Geology and soils


West Cheshire is an area of very mixed soil types. Brown sands predominate towards the east, where the land rises, while to the south there are typical (argillic) stagnogley soils. Stream valleys frequently contain alluvial gley soils.

Brown sands occur sporadically across the Cheshire Plain, with denser concentrations on the Mid Cheshire Ridge, mostly on moderately sloping ground and occasionally on valley sides and close to outcrops of Triassic sandstone. They account for 12.6% of the area of the county, mostly under mixed arable (principally barley, potatoes and wheat) and grassland, with some market gardening and horticulture. Their main drawback is that they suffer excessively from drought.

Typical (argillic) stagnogleys are the most widespread soils in Cheshire. They cover some 33.1% of the county, forming flat to gently undulating topography, with stunted hedgerow oaks a typical feature of landscapes formed by these soils. These soils are ideal for grassland and have been a major factor in the development of the dairy industry in the county since the fifteenth century. There is also a little market gardening and arable is restricted to the more favourable areas. Surface wetness is a major problem with the exploitation of this soil type.

Alluvial gley soils are of minor importance in Cheshire, occurring in small areas in virtually every stream valley. The relief produced by these soils is almost flat and subject to periodic flooding. They account for only 2.3% of the area of the county and are under permanent grass, often used as meadowland. The risk of flooding, the narrowness of smaller stream valleys, surface wetness and fine texture prevent any other exploitation of these soils.