A third and closely similar case was observed. In a fourth case, the mould in a furrow in the upper part of a sloping field was 2.5 inches, and in the lower part 4.5 inches in thickness.
On the Chalk Downs at about a mile distance from Stonehenge, my son William examined a grass-covered, furrowed surface, sloping at from 8 degrees to 10 degrees, which an old shepherd said had not been ploughed within the memory of man. The depth of one furrow was measured at 16 points in a length of 68 paces, and was found to be deeper where the slope was greatest and where less earth would naturally tend to accumulate, and at the base it almost disappeared. The thickness of the mould in this furrow in the upper part was 2.5 inches, which increased to 5 inches, a little above the steepest part of the slope; and at the base, in the middle of the narrow valley, at a point which the furrow if continued would have struck, it amounted to 7 inches. On the opposite side of the valley, there were very faint, almost obliterated, traces of furrows. Another analogous but not so decided a case was observed at a few miles' distance from Stonehenge. On the whole it appears that the crowns and furrows on land formerly ploughed, but now covered with grass, tend slowly to disappear when the surface is inclined; and this is probably in large part due to the action of worms; but that the crowns and furrows last for a very long time when the surface is nearly level.
Formation and amount of mould over the Chalk Formation.--Worm- castings are often ejected in extraordinary numbers on steep, grass-covered slopes, where the Chalk comes close to the surface, as my son William observed near Winchester and elsewhere. If such castings are largely washed away during heavy rains, it is difficult to understand at first how any mould can still remain on our Downs, as there does not appear any evident means for supplying the loss. There is, moreover, another cause of loss, namely, in the percolation of the finer particles of earth into the fissures in the chalk and into the chalk itself. These considerations led me to doubt for a time whether I had not exaggerated the amount of fine earth which flows or rolls down grass-covered slopes under the form of castings; and I sought for additional information. In some places, the castings on Chalk Downs consist largely of calcareous matter, and here the supply is of course unlimited. But in other places, for instance on a part of Teg Down near Winchester, the castings were all black and did not effervesce with acids. The mould over the chalk was here only from 3 to 4 inches in thickness. So again on the plain near Stonehenge, the mould, apparently free from calcareous matter, averaged rather less than 3.5 inches in thickness. Why worms should penetrate and bring up chalk in some places and not in others I do not know.
In many districts where the land is nearly level, a bed several feet in thickness of red clay full of unworn flints overlies the Upper Chalk. This overlying matter, the surface of which has been converted into mould, consists of the undissolved residue from the chalk. It may be well here to recall the case of the fragments of chalk buried beneath worm-castings on one of my fields, the angles of which were so completely rounded in the course of 29 years that the fragments now resembled water-worn pebbles. This must have been effected by the carbonic acid in the rain and in the ground, by the humus-acids, and by the corroding power of living roots. Why a thick mass of residue has not been left on the Chalk, wherever the land is nearly level, may perhaps be accounted for by the percolation of the fine particles into the fissures, which are often present in the chalk and are either open or are filled up with impure chalk, or into the solid chalk itself. That such percolation occurs can hardly be doubted. My son collected some powdered and fragmentary chalk beneath the turf near Winchester; the former was found by Colonel Parsons, R. E., to contain 10 per cent., and the fragments 8 per cent. of earthy matter. On the flanks of the escarpment near Abinger in Surrey, some chalk close beneath a layer of flints, 2 inches in thickness and covered by 8 inches of mould, yielded a residue of 3.7 per cent. of earthy matter. On the other hand the Upper Chalk properly contains, as I was informed by the late David Forbes who had made many analyses, only from 1 to 2 per cent. of earthy matter; and two samples from pits near my house contained 1.3 and 0.6 per cent. I mention these latter cases because, from the thickness of the overlying bed of red clay with flints, I had imagined that the underlying chalk might here be less pure than elsewhere. The cause of the residue accumulating more in some places than in others, may be attributed to a layer of argillaceous matter having been left at an early period on the chalk, and this would check the subsequent percolation of earthy matter into it.
From the facts now given we may conclude that castings ejected on our Chalk Downs suffer some loss by the percolation of their finer matter into the chalk.