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Holkham Salts Hole, an Isolated Salt-Water pond with Relict Features. An Account Based on Studies by the late C. F. A. Pantin

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2009

O. D. Hunt
The Plymouth Laboratory


A saline pond known as the ‘Salts Hole’ at Holkham on the north coast of Norfolk is situated between the pine-covered sand-hills and the fields that have been reclaimed for agriculture from pre-existing salt-marshes. It has a salinity of about 75% of that of sea water and supports a peculiar relict marine fauna. Except for the rare occurrence of flooding for a short period, as in the great storm of 1953, the pond has probably been cut off from the sea for about 250 years. It presents three problems: how it got its fauna and flora; how its marine character is maintained; and how the pond originated geographically. The fauna and flora, as described, show the pond as a refuge where various marine and brackish species have managed to maintain themselves and co-exist in water outside their normal and differing ranges of salinity. The main character of the pond is kept remarkably constant with respect to salinity, alkalinity, temperature and oxygenation. The pond is a study in ‘natural engineering’, constituting a natural marine aquarium with natural controls. It is fed near the level of high-water neap tide by continuous flow from a salt spring of very constant salinity supplied from water contained in the extensive coastal sands. Its only apparent artificial feature is the outlet controlled by a dam through a culvert into a ditch that conveys its water through the fields to the sea at Wells nearly two miles away. Search in the muniment room at Holkham Hall brought to light maps dating back to Elizabethan days which show the history of the Salts Hole.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 1971

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