It has become somewhat of a winter tradition for us to visit the grey seal breeding colony at Horsey between Christmas and New Year with various members of the family. This year, we set out on the morning of 30th December to do just that only to discover that the increased awareness of this amazing opportunity to get face to face with some of the most charismatic of British mammals means that visitor numbers have rocketed. So much so that several of our party were unable to park near enough to the site to make it viable. Those of us that did, still faced a long-ish walk and hundreds of other visitors. But we were rewarded with a beach full of pups - nearly 300 on the day that we visited - as well as adults on land and in the sea.
It is easy to get disgruntled when a favourite thing (book, film, music, wildlife site...) becomes well-known but I managed to quell this feeling as so many of the visitors were young families with children. It is so unusual to see so many children simply enjoying getting close to wildlife and being outdoors in a way that we took for granted growing up and their palpable excitement hopefully means that they will be inspired to continue engaging with the natural world as they grow up.
Of course, the pressures that all these visitors bring has to be balanced with the needs of the very seals that they have come to visit. So it was pleasing to see that there is now an excellent infrastructure of volunteers, roped paths and signs to help people enjoy the sight without inadvertently upsetting the seals. If you haven't ever been, then it is well worth a visit, but I would suggest avoiding a sunny morning in the christmas holidays, or at least make a prompt start!