Beech and The Cotswolds’ Soil

Few countries the size of Britain enjoy such a varied and quick-changing landscape – from the moors of the West Country to the lakes of Cumbria, from the dales of Yorkshire to the forest of Dean, our country is a patchwork of micro-lands, each with its own climate, geology, topography and, of course, flora.
Our nursery, like the gardens of many of our customers, lies in the Cotswolds and the next few posts are for the many who have asked about this special region.

The Cotswolds, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966, cover an area approximately 40 km across and 145 km long, south-west from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath. It crosses several counties, primarily Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but also Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

Of course, The Cotswolds cover an area sufficiently large for there to be a fair degree of variation. For a start, it is an area as much renowned for its hills as for its valleys – The Cotswolds Hills, for example, rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment above the Evesham Vale and Severn Valley – The Cotswold Edge.

But while woodland and grassland co-exist, dig deep enough anywhere in The Cotswold and you will find its bedrock of prized Jurassic limestone which gives rise to this rare and defining habitat. Not surprisingly, the soil itself is varied including a predominant calcareous loam on a stratum of rubble that, in the vale, becomes especially rich, deep and coloured black or red. The forests and woodland are established primarily on sand, but peat is also to be found. And, less we sound too smug, there is also the often less welcome, but wonderfully fertile, Oxford Clay.

As most of the soils are influenced by the parent rock, they tend to be alkaline and therefore perhaps not especially fertile, but, overall, it is an excellent place to be growing a wide variety of plants. Where the soil is not quite ideal, the problem can generally be solved by a few spadesful of well-rotted compost or other organic material and/or a handful or two of fertilizer.

One way or another, though, Cotswolds gardeners should have an excellent patch for growing beech.