Seal Watching at Horsey Gap
Every year, roughly between November and January time, the beaches along various parts of the Norfolk coast fill up with seal colonies as they make their way out of the tumult of the North Sea to come ashore and give birth to their pups.
Horsey Gap is one of the more popular places along the Norfolk coastline to get a good view of the annual event as there’s something very beautiful about getting out on a bright, clear Winter’s day, wrapping yourself up against the bite of the wind and walking until your cheeks are glowing pink.
The actual beach at Horsey is usually closed during pupping season (November to January) to leave the seal colony undisturbed and to prevent anyone from being bitten by an angry mumma seal. Despite the beach closure, Horsey is the perfect place for wending your way through tufty sand dunes, filling your lungs with the cold, coastal air and spotting some of the local wildlife too.
Ok so it’s a little more Vitamin Sea than it is Vitamin D but there’s nothing quite like it to blast the cobwebs away.
Where to Park
There is a pay and display car park at Horsey Gap Beach, from there you follow what is essentially a farm track (unfortunately it’s not great for buggies or anyone with mobility issues) until you reach the flight of wooden steps up into the dunes. The terrain of the dunes and the viewing areas is soft and sandy so can be difficult underfoot – also not appropriate for buggies and mobility aids.
The Friends of Horsey Seals
If you’d like any more details for a planning a trip to visit the Horsey seals, it’s worth giving The Friends of Horsey Seals website a visit as they have more details about the conditions, terrain and parking in the surrounding area.
As I mentioned earlier, when you reach the top of the banks of sand, fringed by Marram grass, it creates the perfect viewing platform to stroll along without interfering with what’s going on below.
Having said that, even when strolling over the tops of the dunes, be mindful that seals don’t pay much attention to roped off areas and may find themselves a cosy shelter regardless of the footfall during the day. If you do come across any seals or pups nestled up high in the dunes, be respectful and keep your distance. Wild animals should be allowed to stay exactly that. If you can take a selfie with it, you’re too close.
As far as I’m aware there are no restrictions on whether you can bring dogs on your trip or not but personally, I would caution against it. The last thing you want to do is make a mother seal feel threatened and want to defend her young. It’s a privilege to be able to observe these wild animals, don’t disturb them. If you absolutely must bring your dog, it has to be kept on a lead and a minimum distance of 10m from any animal observed at all times.
Grey Seal Colony
The pups and seals at Horsey are of the Grey seal species, although Common seals can also be seen along the Norfolk coast. Grey seals have their pups ashore and they are born with a fluffy-looking white coat. This coat is not waterproof and the pups will remain ashore, being fed by their mothers, until they are weaned and their adult coat comes in. Once this happens, they will take to the sea and learn to catch food for themselves.
Common seals, on the other hand, tend to mate in the water and can even give birth at sea. Common seal pups are able to swim from birth, although they will still be fed by their mother for a similar amount of time to the Grey seal pups.
The other thing to look at for when exploring the dunes at Horsey is a relic of the Second World War. This WW2 pillbox is one of many defensive structures that were erected along the East Anglian coastline (as well as inland) between 1940 and 1941. The pillboxes were used as a lookout and defence post against the potential threat of invasion on the East Coast.
If you would like to read more about my outdoor adventures in Norfolk then check out my Norfolk Life category. If you like Norfolk history and architecture then you should read my post on the Round Tower Churches of East Anglia or the Plantation Garden in Norwich.