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norfolk seal
To start my 2020 with adventure, instead of a large table, I preferred a wild and almost deserted beach overlooking the North Sea. It is strange to think that just a few hours from the tall and grey buildings and from the hustle and bustle of the streets of London you can find yourself in front of a wonderful natural spectacle.


I’m talking about the beaches of Norfolk, a quiet county of Eastern England, bathed by the cold waters of the North Sea and with immense green spaces where peace and tranquillity reign. Now you will say to me “Why have you come so far to see a sad English beach, which does not seem exactly a place of note?” Because these shorelines are one of the most beautiful natural spectacles I’ve ever seen. It’s like being in a National Geographic documentary! The undisputed protagonists of this impervious scenery are grey seals.
wild beach of Horsey Beach

the wild beach of Horsey Beach

beach and seals of Horsey Beach

The sand dunes of Horsey Beach


The seal is a big mammal, but above all it is a good and skilled swimmer able to swim underwater even for half an hour. About half of the world’s grey sealpopulation is found in Great Britain; the large island is the habitat suitable for this species due to the characteristics of the Atlantic climate. An adult male can measure about two meters and weigh more than 300 kg while the adult female reaches the metre and eighty for 200 kg. After the mating, the pregnancy for the female seal has a duration of about eleven months and will give birth only to a puppy after reaching the mainland. The beaches of Norfolk represent those remote parts of the world where baby seals begin their life cycle.


Every year from November to the end of January, grey seals give birth to their young in the sand dunes which are a small incubators and a small cradles. During the first three weeks of life, the cubs are covered by a layer of white, not waterproof, and weigh about 15 kg. After that the layer of the hair becomes waterproof and greyish. During this period they drink about three litres of breast milk a day consisting mainly of fat and after the weaning phase they reach a weight of about 45 kg. When they become self-sufficient, the mothers leave the cubs and go back to the sea looking for food because during the breastfeeding they can get to lose up to 60 kg. The young, on the contrary, will have to learn by themselves to swim and to hunt for sustaining themselves; unfortunately, more than 50% of them do not survive the first year of age.
baby seal newborn

a newborn puppy seal

puppy seal

a puppy of seal

the seal suckles its puppy

the seal suckles its puppy

puppy seal

a baby seal with a white coat


On the beaches of Norfolk there are two species of seals: the common one and the grey one. The best way to identify the difference is by studying their faces. The cute common seal has heart-shaped nostrils, while the gray seal is distinguished from the other by its larger size and longer head. Another key difference between species is their pups, common seals give birth to their pups in the summer and can swim again just after delivery. Grey seals, as already mentioned, give birth between November and January.​
grey seal to Norfolk

grey seal in the North Sea

grey seal in Horsey Beach

grey seals at a tender moment

grey seal at Horsey Beach

grey seal

grey seal

grey seal at Horsey Beach


The Friends of Horsey Seals is a wonderful organization, run by volunteers who help protect these beautiful mammals. The new volunteers carry out their training period between September and October learning to sensitize visitors by inviting them to respect some simple rules:
  1. Do not get too close to the seals because, even if they seem clumsy, they are actually agile and with their sharp teeth could inflict unpleasant bites that, in the most serious cases, lead to the amputation of the limb.
  2. Keep at a distance as the post-partum phase is a delicate moment for mothers and it may happen that they struggle to breastfeed the young if there are people around.
  3. Never pass between a seal and its cub because there is a risk that the mother could prematurely abandon her cub, if she senses a different smell.
  4. Always use a little common sense, keeping the dogs on a leash.


In Norfolk there are two places where you can meet seals:
  1. Horsey beach is a long sandy beach lined with wild vegetation. Along this stretch there are no fences, so I could admire the seals up close while playing, swimming, or enjoying some shy rays of sunshine. Along the coast there are various volunteers who give a lot of information about these animals.
  2. Blakeney point is a place we reached from Morston Quay, from where one-hour boat tours depart at a cost of £13 to reach the point where to spot seals. The boats depart depending on the high or low tide and in winter the companies that carry out the tours are few. I leaned on the Beans Boat tour.
seal on the beach

grey seal in laying

seal on the beach

grey seal at Horsey Beach



Leaving London, the easiest and fastest solution is to rent a car and in about two and a half hours you will arrive at your destination.
If you want to take public transport the journey gets longer and the connections are not direct: From Liverpool Street you have to take a train to Norwich then another train from Norwich to Great Yarmouth Station and then from there continue by bus with the number 1 until Horsey beach.


You can find the grey seals from November to January while the common seal in summer in July and August.


  • Nelson Head in Horsey– Serves lunches, dinners and hot chocolates next to a roast fire. There is also a good range of beers and ciders.
  • Fishermans Return in Winterton – It is a large country pub that serves good food (with huge portions) every day.
  • Poppylands coffee, horsey- a forties-style coffee with good food with a great afternoon tea service.


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