Visit the Grey Seals at Horsey, Norfolk
Published date: September 2018
From late October through to February a large colony of grey seals come onto the beach at Horsey, Norfolk to have their young. It is one of the few accessible UK mainland breeding sites where visitors can observe the grey seals and their pups.
Horsey beach, like many beaches on the Norfolk coast, is normally a quiet and unspoilt area of natural beauty. However, during the winter months when the seals are resident, it does get very busy, with visitors coming to observe this magical event.
The grey seals mainly feed on sand eels and cod, but they are opportunistic feeders and will eat other fish and squid along with crustaceans.
A grey seal pup weighs around 14kg at birth and has soft white fur. They suck from their mother for 18-21 days, remaining on the land during this time. The seal’s milk is very rich, containing around 60% fat, meaning the pups put on about 2kg each day. The pups gain weight rapidly, building a layer of blubber below their skin that they will need as insulation before entering the sea. During the pupping season the males also come ashore to mate. The largest males compete for a position within groups of breeding females and occasionally fight to prove their dominance. They are very powerful creatures and some males can sustain deep cuts as a result.
The viewing platforms provide excellent views of the seals and have been specially erected for both the visitors and the seals. Here you can clearly observe the seals and pups without getting too close and causing any distress to these fine mammals. It is essential that all dogs are kept on a lead in the vicinity, so as not to cause any nuisance to these wild creatures.
Visiting the seals at Horsey makes a great day out and is one of the best places in Norfolk to see so many seals in their natural environment. There is no limit on how long you can stay, and you can incorporate a beach walk into your day, making sure you stay out of the roped off areas. Unfortunately, the site is not good for wheelchair users.
When visiting the seals at Horsey, you can arrive two ways. You can either park at the Horsey Gap car park, where there is a pay machine, and then follow the clearly marked signs to the seals. The other option is to park at the National Trust Horsey Wind Pump site. There is a well-used walk through fields and flat meadow, that takes around 35 minutes.
There is a child and dog friendly pub in the village of Horsey called the Nelson Head. It is a traditional country pub with a large open fire for when it's cold and a beer garden to use during the warmer months. It’s an ideal place to visit after seeing the seals, with fresh local food served daily.
Although the winter months are the best time of year to view the grey seals, they can also be seen in Norfolk all year round. Various local companies provide organised seal watching trips from Morston, where both grey seal and common seal colonies can be spotted.