As regular readers of PackThePJs know, our caravan Betsy spent last summer based at Long Beach Tenting and Touring Park in Hemsby, Norfolk. We’re excited to be back there again this year to explore more of the amazing coastline and countryside. Last year we missed the ‘peak’ time to see the grey seals congregating just up the coast in Horsey. Not this year – it was top of our list of ‘to do’s’!
Grey Seals in Norfolk
The coastline of the UK is home to half the world’s population of Grey Seals. Horsey is one of the best places in Norfolk to see them, particularly during the winter. From late October through to February, the seals have their pups along this part of the coastline, and they congregate in large numbers. When I say large numbers, I mean LARGE numbers … bordering hundreds. It is an amazing sight. Seeing these animals in such large numbers in their natural habit, is quite something.
Just 4 miles down the coast at Winterton and Long Beach we often have seals ‘swim with us’ as we walk along the beach – all times of the year. They seem as curious about us as we are of them (or they are interested in our dogs!) They are year-round residents, and the good news is that numbers are growing every year.
Horsey Gap is ‘the’ place to head to. You park in the car park in front of the dunes. It is pay and display and costs as little as £3 for 2 hours. On our visit there was a food/drink van (they make a nice takeaway cup of tea!)
When we visited last weekend, Huw took the dogs on a walk away from the beach. However if you take your dogs towards the seals, they must strictly be kept on their leads.
The rest of us took the most direct route to the seals – straight up and over onto the beach. There are two routes – the ‘other’ one leads you along the Norfolk Coastal Path, behind the dunes, to a viewing platform. I know that they close the beach off during the pupping season – to protect you as much as the seals; so I’m guessing our chosen route isn’t always accessible.
We did a circular walk … over the dune to the beach; along the beach passing the seals, then up the steps to the top of the dunes, towards the pillbox, and then followed the coastal path through Horsey Warren back to the car park. About 80 minutes in total, so nothing too strenuous.
The seals are amazing. We stood and watched them climb over each other, go into the sea for a swim, roll over (and over, and over), stretch, yawn, and make endearing noises! From a distance they look like boulders … and then they start to move! Out of water they look so cumbersome, but in water are sleek and effortless.
Visiting the Seals
The ‘rule’ (and let’s be honest, it is common sense) is not to get within 10 metres of the seals. 10 metres is a great distance to get some decent photos on your mobile and to feel that you are up close and personal to these animals, without disturbing them. There are reminders of this distance all over the place … but as we know these rules are for the majority, not for all. I cannot believe some of the stories in the local press. People have been filmed sitting children on the backs of seals for a photograph. Another article mentioned someone thumping and kicking a seal. And others are just getting far FAR too close.
These seals are wild animals – they have big teeth and they WILL bite. Their mouths are full of nasty bacteria … I sure as dammit wouldn’t want to risk an altercation with one. But these individuals will ultimately ruin it for the rest of us. For now, we can visit the seals – and it’s truly a spectacle. Beautiful animals in a beautiful place.
If you have a ‘real’ camera, with a telephoto lens, maybe even a tripod – don’t leave them at home. I only had my iPhone with me and did the best I could with it. I felt very jealous of the photographers there with all their gear!
If you are in the Horsey area of Norfolk, make sure you head down to see the grey seals. Take lots of photos and take some time to just sit/stand and watch them. Walk a short stretch of the beautiful Norfolk Coastal Path.
The pillbox is quite a feature on the landscape. Look out for the other wildlife in this delicate habitat (it’s not ALL about the seals!)
Keep your dogs on their leads. Remember the seals are wild animals; give them space and enjoy their company.
For more information, please visit the website of the Friends of Horsey Seals.