THE soils of a country necessarily vary to a great extent, though not entirely, with the nature of the underlying geological formations. Thus, in the highlands of Scotland the gneissic and granitic mountains are generally heathy and barren, because they are so high and craggy, and their hard rocky materials sometimes come bare to the surface over considerable areas. Strips of fertile meadow laud lie chiefly on narrow alluvial plains, which here and there border the rivers. Hence the Highlands mainly form a wild and pastoral country, sacred to grouse, black cattle, sheep, and red deer.

Further south, Silurian rocks, though the scenery is different, produce more or less the same kinds of soil, in the broad range of hills that lies between the great valleys of the Clyde and Forth, and the borders of England, including the Muirfoot and the Lammermuir Hills, and the high grounds that stretch southwards into Carrick and Galloway. There, the rocks, being chiefly composed of hard, untractable, gritty, and slaty material, form but little soil because they are difficult to decompose. Hence the higher ground is to a great extent untilled, though excellently adapted for pastoral purposes. Where, however, the slopes are covered more or less with old ice-drifts and moraine matter, the soil,

[564 Soils of Scotland.]

even high on the slopes, is deep, and the ground is fertile, and many beautiful vales intersect the country. Through this classic ground run the Whitader and the Tweed, the Teviot and the Clyde; the White Esk, the Annan, the Nith, and the Dee, which run through the mountains of Galloway to the Solway Firth. Most of these rivers have often a bare, unwooded, and solitary pastoral character in the upper parts of their courses, gradually passing, as they descend and widen, into well cultivated fields and woodlands.

The great central valley of Scotland, between the metamorphic series of the Highland mountains and the less altered Silurian strata of the high-lying southern counties, is occupied by rocks of a more mixed character, consisting of Old Red Sandstone and Marl, and of the shales, sandstones, and limestones of the Carboniferous series, intermixed with considerable masses of igneous rocks. The effect of denudation upon these formations in old times, particularly of the denudation which took place during the Glacial period, and also of the rearrangement of the iceborne debris by subsequent marine action, has been to cover large tracts of country with a happy mixture of materialssuch as clay mixed with pebbles, sand, and lime. In this way one of the most fertile tracts anywhere to he found in our island has been formed, and its cultivation for nearly a century has been taken in hand by skilful farmers, who have brought the agriculture of that district up to the very highest pitch which it has attained in any part of Great Britain.

Through the inland parts of England, from Northumberland to Derbyshire, we have another long tract of hilly country, composed of Carboniferous rocks, forming in parts regions so high that, except in the

[Derbyshire and Yorkshire. 565]

dales, much of it is unfitted for ordinary agricultural operations.

The Derbyshire limestone tract, for the most part high and grassy, consists almost entirely of pasture lands, intersected by cultivated valleys. On the east and west that region is skirted by high heathy ridges of Millstone Grit. North of the limestone lies the moss-covered plateau of Millstone Grit, called Kinder Scout, nearly 2,000 feet in height; and beyond this, between the Lancashire and Yorkshire coalfields, there is a vast expanse of similar moorland, intersected by grassy valleys. Still further north, all the way to the borders of Scotland, east of the fertile Vale of Eden, the country may also be described as a great high plateau, sloping gently eastward, through which the rivers of Yorkshire and Northumberland have scooped unnumbered valleys.

