Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Deep stoneless calcareous coarse silty soils. Groundwater usually controlled by ditches or pumps. Flat land with low ridges. Risk of wind erosion locally.

Marine alluvium
Cropping and Land Use
Sugar beet, potatoes, field vegetables horticultural crops and cereals in the Fens; grassland and some cereals in moist districts.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
8.12 WISBECH 55% Fluvic Calcaric Gleysols
5.32 ROMNEY 25% Calcaric Fluvic Endogleyic Cambisols
Covers 898 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater

Alert ! - capping silts read the alert
Alert ! - soils affected by groundwater read the alert


Detailed Description

The Wisbech association, on stoneless marine alluvium, covers 874 km² in England and Wales, of which 546 km² fringes the Wash. The remainder occurs on the Lancashire and Cumbrian coasts and in the Mersey, Ribble and Dee estuaries and near the mouth of the river Winster where it discharges into Morecambe Bay. It consists mainly of coarse silty calcareous alluvial gley soils, Wisbech series and gleyic brown calcareous alluvial soils belonging to the Romney series. Other soils include fine silty Agney and Blacktoft, and the silty over clayey Stockwith series. The association is restricted to the Dee estuary where about half the soils are coarse silty, some containing much fine sand. They were formerly mapped as Dee series. Romney soils are infrequent.

The association is extensive in the silt fenland around the Wash. It occurs mainly along present and former river courses and on ground reclaimed from saltings. Wisbech soils often occur on land reclaimed during the last century so they are less mature than Romney soils and have a less well developed subsoil structure with the depositional laminations often still recognizable below 50 cm depth. The association is frequently bounded to seaward by the Agney association and often passes inland to the Wallasea 2 association. The variation in soil texture across these three associations reflects depositional sequences in the marine alluvium. A discontinuous arc of higher ground, some 3 m above the general marsh level, called toft or townland, runs through the association from Wainfleet All Saints through Holbeach to West Lynn. This land, 3 to 15 km inland from the present coastline of the Wash, contains more Romney soils than elsewhere. The earliest settlements were founded on this natural feature which was built up locally by the addition of silty waste from a medieval salt industry. Salt making sites often have disturbed soils containing ash and charcoal. Blacktoft soils, which chiefly occur on the fringes of the mapped areas, are uncommon in Lincolnshire.

The soils cover only 4 km² in Cumbria, along the lower reaches of the river Winster near Lindale where coarse silty alluvium overlies a raised beach. The Wisbech soils here, unlike those elsewhere, often have fine sandy horizons at 70 to 90 cm depth.

Soil Water Regime

The soils are waterlogged for long periods in winter (Wetness Class IV), where there has been little improvement in land drainage and the soil mottling reflects the current water regime. Where there are ditches, the soils are only occasionally waterlogged (Wetness Class II). Around the Wash, land drainage is controlled by an efficient system of main drainage channels, ditches and pumps which cope adequately with the naturally high groundwater. Because both Wisbech and Romney soils are very permeable they are well drained (Wetness Class I) and mottling in Wisbech and Romney soils is a relic feature reflecting the soil moisture regime prior to drainage. The soils are non-droughty for arable crops but Romney soils are slighty droughty for grass.

Cropping and Land Use

As most of the soils have not been effectively drained in the Dee estuary, they are under permanent grass but where drained are used mainly for winter cereals. The soils tend to erode easily when cultivated and seedbeds are often blown away, necessitating redrilling, or the seedlings are damaged by the abrasive sand particles, causing a reduction of yield. Where the soils have not long been reclaimed or have been in permanent grass for a long period phosphorus fertilizers are usually needed. Wisbech and Romney soils have permeable horizons throughout and are easily worked if groundwater levels are controlled by ditches and/or pumping. Surface capping, which causes delay in seedling emergence, is common, particularly when organic matter levels are low. Subsurface compaction can be caused by ploughing and sometimes by rotary cultivators, which are often used to produce fine seed beds, but is easily remedied by shallow subsoiling. However, because of compaction, the association is not suitable for direct drilling as there is substantial risk of yield loss, especially when crops are spring sown. The main crops are sugar beet, potatoes, brassicas, winter cereals, carrots, oilseed rape, peas and beans. Many different high value, often labour-intensive, crops are also grown including onions, celery, flower bulbs and spinach. The toft land between Wainfleet and West Lynn is very valuable and capable of producing two crops annually, or three crops in two years. These soils have had a long history of intensive cultivation and they have naturally high levels of available phosphorus and potassium. Most are naturally rich in calcium carbonate but the soils are sometimes limed to counteract club root in brassicas.


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



Eastern Region

Typical Landscapes

Eastern 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 19/07/2024

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