Tag Archives: Norfolk

Breeding time for the grey seals at Horsey

  • Seals at Horsey

    Seals 1

  • Seals at Horsey

    Seals 2

  • Seals at Horsey

    Seals 3

  • Seals at Horsey

    Seals 4

The grey seal colony at Blakeney in north Norfolk starred in the BBC’s Winterwatch the other day. Television cameras arrived to news that 2,426 pups were born there during the breeding season that began in November and has just about run its course.

I missed the TV programme but was lucky enough before Christmas to see and take a few photographs (see gallery above) of the smaller colony at Horsey beach, further round the coast towards Great Yarmouth. The rookery, or haul-out as the breeding site is known, stretched as far as the eye could see along the beach.

Volunteer wardens from the admirable Friends of Horsey Seals have taken over the work of Natural England, who apparently have other priorities, in roping off a walkway on the dunes at the back of the beach, themselves in need of careful management, and guiding visitors so that they can see the seals without disturbing them.

On the crisp, sunny day we visited there was a constant stream of people walking out to the beach and following the sensible advice, which includes keeping dogs firmly on a lead. Even so, there was the odd seal in the dunes to be skirted around. They do have a nasty bite and this is not the time to get up close and personal.

By now most of the pups will now have moulted their warm white birth coat for a mottled waterproof covering and, when they’ve exhausted the layers of fat they built up from their mothers’ milk, will have to take to the sea and learn how to fish for themselves.

The cycle will be repeated next year, which is necessary as more than half the pups will not survive their first year. The bulls turn up after the females have given birth and there can be a lot of aggression as they seek the best territory for mating.

For more information, see the Friends of Horsey Seals website: http://friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk/index.htm



East Ruston Vicarage Gardens bring colour to a grey day

  • Roses at East Ruston Vicarage Gardens. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • Succulents are big at East Ruston Vicarage Gardens. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • Plants on sale at East Ruston Vicarage Gardens. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • Intense colour catches the eye. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • The desert garden. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • The wildflower meadow. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • A glimpse of the vicarage. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • Poppies in the walled garden. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • Flowering now at East Ruston. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

  • In bloom at East Ruston. Photograph: Paul Nettleton

I’m hardly green fingered, a matter of regret given my father’s pride in his garden and memories of the vegetables and salad crops he used to grow when I was young.

 But I can appreciate the skill of the plantsman in choosing what to grow, the dedication to carving something out of unpromising ground and the architectural skill that goes into planning so that there’s always something to catch the eye or nose.

 So East Ruston Vicarage Garden was a joy to discover on a grey day when East Anglia was blanketed under low cloud and drizzle while the rest of the country still basked in the sun.

 It was my umpteenth visit to Norfolk but my friends live closer to the gardens now so it was a natural alternative to sailing on Barton Broad in the rain. And there was the promise of tea and cake too.

 Alan Gray (you might have seen him on TV) and Graham Robeson took on the 1913 Arts & Crafts style vicarage set in open fields in 1988. It’s only a mile and a half from the North Sea, so the maritime influence protects it from frost and evergreen shelter belts shield the gardens, planted as a series of rooms that are larger the further you get from the house, from the winds.

 Work in progress

I’ll leave the discovery of each themed garden room for you to stumble upon during a visit that I can heartily recommend. There’s a lot of information on the website but it can only whet the appetite. Work is always in progress somewhere in the gardens. Two years ago, I was told by another enthusiastic visitor, the new walled gardens were bare. Now there’s a profusion of colour.

 From a desert garden where a deep gravel mulch permits the survival of Californian species you can peer across a hedgerow to a wildflower meadow.

 My own photographs can capture only a little of what’s to be seen at the moment. And the little visual surprises (ask any accompanying children to watch out for Happisburgh lighthouse) suffered in the poor visibility.

What about the cake? You’ll need more tea, Vicar, for such generous portions.