All information Copyright, Cranfield University © 2017

Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2017. The Soils Guide. Available: www.landis.org.uk. Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 16/12/2017

1011b WINTER HILL

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Soil and site characteristics

Thick very acid raw peat soils. Perennially wet. Hagged and eroded in places.

Geology

Blanket peat

Cropping and Land Use

Wet moorland and wetland habitats of poor grazing value; coniferous forest; military use.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
10.11 WINTER HILL 80% Ombric Fibric Histosols

Covers 2531 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

25
Blanket bog peat soils

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1011b WINTER HILL

Detailed Description

This association is very extensive on the Pennines and common in Northumberland, the Lake District and on Dartmoor. It also occurs on the North York Moors, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor. It is found on peat-covered hillsides, ridge tops and summit plateaux between 190 and 893 m O.D. Peat develops here because the climate is cold, wet and exposed, inhibiting the organisms which decompose plant remains and incorporate them into mineral soil. The ground is flat or gently sloping, the peat having filled in the hollows and produced a smooth undulating land surface. Almost all the soils are deep, wet and organic. Raw oligo-fibrous peat soils are predominant and include the Winter Hill series, on blanket bog, and in hollows, the Floriston and Longmoss series. Soils of the Crowdy series are found where the vegetation is dominated by Molinia. The Winter Hill association covers more than 400 kmĀ² of the southern Pennines, Rossendale Moor and the Forest of Bowland. It is found at a maximum height of 636 m O.D. on Kinder Scout. The peat is usually between 2 and 4 m thick but can be up to 6 m (Conway 1954), and in the wettest sites has been accumulating at an average rate of 5 cm per century (Tallis and Switsur 1973). As it thickens, the soft and almost permanently waterlogged peat becomes increasingly vulnerable to gully erosion and, less commonly, to mass flow. The landscape thus varies according to the degree of erosion, from uneroded ground covered mainly by cotton-grass, to bare ground affected by wind erosion. Between these extremes are several stages of land degradation, the more spectacular consisting of parallel or reticulate patterns of gullies up to 6 m deep with peat haggs. Where the peat thins over bedrock, the Hepste series is found. At the margins, where the peat has been eroded, and at isolated rock exposures, small patches of the Revidge, Skiddaw, Belmont or Hiraethog series may occur. In severely eroded places as on Bleaklow Hill the ground is often covered by grey sand and loose angular blocks of sandstone or gritstone; an ironpan, originally beneath the peat and pre-dating it, may be exposed at the surface.

On Dartmoor it occupies level plateaux and cols while on Exmoor it covers the summit of The Chains. The land is almost flat and is perenially waterlogged and raw oligo-fibrous soils of the Winter Hill series predominate, with a few humified peat soils of the Crowdy series.


Soil Water Regime

The peats have formed in areas of considerable winter rainfall and thus extend to lower elevations in western districts than in the drier east. The maximum potential soil moisture deficit is small, often less than 25 mm. Because of the almost permanent waterlogging, (Wetness Class VI) the soils do not absorb excess rainwater. Run-off is therefore rapid.

Cropping and Land Use

The association has little agricultural value because of wetness, unpalatable vegetation and short growing season. The tussock-forming cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) dominates the most characteristic plant community with Molinia and deer-grass (Trichophorum cespitosum) common locally. In the wettest places the multiple headed cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and species of Sphagnum moss predominate, the former often colonizing bare peat that has been deposited by streams issuing from peat gullies. Heather, cross-leaved heath and bilberry occur in less rainy districts and where the soil becomes drier along the edges of gullies. The land is grazed by sheep, and also red grouse for which heather is the staple food. Rawes (1983) has shown that sheep grazing can greatly influence the composition of the vegetation. The only land improvement attempted is open ditching, in the hope of obtaining drier conditions for sheep and grouse and encouraging the establishment of heather. However, there is little evidence that this results, and ditching has been known to hasten gully erosion. According to Godwin (1981), peat erosion is increasingly thought to be due to increased human interference with, and misuse of, the bog surfaces, partly by grazing and more substantially through repeated burning in the interests of grazing. Some species of Sphagnum, the main peat-former, are destroyed by moor fires. Land from which almost all blanket peat has been removed may be more capable of improvement, although the climatic limitations are likely to make this uneconomic. The land is generally ill-suited to forestry because of soil wetness, which inhibits rooting thereby increasing the risk of trees being blown over. Deep ploughing into ridges, on which the trees are planted, is necessary, as are top dressings of phosphate and potassium fertilizers for establishment and satisfactory growth. Because of its limited value for agriculture and forestry the land is used as grouse moor, military training areas, water gathering grounds and nature reserves. Although tussocky, boggy and unsuitable for footpaths, it is attractive to walkers who value its remoteness.

The blanket bog vegetation is dominated by bog-mosses and cotton-grasses often with abundant purple moor-grass and deer-grass. Ling and cross-leaved heath are confined to tussocks. The poor grazing value of the vegetation, combined with prolonged wetness and severe climate, restricts agricultural use to summer grazing for sheep, cattle and ponies. The association forms part of the conserved moorland of the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and serves as water gathering ground. On Dartmoor some land is used as army firing ranges.

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1011b WINTER HILL

Typical Landscapes

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All information Copyright, Cranfield University © 2017

Citation: To use information from this web resource in your work, please cite this as follows:
Cranfield University 2017. The Soils Guide. Available: www.landis.org.uk. Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 16/12/2017