Metastable partially saturated soils are those which on wetting under load undergo a sudden decrease of void ratio, i.e. a structural collapse. One of the most important soils of this group is loess, a silty quartzose sediment of uniform grading. Loess has attracted interest in the past because of its unusual mode of formation associated with wind transport, and its unusual behaviour as an engineering material. It has extremely widespread occurrence outside Britain but only occurs to any extent in small areas in east Kent and has only been reported occasionally from elsewhere in Britain.

The paper deals principally with the geotechnical and mineralogical characteristics of east Kent loess and some comparison is drawn with loess from various world-wide locations. The geotechnical behaviour supports the conclusions made from earlier geological observation which leave little room for doubt that the Kent loess is a true loess of periglacial origin. A coarser grained poorly sorted glacial solifluxion soil from Kent was also examined and found to be metastable. Because material of this type is fairly common this observation could have significant engineering implications.

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