Dartmoor Soil Map

This article by Tim Harrod first appeared in the Dartmoor Society Newsletter in Oct 2015

After around 500 days fieldwork, spread over 10 years, a detailed soil map of the Moreton and Chagford area has been published. It has been, start to finish, Tim Harrod’s, retirement project, rounding off an interrupted career in soil mapping. Publication to the highest standard of this visually striking soil map has been possible thanks to sponsorship by the organisations and individuals listed at the end of this note. Its scale is 1:25,000 or 2½ inches to the mile.

It maps out soil types across a 20 x 10 km [76 square miles] block with Cut Hill its western limit and Heltor Rock the eastern, its northern boundary through Castle Drogo and Raybarrow Pool, the southern near Jay’s Grave and Hartland Tor. This completes the National Soil Survey’s set of detailed soil maps sampling each of Devon’s main natural regions, otherwise completed before financial cuts in 1986.

Colours show the various soils. Main among these are the high moors’ peats in purple, the freely draining land of the in-bye in pink and red, blues mark the soils with high watertables, often supporting the valued rhôs pastures. There are numerous other variations on these themes. An explanatory key appears next to the map.

Printed below the soil map is a second one of the area’s terrain. It shows the range of boulderiness, with tors, clitter and screes picked out in red. Steep slope are also marked by cross hatching, while on the blanket bog the extent of erosion is mapped.

What does it all mean? Space precludes going into detail, but soil is nature’s link between its inanimate side, geology, climate and terrain, and terrestrial life’s many forms. These latter include plant and animal ecology, how humans gain livelihoods from the land, our history and prehistory. Often these links may seem self-evident, but others are more subtle, for examples when soil changes dictate the positions of woods, hedgebanks and footpaths. Many of these are features of the landscape set out countless generations ago by folk clearing the wild woods, who were well aware of how soil decided what could be done with the land.

The map is available from Tim Harrod [01647 24330], either folded or flat for £20. His aim is not to profit, indeed the copyright agreement for the Ordnance Survey base map only allows covering costs. Rather it is hoped to fund publication of an explanatory account in both digital and hardback book form, and to produce display and exhibition material, including photos of soils and landscapes.

Thanks go to farmers and landowners for access to their land, while the fine cartography by Hanno Koch of Manaton must be acknowledged.