A field experiment was conducted on a sloping grassland soil in southwest England to investigate the downslope transport of nitrogen in soil water following the application of cattle manure, slurry and inorganic fertilizer. Transport of nitrogen (N) species was monitored on hydrologically isolated plots. Manure (50 t ha−1), slurry (50 m3 ha−1) and fertilizer (250 kg N ha−1) were applied in February/March 1992. Subsurface water movement, by both matrix and preferential flow, was the dominant flow route during the experiment. Subsurface and surface nutrient flow pathways were monitored by analysing soil water and surface runoff for NO3-N, NH4-N and total N. Subsurface flow chemistry was dominated by NO3-N, with concentrations usually between 2 and 5 mg NO3 −N dm−3. Differences between fertilizer and manure treatments and the untreated control were not significant. Significantly elevated NO3-N concentrations were observed in soil water in the buffer zone, indicating the importance of a buffer zone at least 10 m wide between manure spreading zones and an adjacent water course.