The uplands are generally heathy, with occasional tracts of peat and small lakes; but when formed. partly of limestone, grassy mountain pastures are apt to prevail, through which in places those 'blind roads' run northward into Scotland, so graphically described in chapters xxii. and xxiii. of Scott's 'Guy Mannering.' Here and there the deeper valleys are cultivated, dotted with villages, hamlets, the seats of squires, farms, and the small possessions of the original Statesmen. Of this kind of land the Yorkshire dales may be taken as a type. Nothing is more beautiful than these dales, so little known to the ordinary tourist. The occasional alluvial flats of the Calder, the Aire, Wharfdale, Niddesdale, Wensleydale, Swaledale, Teesdale, Weardale, the Derwent, and the valleys of the North and South Tyne, all alike tell their tale to the eye of the geologist, the artist, and the farmer. The accidental

[566 North of England.]

park-like arrangement of the trees, the soft grassy slopes leading the eye on to the upland terraces of limestone or sandstone, which, when we look up the valleys, are lost in a long perspective, the uppermost terrace of all sometimes standing out against the sky, like the relic of a great Cyclopean city of unknown date, as in the time-weathered grits of Brim ham Rocks. These together present a series of scenes qrtite unique in the scenery of England.

The larger part of this northern territory is therefore, because of the moist climate of the hilly region, devoted to pasture land, as is also the case with large portions of Cumberland and the other north-western counties of England, excepting the Vale of Eden and the southern shores of the Solway, where the Permian rocks and the boulder-clays of that noble valley generally form excellent soils, well watered by the Eden and all its tributary streams that rise in the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland, and the high broadtopped hills of Northumberland and Durham. The high mountain tracts of Cumbria are known to all British tourists for their wild pastoral character, intersected by exquisite strips of retired green alluvial valleys, and the famous lakes, sometimes wild and bare of trees, but often so well-wooded and luxuriant. This is essentially the lake-country of Britain south of the border, for all the lakes in Wales would probably not. suffice to fill Windermere with water.

The same general pastoral character that is characteristic of Cumberland and Westmoreland is also observable in Wales, where disturbance of tbe Palaeozoic rocks has resulted in the elevation of a great range, or rather of a cluster of mountains-the highest south of the Tweed. In that old Principality, and also in the

[Wales. 567]

Longmynd of Shropshire, there are tracts of land, amounting to thousands upon thousands of acres, where the country rises to a height of from 1,000 to 3,500 feet above the level of the sea. Much of it is mostly covered with heath, and is therefore fit for nothing but pasture land: but on the low grounds, and on the alluvium of the rivers, there is often excellent soil. The more important valleys also are much larger than those of Cumbria, and the width of the alluvial flats is proportionate to the size of their rivers.

The Vale of Clwyd, in Denbighshire—the substratum of which consists of New Red Sandstone, covered by Glacial debris, and bounded by high Silurian hills—is fertile, and wonderfully beautiful. The Conwy, the Mawddach, the Dovey, the Ystwyth, the Aeron, and the Teifi, are all bordered by broad, fertile, and well wooded margins, above which rise the wild hills of North and South Wales. The Towey of Caermarthenshire, the Cothi, and all the large rivers of Glamorganshire, the Usk and the Wye, are unsurpassed for quiet and fertile beauty. No inland river of equal volume in Britain surpasses the Towey in its couise from Llandovery to Caermarthen. Rapid, and often wide, it flows along sometimes through broad alluvial plains, bounded by wood-covered hills, the plains themselves all park-like, but with many a park besides, and everywhere interspersed with pleasant towns, farms, seats, and ruined castles.

Taken as a whole, the eastern part of the country of South Wales, in Breconshire and Monmouthshire, and in the adjacent parts of England in Herefordshire, and parts of Worcestershire, occupied by the Old Red Sandstone, though hilly, and in South Wales occasionally even mountainous, is naturally of a fertile kind.

[568 Wales.]

This is especially the case in the comparatively low-lying lands, from the circumstance that the rocks are generally soft, and therefore easily decomposed; and where the surface is covered with drift, the loose material is chiefly formed of the waste of the partly calcareous strata on which it rests, and this adds to its fertility, for the soil is thus deepened and more easily fitted for purposes of tillage. If anyone is desirous to realise the exquisite beauty of the scenery of the English Old Red Sandstone, let him go to the summit of the Malvern Hills, or of those above Stoke Edith, and cast his eye north and west, and there in far-stretching undulations of hill and dale, with towns and villages, farms and parks, he will survey a vast tract, un-rivalled in varied beauty, dotted with noble woods and orchards, and fruit trees set in every hedge, while through the fertile scene wander the Teme, the Lug, and the stately Wye, in many a broad curvature, winding its way from the distant Plynlimmon to lose itself in the wide estuary of the Severn.

