Salt Pans, Portland

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The Salt Pans seen from the cliff top of East Weares.

The Salt Pans are two salt pans on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. Both pans sit next to one another, and are situated on the coastline of East Weares, the east side of Portland. The pans sit directly below the Young Offenders Institution HM Prison Portland, and are found close to various old historic relics such as the East Weares Rifle Range, Folly Pier, King's Pier and the remains of the Folly Pier Waterworks. The East Weares area, including the Salt Pans, has been labelled a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), largely due to the scrub and wildlife being of high nature conservation value.[1]


The southern-most salt pan seen close up.

Situated along the eastern coastline of East Weares,[2] the two salt pans have existed for many centuries. The origins of the pans remain uncertain, and suggestions have been made that the Romans created them. However the limited evidence recorded suggest they are more likely to be medieval.[3] During Saxon and Norman times the pans were one of two places for the thriving salt production industry on Portland. The other was the tidal lagoon known as The Mere, which was situated at the north of the island, near Portland Castle. The two pans at East Weares were formed by the digging of Kimmeridge clay.[4]

The pans would flood at high Spring Tides and once they dried out through the evaporation of the seawater, the encrusted salt would be removed from the rocks.[3] Although the pans have remained unused for centuries, both remain completely intact and undisturbed. This can be partly attributed to the fact that the majority of the East Weares area has remained uninhabited and any historic sites that remain are derelict and fully abandoned too. The salt pool of The Mere was destroyed long ago, and the Mere itself was later completely infilled by the Admiralty.[5]

In one of the pans, the outing casing of an old empty naval mine has laid rusting for decades and still remains visible to date. The surrounding grassland area around the pans has remained a favourite and popular site for locals to spell out messages in rocks as they can be seen directly from the roadway high above around the side of the Young Offenders Institution. Additionally, a little further past the pans heading south is a Victorian sewer ventilator, which is now disused. The small pebbled coastline Little Beach further south openly reveals soft Kimmeridge Clay stratum at sea level. Next to the right-hand salt pan is also an old stone jetty which remains intact to date.[3]


The salt pans can be reached via an unofficial pathway veering off the official coastal path of the East Weares area. A similar pathway further north links to the remains of the Folly Pier Waterworks. Sitting on the coastline, the pans link directly to the sea and thus can be reached via the coastline edge as well. The pans can also be viewed from the clifftops of Grove Point.


  1. ^ "File:East Weares - Portland Goats Sign - Portland, Dorset.JPG - Wikimedia Commons". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "Salt pans, a mine and a dead whale on Portland, Dorset". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  4. ^ Morris, Stuart (1985). Portland, an Illustrated History. Dorset: The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset. p. 20. ISBN 0-946159-34-3. 
  5. ^ "Chesil Beach, Dorset - Geological Field Guide, Introduction by Dr. Ian West". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 

Coordinates: 50°33′03″N 2°24′59″W / 50.5508°N 2.4165°W / 50.5508; -2.4165