Visiting grey seal pups at Horsey Gap Beach
The seal colonies of the Norfolk Coast are reportedly very healthy in numbers and growing each year. Great news!
There are many places on the Norfolk Coast to see grey seals and whilst Blakeney has been ranked second in the UK for viewing them, we chose Horsey Gap which has been ranked eighth. Don’t let this number put you off though as it is still well worth a visit.
Less than an hour from Norwich, Horsey Gap is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is known for its scenery and wildlife. The gap acts as a sluice and flood gate as the beach is long and flat and prone to flooding. Swimming is not advisable and there are notices warning of strong currents.
Although we regularly swim in the sea, I wouldn’t recommend anything more than paddling here.
Nearby is Horsey Mill which acts as a drainage mill, pumping the flood water off the land. The mill is currently being restored but you can still visit.
When to visit
Between November and February the grey seals will frequent the beach to give birth and breed again in time for next winter. During this time the beach is closed to visitors however there are designated walk ways and viewing points where you can observe the seals. The viewing points are a fair way from the beach – to stop disruption to the animals – so best to take a pair of binoculars and if you have one, a long lens!
Pups and Mums (cows) may still be there after February and the beach then re-opens and gives a closer access. Please remember to respect the animals and don’t touch them though. I know they’re cute but they shouldn’t become too accustomed to human contact.
We visited at the beginning of November and the beach was quite empty of seals and only 8 pups had been born. I am informed by a warden that the best time to visit is at the end of December.
Parking and getting there
Car Park 1 is about a mile from the seal pups and it’s as close as you can get the car to the beach. Parking is £1 per hour and the company does fine non-payers!
Car Park 2 is about two miles from the seal pups and it gives access to the lane leading to car park 1. This parking is free.
Alternatively you could park at the Nelson Head Pub and walk down The St to gain beach access.
What to wear
It’s winter time aboard the north sea and the wind whipping across the ocean can be brutal, so wrap up warm! We wore walking boots, hats, scarves, gloves and winter waterproof coats. Alternatively you could wear wellies or trainers you don’t mind getting dirty.
When we visited it was raining and the puddles were growing, so be prepared for all eventualities!
Walking to the pups
The pathway to the seals is relatively flat and only about a mile long however to gain access to the two viewing areas, you climb a number of steep, wooden steps. People with mobility problems may struggle to gain access. Puschairs would be difficult and even all terrain buggies may have difficulties with the softness of the sand.
Kid friendly facts
The terrain is either sand or hard sandy path, easy enough for kids to run away and explore. What I really liked were the amount of signs that were appropriate for aged 6+ kids to read. The signs were all facts about grey seals and it made the walk really enjoyable for the kids who raced off to find the next fact.
The beaches are controlled by volunteer wardens ‘Friends of Horsey Seals’ who are there to protect the seals as well as educate the public. We were lucky enough to meet two and they were both incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming. You can become a member and support the seals at a cost of £5.50.
Don’t forget your camera
I foolishly didn’t take my long lens with me so I wasn’t able to get any close up shots of the seal pups. Foolish although it guarantees a return visit 🙂
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Sigma 24-70mm
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