On the whole, however, the moist character of the climate of much of Wales and Cumberland, and of the north of England in its western parts, renders these regions much more fitted for the rearing of cattle than for the growth of cereals.

In the centre of England, in the Lickey Hills, near Birmingham, and in the wider boss of Charnwood Forest, where the old Palæozoic rocks crop out like islands amid the Secondary strata, it is curious to observe that a wild character suddenly prevails in the scenery, even though the land lies comparatively low, for the rocks are rough and untractable, and stand out in miniature mountains. Much of Charnwood Forest is, however, covered by drift, and is now being so rapidly

[New Red Sandstone. 569]

enclosed, that, were it not for the modern monastery and the cowled monks who till the soil, it would almost cease to be suggestive of the England of medival times, when wastes and forests covered half the land.

If we now pass to the Secondary rocks that lie in the plains, we find a different state of things. In the centre of England, formed of New Red Sandstone and Marl, the soils are for the most part naturally more fertile than in the mountain regions of Cumberland and Wales, or in some of the Palaeozoic areas in the extreme south-west of England. When the soft New Red Sandstone and especially the Marl are bare of drift, and form the actual surface, they often decompose easily, and form deep barns, save where the conglomerate beds of the New Red Sandstone come to the surface. These conglomerates consist to a great extent of gravels barely consolidated, formed of water-worn pebbles of various kinds, but chiefly of liver-coloured quartz-rock, like that of some of the conglomerates of the old Red Sandstone, derived from some unknown region, and of silicious sand, sometithes ferruginous. This mixture forms, to a great extent, a barren soil. Some of the old waste and forest lands of England, such as Sherwood Forest and Trentham Park, part of Beaudesert, and the ridges east of the Severn near Bridgnorth, lie almost entirely upon these intractable gravels, or on other sands of the New Red Sandstone, and have partly remained uncultivated to this day. As land however becomes in itself more valuable, the ancient forests are being cut down and the ground enclosed. But a good observer will often infer, from the straightness of the hedges, that such ground has only been lately taken into cultivation, and at a time since it has become profitable to

[570 New Red Marl.]

reclaim that which at no very distant date was devoted to forest ground and to wild animals.

In the centre of England there are broad tracts of land composed chiefly of New Red Marl and Lias clay. If we stand on the summit of the great escarpment, formed by the Oolitic tableland, we look over the wide flats and undulations formed by these strata. The marl consists of what was once a light kind of clay, mingled with a small percentage of lime; and when it moulders down on the surface, it naturally forms a fertile soil. A great extent of the arable land in the centre and west of England is formed of these red strata, but often covered with Glacial debris.

It is worthy of notice that the fruit tree district of Great Britain lie chiefly upon red rocks, sometimes of the Old and sometimes of the New Red Series. The counties of Devonshire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire, with their numerous orchards, celebrated for cider and perry, lie in great part on these formations, where all the fields and hedgerows are in spring white with the blossoms of innumerable fruit trees. Again, in Scotland, the plain called the Carse of Gowrie, lying between the Sidlaw Hills and the Firth of Tay, stretches over a tract of Old Red Sandstone, and is famous for its apples. What may be the reason of this relation I do not know; but such is the fact, that soils composed of the New and Old Red Marl and Sandstone, are generally better adapted for such fruit trees than any other in Britain.

The Lias clay in the centre of England, though often

1  There are many other forest lands in England, too numerous to mention, some on Eocene strata, some on Boulder-clay, which, by help of deep draining, are gradually becoming cultivated regions.

