The grey seal colonies of Horsey Gap on the Norfolk Coast are reportedly very healthy in numbers and growing each year. Great news! So we popped along for a little visit. Here’s how you can visit and what you should expect if you’re taking the kids.
How To Get To Horsey Gap Beach
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. Nearby is Horsey Mill which acts as a drainage mill, pumping the flood water off the land.
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.
You Must Pay For Parking
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.
When To Visit The Grey Seal Horsey Gap
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.
What Should You 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!
What Is The Pathway Like?
The sandy 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.
There Are Kid Friendly Facts
The terrain is either sand or hard sandy path, easy enough for kids to run away and explore. What we 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.
There Are Patrol Wardens
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.
The patrol wardens are there to protect the pups because some people get too close. Obviously you’re limited from going onto the beach and must stay on the narrow pathways in the dunes. This means you can’t get very close, so don’t forget to take cameras with long lenses and binoculars.
Where Else Can You See Seals In Norfolk?
There are two different types of seals that visit Norfolk; the common seal and the grey seal.
In the summer, between June and August, Common Seals produce pups and those pups can swim almost immediately. The Grey Seals in comparison have their pups between November and January and their young cannot swim until they have lost their first fluffy white coat. They hang around with their family on the beach for the first month of their lives before they test the water.
- The colony at Blakeney Point, a nature reserve run by the National Trust since 1912, is home to Common and Grey seals, and with over 3,000 pups born each year, it makes Blakeney Point the largest colony in England.
- From Hunstanton you can see the group of Common seals in the Wash, an area of shallow tidal sandbanks, fed by four tributaries.
- You may also see seals in the water or basking on the beach at Wells harbour, on the sandbanks at Holkham and at Sea Palling.
- Waxham Beach is next door to Horsey and this lesser known beach is quieter than Horsey.
- During the summer months, Brancaster beach is a good spot to see seals in the water and you can swim here.
Where Could You Stay Locally?
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