poetry and prose about place

a mysterious mechanism 6-13

with 6 comments

6-13 zzzzz

salt ponds on Ile de Re (image from Street View)


6-13 1 Logbook


6-13 1 map

map showing distance travelled … the rectangular salt ponds on Ile de Re are visible (map from Google Earth)


On this second-to-last day of my virtual travels through France, I found a mystery.  The disadvantage of travelling far away from the images you see is, you can’t stop and ask when you see something you don’t understand.  As I drove along the salt ponds dominating the eastern part of Ile de Ré, I saw a circular structure.  It was corral-like and at first I thought it must be a corral for a horse.  But, closer observation suggests another purpose …


6-13 j

circular ‘corral’ … click the photo to enlarge and see the internal mechanism … rectangular salt ponds are visible in the background (image from Street View)


The clues are these:

1. the structure is circular

2. a fence surrounds the structure, suggesting need to contain an animal or something else

3. on second look, the fence is more like a wall, perhaps able to contain some substance, perhaps even a liquid

4.  a horse trailer is parked in the yard

5. a grass-free track surrounds the structure

6. the corral is not empty, but contains a complex structure, including an elevated  ‘pipe’ near the middle, and two long horizontal poles supported by wires

7.  at the end of each pole is a flat, paddle-like structure


I have a theory about this mysterious device.  I think it is a horse-driven mechanism for collecting salt.


My theory: salt water is pumped into the structure, a horse is used to turn the paddles through the water and salt is collected on the paddles.


Although I searched on the Internet, I could not find any reference to this method of collecting salt.


On Ile de Ré, salt is typically collected from large rectangular salt ponds called ‘pans’.  The salt is formed as the sun and wind ‘lift’ the salt from the water.  The collection process is very labour-intensive.  People stand on the narrow grassed dividers between ponds and ‘rake’ the fleur de sel (top layer of crystallised salt), collecting it into large salt piles.   Fleur de sel is more expensive than table salt because of the complexity of the harvest.  It is often sold in jars, is moist and contains sand which gives it a grey color.  Some Ile de Ré salt has a pink tint, from its phytoplankton content!


6-13 m avenue des salines


Do you know what the circular corral is used for?  Do you think I have solved the mystery???


Best View:  a house covered with white roses …



June 25, 2013 ‘house with white roses’ Jane Tims


Copyright  2013   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

July 8, 2013 at 7:08 am

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Your guess about what the circular corral is used for is no doubt better than any idea I could think of. 🙂 The painting of the house with white roses is lovely – wish I had white roses growing on my house!


    Barbara Rodgers

    July 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    • Hi Barbara. Thanks for the comment on my painting. I have a bush of yellow roses and this year they came up pink! I think the original variety died and the root stock it was grafted to grew instead. They are charming simple roses. Jane


      jane tims

      July 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm

  2. Your suggestion about the circular structure sounds plausible. No wonder fleur de sel is so expensive. What a lot of work to gather it. The watercolour is lovely.


    Carol Steel

    July 8, 2013 at 8:25 am

    • Hi Carol. I must try it. It is supposed to be healthy because of all the micronutrients. The salt of the connoisseur! Jane


      jane tims

      July 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

  3. This is fascinating. I think you are right about the circular structure – you get horse engine houses in the UK which were circular – not used any more though.



    July 8, 2013 at 7:56 am

    • Hi Diana. I found lots of photos of donkey-driven water pumps on the Web, but no horses. Jane


      jane tims

      July 8, 2013 at 8:56 am

I'd love to hear what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: