The soils and topography of our dry grasslands


We have two types of dry grassland at Abbey Farm, one on calcareous soils of the Newmarket Series, the other on sandy soils of the Barrow Series. The characteristics of these that may have helped create diverse grassland include:

  • neither soil is naturally fertile
  • the Newmarket Series soils are highly calcareous having chalk within 40cm of the surface

These help because they inhibit the growth of competitive species that can dominate a grassland sward. This gives an advantage to the more diverse range of plants that can tolerate the relatively stressful conditions



There are differences in topography between the two soil types:

  • The Newmarket Series soils lie on the chalk scarp so have an undulating topography with slopes that face north, south or west. This creates variation in micro-climate. For example, south-facing slopes warm up quicker in sunshine. This adds to habitat diversity across the farm
  • The Barrow Series soils occur in an almost flat landscape. The main topographical variation is found in old mineral workings
Thin soil over chalk
Newmarket Series. Thin topsoil over chalk
Grassland with snow cover
Newmarket Series. Undulating topography of chalk grassland at Abbey Farm