Grey seals at Horsey
Enjoy a walk that takes in an unspoilt sandy shore where grey seals emerge to mate and give birth in winter, says Stephanie Cross
Horsey’s pale sands and huge skies are evocative at any time of year. But as winter storms roll in and colour leaches from the landscape, this otherwise desolate stretch of the Norfolk coast comes alive with hundreds of breeding grey seals.
NELSON HEAD START
If you’re intending to use the Nelson Head pub later, start this circular walk at its car park. (Otherwise, park at the National Trust car park at Horsey Gap and follow the route from point three.) Turning left out of the pub car park, follow the track. Bear left at the fork, skirting a gate, and continue on until you reach the dunes. The beach is accessed here through a gap in the sea defences: beyond, you’ll see the seals.
Enjoy a stroll along the beach, giving the seals a wide berth to avoid causing distress, and keep dogs on leads (see friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk for more information). Retrace your steps to the path behind the dunes. Follow it northwest, watching for marsh harriers above the grazing marshes.
At the National Trust car park, take the exit to the left. Follow the track to the road, turn right for a short distance, then turn left onto a footpath between fields. At the junction of fields, turn right along the field edge. This leads on to a quiet road: turn right then immediately left, following the footpath sign.
Follow the path, which is here bordered by a dyke where grey herons keep watch. After a little way, a rook-haunted ruined mill appears on the horizon. On reaching the mill, turn left along the edge of the stream. This path, which can be extremely boggy, flanks the National Trust’s Horsey Mere, where wildfowl overwinter in their thousands.
The path emerges at Horsey Staithe and the restored Horsey Windpump, built in 1912 and acquired in 1948 by the National Trust. It was once essential to stop flood waters swamping the surrounding fields. Climb to the top for expansive views that confirm Norfolk’s reputation for being pancake-flat.
Return to the Staithe and the car park, opposite which is a permissive path. Strike out across the field, turning left at the stile, and follow the path back to the Nelson Head, where a welcome warming fire awaits.
Seal shore: take a walk on Horsey beach in the winter months and you’ll be able to see the breeding colony of grey seals