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Cranfield University 2017. The Soils Guide. Available: Cranfield University, UK. Last accessed 19/10/2017


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Soil and site characteristics

Deep stoneless, naturally very acid, fine sandy soils, with a bleached subsurface horizon, affected by groundwater. Where cultivated groundwater is controlled by ditches. Some well drained very acid sandy soils. Risk of wind erosion.


Aeolian sand

Cropping and Land Use

Cereals, sugar beet and potatoes; some field vegetables and coniferous woodland.

Component soil series

Subgroup Series name Percentage WRB 2006 link
6.41 HOLME MOOR 38% Densic Endogleyic Albic Carbic Podzols
8.21 EVERINGHAM 17% Arenic Mollic Gleysols
6.42 LAKENHEATH 15% Umbric Endogleyic Albic Podzols
6.31 CRANNYMOOR 10% Albic Podzols

Covers 106 km2 in England and Wales

Soilscapes Classification

Naturally wet very acid sandy and loamy soils



Detailed Description

The Holme Moor association consists of fine sandy stoneless soils, many of which contain hardpan. The association occurs in small scattered patches along the eastern side of the Vale of York and around Market Rasen and Gainsborough in north Lincolnshire. The sand overlies clay, having been blown from glaciofluvial and lacustrine material in late Glacial times. The gentle wave-like relief in the Vale of York has been considered to represent dune remnants. Mottling and pale brown colours in many profiles indicate that water accumulating above this clay results in seasonal waterlogging. Some mottling, however, is probably relic and relates to groundwater levels existing before regional drainage was carried out.

The commonest soils are those of the fine sandy Holme Moor series, typical gley podzols, which can form up to half the association. These are characterized by subsoil mottling and a distinctive black or ochre-coloured concentration of humus and iron which sometimes forms a hardpan at or immediately below the plough layer. Lumps of this material appear at the surface after deep ploughing or subsoiling, and fully developed profiles occur only in undisturbed woodland. Of secondary importance are the more strongly mottled, often wetter, Everingham series, typical sandy gley soils, and Lakenheath series, humo-ferric gley-podzols, containing more iron in the subsoil than Holmc Moor soils. Well drained, unmottled soils with distinct iron- and humus-enriched layers belong to the Crannymoor series, humo-ferric podzols. The Kexby series is found occasionally.

The association occurs as small scattered patches in the east of the Vale of York, particularly around Holme-on-Spalding-Moor. It is common where there is, or has recently been, heathland. Wind erosion of the topsoil is common in dry spring weather before crops are established and this has been aggravated in places by the removal of hedges. Altitude varies from 3 m O.D. near the Humber to around 20 m O.D. near York. The soils form a complex pattern related to relief, past and present groundwater levels and former vegetation. The Holme Moor series occurs in small patches, usually on the crests of undulations. The Everingham series is normally on lower ground where groundwater levels are, or were, nearer the surface. The Lakenheath series has a similar occurrence to the Holme Moor series but is replaced by the Crannymoor series where groundwater levels are lower. Medium and coarse sandy soils of the Blackwood series occur occasionally. The Kexby series is on slightly raised sites where there has been no podzolization.

Soil Water Regime

Most soils, although formerly wet, are well drained or only occasionally waterlogged (Wetness Classes I and II). Drainage, where required, is easily effected but drains can be blocked by fine sand. In many places ditches alone are adequate. All the component soils are very permeable and readily absorb excess winter rainwater. Soil water reserves accessible to crop roots are varied but adequate for most crops. These assessments are based on soil water retention measurements, on the assumption that where drainage is efficient the groundwater level is likely to be too low during summer to benefit annual crops. In Holme Moor soils however, where the hardpan has not been broken by subsoiling, droughtiness will be more pronounced than in the Everingham series because of the restricted rooting depth.

Cropping and Land Use

Ironpans and humus pans limit the potential of Holme Moor, Crannymoor and Lakenheath soils unless they are ruptured by subsoiling to allow deep rooting and the uptake of all the available moisture in the full depth of soil. Once this has been done the soils are well suited to many farm and horticultural crops. The effect of soil properties and climate on landwork in two areas of the Vale of York indicates that there are ample opportunities for both spring and autumn work and that difficulties are confined mainly to wet periods in spring. The soils have very weak structure, and subsurface compaction can result in surface wetness. This has been noted on Everingham soils where sugar beet has been harvested in December after the soil has returned to field capacity. The compaction can be overcome by subsoiling, preferably early in the following autumn, when the soil is dry. Direct drilling is not recommended because, unlike conventional cultivations, it does not break up compacted layers that form below the surface during the growth and harvesting of the previous crop. Wind erosion is common during dry spring weather, especially on exposed ground. It can be reduced by marling or by reducing the area of spring-sown cereals, and thus of bare ground. Gradual increase of the organic matter content of the soil, if feasible, would reduce wind erosion in the long term.

Although the land is largely in arable use, grass yields well in spring with little risk of poaching. Yields in summer, and to a smaller extent in autumn, are restricted by droughtiness, especially on the Holme Moor and Lakenheath series which are moderately or very droughty under grass. These permeable sandy soils are well suited for slurry spreading, except in wet conditions in mid-winter when frequent traffic will cause compaction. Although the soils are naturally acid and infertile and would quickly revert to heathland, regular dressings of lime and fertilizer will produce good yields. Trace element deficiency, particularly of manganese in sugar beet, is likely however if over-limed. Yields of potatoes, although reduced by eel-worm if crop rotations are too short, and of sugar beet are further improved by irrigation.

Field vegetables also yield well with irrigation, after subsoil pan has been broken up. Carrots, a traditional and productive crop in the Vale of York, have been more widely grown in the past and the acreage could be increased if required. Other vegetables such as brussels sprouts could also be grown more extensively but require lime and nitrogen fertilizer to yield well. Peas also require a high pH, but have small nitrogen requirements. They are a useful break crop between cereals but easy access to processing factories is essential if they are to be frozen. All spring-sown vegetable crops, however, are susceptible to wind erosion. The soils are well suited to horticulture, particularly to the many ornamental plants which grow well in acid soils. Irrigation is essential but economically worthwhile with such profitable crops.

Trees, particularly conifers, are grown in several places in the Vale of York. Where the pan has been shattered and the land drained, deep rooting becomes possible and trees are less likely to be blown over. However, frost hinders the establishment of trees and there has been a tendency to plant hardy but slow-growing species such as Scots pine. Larch and sycamore grow well, once established, and some oak is planted for amenity. Compaction and surface capping impede seedling growth in nursery seed-beds.