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

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

Nor­folk Broads

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.


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 friend­sofhorsey­ 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

Stephanie Cross lives in Lon­don but loves to es­cape to the coun­try when she can.

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