[Lias. 571]

laid down for cereals, forms a considerable proportion of our meadow land. It is blue when unweathered, and includes many beds of limestone, and bands of fossil shells are scattered throughout the clay itself. From its exceeding stiffness and persistent retention of moisture, it is especially adapted for grass land, for it is not easy to plough, and thus a large proportion of it in the centre of England is devoted to pastures, often intersected by numerous footpaths of ancient date, that lead by the pleasant hedge-rows to wooded villages and old timbered farmsteads. When we pass into the Middle Lias, which forms an escarpment overlooking the Lower Lias clay, we find a very fertile soil; for the Marlstone, as it is called, is much lighter in character than the more clayey Lower Lias, being formed of a mixture of clay and sand with a considerable proportion of lime, derived from the Marlstone Lime-rock itself, and from the intermixture of fossils that often pervade the other strata. The course of the low flattopped Marlstone hills, well seen in Gloucestershire, and on Edgehill, and all round Banbury, striking along the country and overlooking the Lower Lias clay, is thus usually marked by a strip of peculiarly fertile soil, often dotted with villages and towns with antique churches and handsome towers, built of the brown limestone of the formation.

Ascending the geological scale into the next group, we find the Oolitic rocks formed, for the most part, of beds of limestone, with here and there interstratified clays, some of which, like the Oxford and Kimeridge Clays, are of great thickness, and spread over large tracts of country. The flat tops of these limestone Downs, when they rise to considerable height, as they do on the Cotswold Hills, were, until a comparatively,

572 Oolites and Lower Greensand.]

recent date, left in a state of natural grass, and used chiefly as pasture land. They formed a feeding ground for vast numbers of sheep, whence the origin of the woollen factories of Gloucestershire, but are now to a great extent brought under the dominion of the plough, and on the very highest of them we find fields of turnips and grain. The broad flat belts of Oxford and Kimeridge Clay, that lie between the western part of the Oolite and the base of the Chalk escarpment, are in part in the state of grass land.

In the north of England the equivalents of the Lower Oolites form the broad heathy tracts of the Yorkshire moors, and the fertile Vale of Pickering is occupied by the Kimeridge Clay.

If we pass next into the Cretaceous series, which in the middle and south of England forms extensive tracts of country, we meet with many kinds of soil, some, as those on the Lower Greensand, being excessively silicious, and in places intermingled with veins and strings of silicious oxide of iron. Such a soil still remains in many places intractable and barren. Thus, on the borders of the Weald from Leith Hill to Petersfield, where there is very little lime in the rocks, there are many wide-spread unenclosed heaths, almost as wild and refreshing to the smoke-dried denizens of London, as the broad moors of Wales and the Highlands of Scotland. These, partly from their height, but chiefly from the poverty of the soil, have never been brought into a state of cultivation. Running, however, in the line of strike of the rocks, between the escarpments of the Lower Greensand and the Chalk, there are occasionally many beautiful and fertile valleys rich in fields, parks, and noble forest timber.

One of these, between the slopes of the Greensand and

[Wealden. 573]

the escarpment of the Chalk, consists of a long strip of stiff clay-land formed of the Gault, which, unless covered by drift or alluvium, generally produces a wet soil along a band of country extending from the outlet of the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire north-eastward into Bedfordshire.

In Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, the Weald Clay occupies an area, between the escarpment of the Lower Greensand and the Hastings Sands, of from six to twenty miles wide, encircling the latter on the north, west, and south. It naturally forms a damp stiff soil when at the surface; but is now cultivated and improved by the help of deep drainage. In many places there are deep beds of superficial loam, on some of which the finest of the hop-gardens of that area lie. Loamy brick earths often occupy the low banks of the Thames and Medway, in Kent, also famous for hop-grounds and cherry orchards, and for those extensive brick manufactories so well known in the neighbourhood of Sittingbourne. Similar barns sometimes overlie the Kentish Rag (Lower Greensand), and the Lower Eocene strata on the south bank of the estuary of the Thames.

