Grey Seal Pups of Norfolk

Updated: May 3, 2018

It's flippin' cold outside. It's usually peeing with rain and howling with wind. But it is totally worth the risk of getting battered by the weather to see arguably the cutest animal on Earth.

Grey seal pup mid-moult

The morning is bleak. Water drops still cling to the YHA room window after a night of thundering rain. Christmas decorations hang across Sheringham high street. It's a short drive to Cley next the Sea car park. Wrapped up, rucksacks on, we trek West across the shingle beach. The walk is far easier at low tide, when patches of exposed sand helps under foot.

"Shark and ray egg cases can be found in the strandline, and I've often found fish and starfish washed up"

The scenery is beautiful, often grey with rushing waves crashing onto the steep banks of pebbles. The beach backed by tusky grass dunes and marshland. It's worth keeping your eyes peeled as you walk along the beach as treasures from the deep frequently wash up. Shark and ray egg cases can be found in the strandline, and I've often found fish and starfish washed up in the powerful currents. Frequently look out to sea for a chance to spot a curious dark head popping up amongst the waves. They could be grey seals with parallel 'II' shaped nostrils and a longer snout, or harbour/common seals with small 'v' shaped nostrils and a shorter snout. My floating head at sea would most likely be confused with the bulkier nosed grey seal.

Thighs burning from the two and a half mile trek to reach the dunes and the roar of the males keen to mate can be heard bellowing under the high winds. It is a glorious sight. Sprawled across the beach, the rookery is huge, with hundreds of the UK's largest carnivore congregated in one place.

Seals laid out on the beach at Blakeney

The dunes are a safe haven for mothers and their seal pups, providing protection from rough seas and rough males, who are keen to mate at this time of year as well.

Crouching behind some grassy dunes we lay and watch a pup roll around, occasionally chewing its flipper. A break in the clouds showers the grass in a golden haze. The pups are absolutely adorable. Bright white dense fur, clumsy and innocent, with huge black glossy eyes. The mothers milk is extremely fatty at 60%, compared to a tiny 5% in human milk, allowing the pups to put on enough blubbery fat and shed their fur in just three weeks.

With 2,000 pups born every year, Blakeney Point is now the largest grey seal colony found in England.

And after a bracing day out on the coast, there are plenty of great pubs and cafes in the area to warm those cockles boy.

By mid-January the seal pups have all pretty much left the rookery and are now fending for themselves out at sea. There is still a chance to see some late comers with their tufty fur left in clumps.

Getting there

Keeping the seals happy: try to keep your distance and avoid approaching a seal directly. The best thing you can do if you find a healthy looking pup that looks abandoned is to leave it alone, as the mother is likely to be somewhere nearby in the dunes or feeding in the water. Any concerns report them to the National Trust ranger who regularly keep tabs on all seal pup shenanigans.

The Lowdown

What: Grey Seal pups

When: December

Hike: Around 6 miles - bring some snacks!

Where: Blakeney Point via Cley next the Sea car park

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