South West Soils Discussion Group (SWSDiG)

The South West England Soils Discussion Group is one of (if not the) oldest regional soils group in Britain, started in the early 1970’s by National Soil Survey staff based at Starcross in Devon.

The Group aims to hold two meetings each year, traditionally a spring field meeting and an autumn indoor meeting, to which anyone with an interest in any aspect of soil science is welcome to attend. Field meetings have been held across the region, from Wiltshire westward, including visits to sites in Cornwall, Somerset and Dartmoor in Devon, taking in the wide variety of soils and associated management topics relative to the region. Originally many field meetings were demonstrations of the soils of a particular district as the Soil Survey's mapping of that place was completed and involved pits in representative soils demonstrated by the soil surveyor, supported by contributions from ADAS soil scientists, their district agricultural advisors and where appropriate MAFF drainage officers. Farmers have always been encouraged to be present to offer their views and add to the discussion, and we actively encourage attendees to "get your knees and fingers brown" by getting into soil pits and texturing soils. More recently field visits have included trips looking at the effects of soil compaction and erosion, as well as soil formation and issues associated with peat soils.

As the group’s name suggests, from the outset it has always been hoped that discussion will be a major part of both the field and indoor meetings, not just formal presentations and five minutes of questions. Bristol and Exeter University Geography departments and Seale Hayne and Plymouth University, amongst others, have always supported meetings. The first Chairman of the group was Dick Russel (NAAS/ADAS) and many others have followed, with stalwart support from Rob Parkinson (Plymouth University and current secretary), and we are fortunate enough to have original Soil Surveyors attend meetings to share their invaluable knowledge on soils of the region, many of which they were the first to describe and name. Tim Harrod and David Hogan still lead many of the field trips today, and we welcome suggestions from anyone on topics or sites that might stimulate soil-related discussion. If you are interested in joining or need further information, please get in touch:

Group Chair: Dr Martin Blackwell, Rothamsted Research.

Get in touch here