There are a few things in life worth getting up early for, and the seal pups at Blakeney Point are one of them. Over the months of November, December and January, hundreds of seal pups are born in the sand dunes of Blakeney National Nature Reserve, making this the largest seal colony in England. (And a beachful of blubber – but a cute one at that.)
Getting to this part of North Norfolk from Cambridge is a bit of a trek by public transport, but luckily we were able to stay with Laurence’s parents in Norwich and make a weekend of it. On Saturday, we were up at cockcrow (this is farming country, after all) and beetling our way to Norwich station as fast as our legs could carry us. At Sheringham, we hotfooted it over to the bus stop, hoping that just this one time the bus would be running late, as the connection was tight – or, rather, designed to be missed. (The 08:15 service from Norwich arrives in Sheringham at 09:21… and the bus to Cley next the Sea leaves Sheringham at 09:19.) Unfortunately for us, the bus wasn’t running late that morning, so we were left with an hour to kill before the next bus.
We hadn’t been in Sheringham for a while, so we spent some time wandering down the high street, eyeing up the sugary treats in bakery windows and getting covered in a sheen of sea spray along the front. While it was nothing like the dramatic coastal scenes which sometimes grace the cover of the Daily Mail (accompanied by equally dramatic headlines featuring lots of superlatives), it was nevertheless a beautiful scene, with waves crashing against the rocks and foam bubbling on the shingle.
With the clock ticking (and knowing that the bus waits for no man – or woman), we made our way back to the bus stop. We were soon motoring along the coast road to Cley next the Sea, a small village popular with bird-watchers (and seal spotters). Barely fifteen minutes later we were tramping off down a rather puddle-ridden lane towards the beach. If you’ve driven, there’s a car park at the end of said lane, aptly called Beach Road.
If you expected the seals to be sitting pretty and waiting for you here, think again. They’re waiting at the tip of this shingle spit, a four or so mile walk away from the car park. (I promise they’re worth the trek.) With the tide on the turn, we stuck mostly to the shingle on our way out, spotting a large number of pinkish starfish amongst the clumps of seaweed on the beach. Closer to the colony, we had a chat with a couple of National Trust rangers stationed at Blakeney Point, before carrying on towards Lifeboat House.
From here on in, there are seals everywhere you look (and everywhere you don’t). These adorable mounds of blubber are ridiculously photogenic – rolling around in the sand, waving their tiny flippers, snoozing on the path.
I could have watched them for ages, were it not for the biting wind and nippy temperatures. (Oh, and the limited bus schedule.) At Lifeboat House we picked up the boardwalk which leads towards the beach; here, there were a number of seals lounging on the sand, and a few braving the chilly waters for a dip.
With our memory cards brimming with photos and our fingers turning slightly numb from the cold, we made our way back along the spit towards Cley next the Sea. Once again, the bus and train times didn’t quite match up, leaving us with an hour to wait until the next train. So we did what Brits do best, and went to the pub.
- If you’re travelling by public transport to Blakeney Point, catch a train to Sheringham followed by the Coasthopper bus to Cley next the Sea. A return bus ticket costs £3.15.
- Tempting as it may be to give one of these cuties a cuddle, keep your distance. The National Trust has plenty of handy resources on responsible seal viewing.