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Dew-Ponds

  • Edward A. Martin
Extract

A Great antiquity has been claimed for dew-ponds, or rather for those ponds which have passed as such. They are found on the higher parts of the chalk downs of Southern England, and sometimes indeed on their very summits. They first came to be noticed by reason of the fact that in dry weather, when by all reasoning from their exposed position they ought quickly to dry up, they are the very ponds that still carry water, whereas other ponds on the lands below, which are fed by runnels and other drainage, are the earliest to suffer from drought. This is a very real distinction, for the old dewponds, to call them by their better-known name, have no drainage beyond the collecting area of their own banks. That observant student of natural history, Gilbert White, was almost the earliest writer to call attention (in the middle of the eighteenth century) to the ponds on the common above Selborne, which, although used for the watering of innumerable cattle and sheep, had never been known in his time to fail. His attempted explanation need not trouble us here, but it is noteworthy that he did not call them by the name of dew-ponds, and this name did not appear until well on into the nineteenth century. Pseudoscientific people gave this name to something which they could not explain and so the mysterious dew-pond was christened. They still give it the same name, although those living in their immediate neighbourhood still know them as mist-ponds or fog-ponds. The worst of it is that the mystery of the dew-ponds is constantly cropping up in print, and it really seems as if the general public does not want to know the truth of the matter. Mystery always appeals to them and I fear that editors do not always desire to deprive their readers of its fascination.

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* Author of Dew-Ponds: history, ovservation, and experiment. (Werner Laurie, 1914).

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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