Thoreau's Journals and some photos of ‘Salts Hole’, Holkham, Norfolk—a somewhat smaller body of water than Walden Pond

Salt’s Hole, Holkham
Whilst I was staying in Wells-next-the-Sea last week with Susanna I took a moment on a rainy day to drop into Crabpot Books on Staithe Street. To my surprise and delight I found the massive (and I mean massive) two volume 1962 Dover Edition of Henry David Thoreau’s Journals. I’ve never seen it for sale for under £150 but there it was before me for the astonishing and affordable price of £31.50! Naturally, I bought it, but then had the almost Herculean task of lugging it back on the bus and the train in addition to our luggage. Still, I’m glad I persevered, for as careful general readers of Thoreau will know (from the more readily available selections from his Journals) they are full of him at his most unguardedly and magnificent best.

Thoreau’s Journals in the window of the cottage where we were staying
It goes without saying that walking rather than shopping for books was the main activity of the week and one regular walk I take passes by a splendid natural phenomenon called ‘Salts Hole’ very near to Holkham. It’s a remarkable place (see an extract from an article about it at the end of this post for more detail) and, given that only the day before I had stumbled across Thoreau’s journals, I could not see this small stretch of water and not be reminded of Walden Pond and, since I had my camera with me, of Herbert W. Gleason’s wonderful photographs that have been used many times to illustrate Thoreau’s writings including, of course, the Dover Edition of the Journals I now had in my possession.  O lucky man . . .

Of course, the photos I took of ‘Salts Hole’ don’t match up to Gleason’s classic images but I hope they give you a Thoreauvian sense of the place.

All taken with a Fuji X100F
Just click on a photo to enlarge it

Track leading to Salt’s Hole

Track leading to Salt’s Hole

Track leading to Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Autumn leaves in the crook of a tree at Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole


Salt’s Hole

Scotch Pines at Salt’s Hole

The bank surrounding Salt’s Hole

Salt’s Hole

Holkham Salts Hole, an Isolated Salt-Water pond with Relict Features. An Account Based on Studies by the late C. F. A. Pantin
Author: O. D. Hunt
https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315400015095

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.

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