Soil Site Reporter

Soil Associations


Soil and site characteristics
Stoneless clayey soils mostly overlying peat. Soils variably affected by groundwater which is, in places, controlled by ditches and pumps. Flat land. Risk of flooding locally

River alluvium over peat
Cropping and Land Use
Permanent grassland with dairying in Somerset; cereals, sugar beet, potatoes and field vegetables in the Fens, wetland habitats.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
8.13 MIDELNEY 55% Clayic Fluvic Eutric Gleysols
8.51 WENSUM 15% Thaptohistic Fluvic Mollic Gleysols
8.14 WINDRUSH 10% Thaptohistic Clayic Fluvic Calcaric Gleysols
8.13 FLADBURY 10% Clayic Fluvic Eutric Gleysols
Covers 213 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification
Loamy and clayey floodplain soils with naturally high groundwater


Detailed Description

The association is confined to flat lowlands where thin clayey river alluvium overlies peat. It is most extensive in central Somerset and in the Cambridgeshire Fens where rivers enter broad alluvial plains although it is found locally on narrower floodplains in the Midlands and South Wales. The land is only a little above sea level and was frequently flooded in the past. In Somerset it is wholly in grassland but in the Fens much is used for arable cropping. Pelo-alluvial gley soils of the Midelney series, in which prominently mottled clayey upper horizons some 40 to 50 cm thick overlie organic material, cover up to three-quarters of the land. Associated with these are similar Wensum soils, typical humic alluvial gley soils, which have a humose surface horizon and tend to occur where there is unimproved grassland. Other ancillary soils include Windrush series, pelo-calcareous alluvial gley soils, which has calcareous upper horizons, often due to the presence of freshwater shells, and Fladbury series, pelo-alluvial gley soils, in thicker clayey alluvium. Minor soils with local occurrence include Compton series, Thames seriesand Tregaron series (Lea 1975) together with peaty soils belonging to the Altcar and Adventurers series.

The association covers 33 km², mainly along the Church Eaton Brook and river Sow draining to the Trent around Stafford, with the remainder in the Idle valley in north Nottinghamshire. Other soils included are Altcar, Adventurers', Fladbury and Compton series in Staffordshire, and Windrush and Compton series in Nottinghamshire. In Wales it is confined to a narrow belt of rushy land at the landward margin of the Caldicot levels in Gwent. The land is only a little above sea level and was frequently flooded in the past.

The association covers about 94 km² in Eastern England mainly in the Fens along the Ouse, Cam, Nene and Welland rivers; Wensum series is the main subsidiary soil. Windrush soils are dominant on the youngest alluvium in the washes between the embankments retaining the rivers. Adventurers' and Thames series occur locally. Where drained, the peat beneath the clay is strongly acid in places. The association is also found in the Deben, Dove and Gipping valleys in Suffolk. In Somerset it is wholly in grassland but in the Fens much is used for arable cropping.

In the South West the association covers about 90 km², mostly in central Somerset on the peat moors west of Langport and around Glastonbury. Here calcareous Windrush and Thames soils are found on the former site of Meare Pool and Fla dbury and Compton soils occur in a narrow belt adjacent to higher surrounding ground. The clayey upper layers of the Midelney soils thin towards adjoining peaty soils on slightly lower ground. The association is also found locally in the lower Frome and Piddle valleys in Dorset and on Walmore Common near Gloucester.

Soil Water Regime

Flat sites coupled with slow permeability and high groundwater levels, lead to waterlogging for long periods (Wetness Class IV or V). Arterial drainage has mostly been improved to the extent that winter flooding is rare except around Stafford. Groundwater levels are seldom deep and in summer allow continuous grass growth. Tile drainage is necessary if the land is to be intensively grazed. In Eastern England the precise control of groundwater by pumps and the relatively dry climate permit widespread arable use of Midelney soils in the Fens. Even where the groundwater is controlled the soils are commonly waterlogged in winter (Wetness Class III). Where the clay topsoil is thin the soils may only be waterlogged for short periods (Wetness Class II). Flooding is generally rare, except in the narrower river valleys and in the washes, some of which are flooded most winters. Because of their large available water capacity and groundwater control the soils when drained are non-droughty for all crops except grass and potatoes, for which they are moderately droughty.

Cropping and Land Use

The large clay content and excessive wetness make Midelney soils moderately difficult to work, so arable cropping is rare. Fladbury soils are similar but the larger retained water capacity in topsoils of Wensum series makes them very difficult to work. Even where there is little flood risk there are very few days in autumn and none in spring when the soils can be cultivated without risk of serious damage. Cultivation is impractical in wet years. In Nottinghamshire however a shorter field capacity period gives more scope for autumn and spring cultivations, and arable use. There is ample water available in summer to avoid drought in grass or cereals. Grass yields are potentially large but there is a high poaching risk and access during the growing season is limited. Reseeding is only possible in summer months.


Typical Landscapes

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Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2022. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 14/08/2022

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