The Hastings Beds for the most part consist of very fine sand, interstratified with minor beds of clay, and they lie in the centre of the Wealden area, forming the undulating hills half-way between the North and South Downs, extending from Horsham to the sea between Hythe and Hastings. They form on the surface a fine dry sandy loam; so fine, indeed, that when dry it may sometimes be described as an almost impalpable silicious dust. Much of the country is well wooded, especially on the west, where there are still extensive remains of the old forests of Tilgate, Ashdown, and St. Leonards. Down to a comparatively late historical period, both

[574 Chalk.]

clays and sands were left in their native state, partly forming those broad forests and furzeclad heaths that covered almost the whole of the Wealden area. Hence the name Weald or Wold (a woodland), a Saxon, or rather Old-English term, applied to this part of England, though the word does not now suggest its original meaning, unless to those who happen to know something of German derivatives.

In the memory of our fathers and grandfathers, these wild tracts were famous as resorts for highwaymen and bands of smugglers, who transported their goods to the interior from the seaport towns of Kent and Essex by means of relays of pack-horses.

The Chalk strata of the South Downs stretch far into the centre and west of England in Hampshire and Wiltshire. South of the valley of the Thames the same strata form the North Downs, and this Chalk stretches in a broad band, only broken by the Wash and the Humber, northward into Yorkshire, where it forms the well-known Yorkshire Wolds. Most Londoners are familiar with the Downs of Kent and Sussex. In their wildest native state, where the ground lies high, these districts were probably, from time immemorial, almost bare of woods, and 'the long backs of the bushless downs,' are still often only marked. here and there by 'a faintly shadowed track' winding 'in loops and links among the dales,' and across the short turf of the upper hills. Yet here, also, cultivation is gradually encroaching.

On the steep scarped slopes overlooking the Weald, chalk often lies only an inch or two beneath the grass, and the same is the case on the western and north-western slopes of the long escarpment which stretches in sinuous lines from Dorsetshire to Yorkshire,

[Chalk. 575]

where it ends in the lofty sea cliffs on the south side of Filey Bay, near Flamborough Head. Many quarries, often of great antiquity, have been opened in the escarpments that overlook the Lower Greensand, and some of great extent, now deserted and overgrown with yews and other trees, form beautiful features in the landscape. The steep scarped slopes, and even the inner dry valleys are likewise frequently sparingly dotted with yew-trees and numerous bushes of straight-growing juniper.

West and north of the London basin the Chalk generally lies in broad undulating plains, forming a tableland of which Salisbury Plain may be taken as a type. Within my own recollection, these plains were almost entirely devoted to sheep, but they are now being gradually invaded by the plough, and turned into arable land. Many of the slopes of the great Chalk escarpments on the North and South Downs in the West of England, on the Chiltern Hills and elsewhere, are however so steep, that the ground, covered with short, turf, and in places dotted with yew and juniper, is likely to remain for long unscarred by the ploughshare.

In many places the surface of the Chalk, as already stated, is covered by thick accumulations of flints, and elsewhere over extensive areas by clay, a residue left by the dissolving of the carbonate of lime of the Chalk. This clay invariably forms a stiff cold soil, and is plentiful on parts of the plains of Wiltshire, Berkshire, and Hertfordshire, and also on the Chalk of Kent and Surrey. it has often been left uncultivated, and forms commons, or furze-clad and wooded patches. The loam which accompanies it is occasionally used for making bricks. In the east part of Hertfordshire, Essex, and

[576 Eocene Series.]

Suffolk, the Chalk is almost entirely buried under thick accumulations of glacial debris, which completely alters the agricultural character of the country.

