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Welcome to the Friends of Horsey Seals, a charity run by volunteers

Friends of Horsey Seals is registered with the Charity Commission.  Registered Charity Number 1169539.

A bit of FoHS history

The community group known as Friends of Horsey Seals was inaugurated in late 2011 to take over management of a project set up in 2002/3 by Natural England and the Broads Authority.  The project aims to protect grey seals at Horsey, Norfolk, particularly during the late autumn and winter, when they give birth and mate. The charity’s volunteers are also involved throughout the year in the rescue of seals that are sick or in distress. 

In 2016 Friends of Horsey Seals registered as a charity.  You  can read more about the group on our About Us page.  

Click the link to read FoHS Confidentiality Statement

Seal Wardening

The rookery at Horsey/Winterton gets bigger every year which means that each year we need to recruit more volunteers.  If you enjoy wildlife and being outdoors, are reasonably healthy, and live in the area, why not register your interest in becoming a seal warden by emailing us on recruitment@friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk.  Training is given before the season begins.

FoHS ‘Friends’ Scheme

If this is not an option for you, please think about supporting the work of the charity as a Friend.   Visit the Join Us page to become a Friend.   By the way, seal wardens are automatically signed up as Friends, at no cost.

To get an idea of what our seal wardens do, please click on the video link to see them in training and at work.  The video includes short interviews with wardens and visitors.  FoHS Video.  The charity is very grateful to Al Glenton of Norfolk Images, who produced this video for us.

About Grey Seals

Around half of the world’s population of grey seals are found around Britain, therefore their protection is of international conservation importance. The scientific name Halichoerus grypus means “Hook-nosed Sea Pig”! It is one of our largest mammals but is still vulnerable to disturbance during the pupping season.

Grey seals come ashore to breed – the breeding site is known as a rookery or haul-out. The females (cows) arrive at the breeding sites first and will usually give birth a day later. As mammals they feed their pups on their milk for three weeks, keeping a close territory.

When the males (bulls) arrive they compete for space nearest to the cows. The fittest bulls get the best positions for mating. If pups get disturbed they may move into a bull’s (or other cow’s) territory, where they could get injured or even killed.

After the pup is weaned (approximately three weeks) the mother will leave. Over the next few weeks the pup will moult its soft white coat for a mottled waterproof one; it will not feed during this time and relies on the fat stored while suckling earlier on. Within 3 weeks the pup will have its adult fur and when it starts to feel hunger will make its way to the sea where it will learn to swim and to feed itself.

Grey Seal Facts

  • Bulls can grow to over 3m in length and weigh more than 300kg. Cows are much smaller and about half the weight.
  • The mother’s milk is 60% FAT – the consistency of condensed milk (a bit like our Christmas diet!).  Pups put on 2kg of weight PER DAY!
  • Pups are born with a warm white coat that is not waterproof. When they moult and get their waterproof coat they have to learn to live at sea and teach themselves to catch food.
  • More than half of the pups born won’t survive their first year.
  • When they have weaned their pups the females will mate. After a delay the pregnancy will start in time for the mother to give birth at the breeding site next year.

If You Visit A Seal Colony, Please Respect These Wild Creatures:

  • Stay at least 10 metres from the seals
  • Look out for seals in the dunes and give them a wide berth
  • Be careful – seals have a nasty bite
  • Keep dogs on a lead
  • Keep to marked viewing areas and respect the fencing
  • Remember grey seals are wild animals and should not be approached
  • Respect other visitors

Photographing Wildlife

There are excellent opportunities for photographers at Horsey whether your interest is in getting pictures of grey or common seals during the winter months, or wild birds, flowers, and butterflies in season.

Visitors photographing wildlife at Horsey are reminded that the welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph.  Please read Nature Photographers Code of Practice.pdf

Access And The Terrain At Horsey

Visiting Horsey is a joyous experience at all times of year, but please be aware that when visiting in winter to see seals, the track to the viewing areas is likely to be affected by puddles and can be uneven for people with reduced mobility, or visitors with pushchairs or prams.

Whereas we welcome all visitors, wheelchair-users should be aware that there are no facilities on the site for people with special needs.  Viewing areas are reached by sloping paths with sandy surfaces.  Getting to viewing points is likely to be difficult for visitors who rely on a wheel-chair.  Seal boat trips to Balakeney Point run from Blakeney and Morston Quays.  Some boats are adapted for wheelchair users.  Click seal boat trips for further information. 

The metal kissing gate at Horsey Gap car park gives access for wheelchairs and buggies to the main path leading to seal viewing areas (Coast Path) but, because of the nature of the site, there are currently no toilets or other special facilities or easy access on this site for wheelchair users.

The wind on top of the dunes can be very cold during the winter months, so, particularly for those unable to move around very much, it is wise to wear extra layers of clothing.  Winter afternoons are short and darkness comes quickly.  The site is unlit.  Be prepared – take a torch.

We ask you to follow the marked paths. Best views are from an area atop the dunes about 11/4 miles (approximately 25 minutes walk) from Horsey Gap car park, which is reached by a flight of wooden steps.

A smaller viewing area is just 5-10 minutes walk from the car park, reached by a roped sandy/grassy path which ascends the dunes with no steps. This path leads towards a WWII pillbox. After that, the section which rejoins the main path is downhill and quite steep and you might need to check that it is suitable for you before you descend, or you can return by reversing the route. On regaining the main track turn left if you wish to continue your walk to the main viewing area, or right to return to Horsey Gap car park.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Please click on the link to find answers to the questions we are most often asked. FoHS FAQs 05.16

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