic Eutric Stagnosols
Covers 4317 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

This association consists predominantly of loamy and clayey surface-water gley soils belonging to the Brickfield, Dunkeswick and Hallsworth series. It is widespread throughout Northern England, the north Midlands and north Wales, covering over 3,650 km², usually below 250 m O.D. on gentle to moderate slopes. The parent material is a greyish till or Head derived from Carboniferous and other Palaeozoic sandstones and shales. The loamy textures are due to the preponderance of sandstone in the drift. Greater proportions of shale give rise to more clayey drift. Brickfield soils, cambic stagnogley soils, are clay loam throughout and commonly contain many sandstones or, locally shales; at lower altitudes hard igneous and other erratic stones are also present. Stone content frequently increases with depth. The Dunkeswick series, typical stagnogley soils, is distinguished from the Brickfield series by a clay horizon beginning at between 40 and 80 cm depth, whereas the Hallsworth series, pelo-stagnogley soils, are clayey to either the surface or the base of the topsoil. The association covers almost 790 km², primarily in Lancashire but also in Greater Manchester, north Staffordshire, Derbyshire and north-east Cheshire. It forms a large and almost continuous tract along the west flank of the Pennines from the lower footslopes of Tatham Fell to Stoke-on-Trent, including the footslopes of the Forest of Bowland, Pendle Hill, Trawden and Rossendale, the trough between Blackburn and Colne and the Vale of Edale. Brickfield soils predominate, with the Hallsworth series as the main subsidiary. Dunkeswick soils are found throughout, with Nercwys soils on the steeper drift covered slopes. In the Oldham and Mossley districts and east of Macclesfield, there are small inclusions of Clifton soils on reddish till. Clifton and Salwick soils are also included near Mow Cop and New Mills, large expanses of reddish till forming the adjacent soil units. Around Whaley Bridge and Glossop the drift is brownish. Small patches of Bardsey soils occur in the Peak District where the drift is thin over clay shales. Better drained soils of light texture, Wick series, are of local significance on river terraces or glaciofluvial drift, and narrow strips of alluvial soils, Enborne series, have been included. Small rushy hollows support stagnohumic gley soils, Wilcocks series and become more common above 200 to 300 m O.D. as this association merges into Wilcocks 1 association. The soils were mapped over some 120 km² on till in the Lleyn Peninsula as the Dinas series by Hughes and Roberts (1958); they also occur near Wrexham, west of Newtown and between Saundersfoot and Newgale in south-east Dyfed. The Greyland series replaces the Dunkeswick series in mid-Wales, and soils in reddish till, belonging to the Clifton and Salop series are included locally in Clywd.

This is a widespread association, covering 2657 km², in the Pennines and in Northumberland. Soil patterns are simple and dominated by the Brickfield and, less frequently, the Dunkeswick and Hallsworth series. On steeper, drift-covered slopes the wetter soils give way to Nercwys series, particularly in the Tyne valley. Where the drift thins, Rivington series is found on sandstone and Bardsey and Heapey series over shale. Soils of the Wilcocks and Kielder series, in flush sites, are of local significance only. Soils on river terrace drift, glaciofluvial drift, and alluvium also occur locally. The association often gives way to soils in reddish till, the Clifton and Salop associations, at lower altitudes in many western districts, and with increasing altitude merges gradually into Wilcocks association. In drier parts of Northumberland and the east Pennine foothills a few soils are calcareous at depth.