Various formations of the Eocene beds occur on all sides of London. They are often covered by superficial sand and gravel. Through the influence of the great population centred here, originally owing to facilities for inland communication afforded by the river, this is now, in great part, a highly cultivated territory. Here and there, however, to the south-west, there are tracts forming the lower part of the higher Eocene strata, known as the Bagshot Sands, which produce a soil so barren that, although not far from the metropolis, it is only in scattered patches that they have been brought under cultivation. They are still for the most part bare heaths, and being sandy, dry and healthy, camps have been placed upon them, and they are used as exercise grounds for our soldiers.

Higher still in this Eocene series of Hampshire, lie the fresh-water beds on which the New Forest stands, commonly said to have been depopulated by William the Conqueror, and turned into a hunting ground. But to the eye of the geologist it easily appears that the wet and unkindly soil produced by the clays and gravels of the district form a sufficient reason why in old times, as now, it never could have been a cultivated and populous country, for the soil for the most part is poor, and probably chiefly consisted of native forest-land even in the Conqueror's day.

The wide-spreading Boulder-clay of Holderness north of the Humber, of Lincolnshire on the coast, and of Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, and Essex, for the most part forms a stiff tenacious soil, somewhat lightened by the presence of stones, and often sufficiently

[The Wash. 577]

fertile when well drained. In Suffolk and Essex the chalky Boulder-clay covers wide tracts of flat land, and was formerly much used as a dressing for other soils, and it forms an excellent soil in itself.

The great plain of the Wash consists partly of peat on the west and south, but chiefly of silt. These broad flats, about seventy miles in length from north to south, and forty, in width, include an area of more than 1,700 square miles. The whole country is traversed by well-dyked rivers, canals, drains, and trenches. Standing on the margin of the flat, or walking on the long straight roads or dykes, cheerfulness is not the prevailing impression made on the mind. The ground looks as level as the sea in a calm, broken only by occasional dreary poplars and willows, and farm houses impressive in their loneliness. The soil of these fens ere the crops grow, is often as black as a raven, the ditches are sluggish and dismal, and the whole effect is suggestive of ague. Windmills of moderate size stand out from the level as conspicuous objects, and here and there the sky-line is pierced by the ruins of Crowland Abbey, Boston tower, and the massive piles of the Cathedrals of Ely and Peterborough on the margins of the flat. Yet it is not without charms of a kind; as, when at sunset, sluice, and windmill, and tufted willows, combined with light clouds dashed with purple and gold, compose a landscape such as elsewhere in Western Europe may be seen in the flats of Holland. The same impression, in less degree, is made on the banks of the Humber, where the broad warped meadows, won from the sea by nature and art, lie many feet below the tide at flood, for walking in the fields behind the dykes, when the tide is up, good-sized vessels may be seen sailing on the rivers above the level of the spectator's head. An old

[578 Boulder-Clay.]

and entirely natural loamy silt, somewhat of the same character, follows the course of the Ouse, and, to a great extent, covering the fertile vale of York, passes out to sea in the plains that border the Tees.

On the west coast the wide plains of the Fylde in Lancashire, north and south of the estuary of the Ribble, in some respects resemble those of the Wash.

Such is a very imperfect sketch of the general nature of the soils of Great Britain, and of their relation to the underlying rocks. We have seen that throughout large areas, the character of the soil is directly and powerfully influenced by that of the rock-masses lying below. It must be borne in mind, however, that the abrading agencies of the Glacial period have clone a great deal towards commingling the detritus of the different geological formations, producing widespread drift soils of varied composition. This detritus is far from being uniformly spread over the island. In some districts it is absent, while in others it forms a thick mantle, obscuring all the hard rocks, and giving rise to a soil sometimes nearly identical with that produced by the waste of the underlying formation, and sometimes of mixed clay and stones, as in Holderness. Thus the Boulder-clay, though often poor, sometimes forms soils of the most fertile description, as for instance in certain upper members of the formation in parts of the Lothians, and in the chalky Boulder-clay of Norfolk and Suffolk.