The Devil's Punchbowl – Norfolk, England - Atlas Obscura

The Devil's Punchbowl

A mysterious crater-like pond has a spooky tendency to empty and fill with complete disregard to rainfall patterns. 


This natural pond attracted its diabolic name as a result of its near-perfect circular shape and spooky tendency to empty and fill with complete disregard to rainfall patterns.

Originally, people were confused by the way the pit’s water levels mysteriously ebbed, so, naturally, they attributed the odd phenomenon to the Devil. But in reality, there’s nothing supernatural about it. The Devil’s Punchbowl is one of several “fluctuating meres” in the Breckland of Norfolk, England. They were formed when subsurface chalk slowly eroded to form an underground chasm, which eventually collapsed to form a surface sinkhole called a doline. The water level in these relatively deep depressions represents a rare surface exposure of the usually hidden subsurface aquifer, or water table.

Of course, the level of the aquifer is ultimately related to rainfall. However, the time lag between rainfall and the punchbowl filling is so great that it indicates the prevailing precipitation pattern of prior months, and could be entirely unaffected by weeks of more recent heavy rain. Though it may seem odd to witness its wonky watery nature, there’s nothing Devilish about the 430-foot diameter depression.

Know Before You Go

Surrounded by woodland, the Devil's Punchbowl isn't easy to spot from the road. It's close to the junction of Harling Drove with Wyrley's Belt. From the direction of Wyrley's Belt, there is a forest access road signposted "64" on the left, with a small gravel car park area. The punchbowl is visible from this car park. There is an information board at the top of the punchbowl. Paths do lead down to the water, but the ground can get quite boggy, and visitors are discouraged from disturbing the vegetation as the site is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

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