Soil Water Regime

The main soils are seasonally waterlogged (Wetness Class IV) but, with satisfactory drainage, may be in Wetness Class III where the annual rainfall is less than about 900 mm. They have slowly permeable loamy and clayey subsurface horizons which cause surface waterlogging. Surplus winter rainwater mainly moves away laterally at shallow depth and underdrainage is essential. Only the Hallsworth series is suitable for moling and the climate is too wet for regular subsoiling to be done as an aid to permeability. In Wales The Brickfield series has slowly permeable subsurface horizons which cause prolonged or seasonal waterlogging (Wetness Class V or IV). Where drained, most still remain seasonally waterlogged (Wetness Class IV or III). The East Keswick series is well drained (Wetness Class I), whereas the Nercwys series is usually in Wetness Class III. Brickfield and Nercwys soils are quickly saturated and absorb little winter rainwater. It drains away laterally, mainly within the top 50 cm. By contrast, surplus rainwater passes downwards through the relatively permeable East Keswick series. In Wales, The soils are seasonally or severely waterlogged (Wetness Class IV or V) and fields are often rush infested. With underdrainage, Brickfield soils can be Wetness Class III in drier districts. The soils have slowly permeable loamy or clayey subsoils, which cause surface waterlogging. Excess winter rainwater either runs off or moves away at shallow depth. Profile available water in the Brickfield series averages 130 mm and is similar in the Dunkeswick and Hallsworth series, making them, at the most, only slightly droughty under grass.

Cropping and Land Use

Much of the association is under permanent grass for livestock and dairy production. Grass growth in spring is retarded by cold and wet land. Yield potential is good because the soils have ample moisture reserves, but the risk of poaching is serious when topsoils are at field capacity, particularly for Hallsworth soils. Winter-sown cereals grown on an opportunity basis are the only other crops, and these are confined to Brickfield rather than Dunkeswick or Hallsworth soils. Consumption is usually on the farm and the main difficulty for cultivation is the wet climate, which affords very few good machinery workdays in autumn and in spring.

In Wales most farms rear stock or have dairy herds, so grass, much of it long term, is the principal crop. Yields are potentially high especially on the Lleyn Peninsula with its long growing season and small moisture deficit. However, there is risk of severe poaching so actual yields may be restricted. Liver fluke can infect stock where the land is not adequately drained. The land is often too wet for early fertilizer dressings and the grazing period is shortened by the early return to field capacity. Winter access is very restricted and on intensive farms slurry storage is necessary. Whilst unsuited to continuous arable cropping, breaks of barley and forage crops are incorporated in rotations before the land is resown to grass. Landwork is normally possible in the autumn but structural damage quickly results in wet conditions. Undrained, the land supports wet herb-rich grassland communities which are diverse on the Lleyn Peninsula, where there are soils with base-rich horizons. Little of the land is forested, although there are small oak woods on farms and oak is the dominant hedge tree inland. On the Lleyn Peninsula, exposure to salt-laden winds discourages tree planting. Elsewhere with adequate drainage, Sitka and Norway spruce grow well, although shallow rooting can lead to appreciable risk of windthrow on more exposed sites. Little of the land is forested, although there are small oak woods on farms and oak is the dominant hedge tree inland. On the Lleyn Peninsula, exposure to salt-laden winds discourages tree planting. Elsewhere with adequate drainage, Sitka and Norway spruce grow well, although shallow rooting can lead to appreciable risk of windthrow on more exposed sites.

In north Northumberland, grass growth is usually retarded because of the late spring. Accessibility in western districts during autumn is hindered by the early return to field capacity, with consequent risk of poaching. However, east of the Pennines and the Northumberland hills, grass growth benefits by an early return to field capacity relative to the end of the growing season, and this can provide a useful flush of grass for about a month in autumn. There is moderate to severe risk in slurry disposal. Plantations in Cumbria are of Norway spruce and Sitka spruce, with larch on slopes and western hemlock, oak and ash for amenity. In the Hexhamshire district of Northumberland, where the climate is more severe, Sitka spruce predominates, with some Scots pine. In Chopwell Forest, Durham, Douglas fir and Norway spruce are planted as oak is felled. Corsican pine and larch are also planted, with beech and oak for amenity. Deep ploughing is customary before planting, to improve soil drainage and rooting depth.


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


Northern Region


Typical Landscapes


Northern Region

Northern Region

Northern 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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