Horsey is a quiet village with just about 100 residents. Traffic on the village roads increases during the summer season but residents traditionally expected the quiet life to return when the summer ended. In recent years this changed and now around 70,000 visitors come to Horsey between November and January to see grey seals and their pups.
The lives of villagers are severely affected when the volume of traffic or inconsiderate parking prevents access to or from their homes.
Sand dunes, reinforced by a concrete wall, separate the sandy beaches of north-east Norfolk from a low-lying landscape of fields, waterways and villages which links to the Broads National Park.
Well drained and warmed by the sun the dunes provide shelter for a variety of plants, insects and small animals, and nesting sites for birds and other creatures.
The dunes at Horsey include areas designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and connect with the National Nature Reserve at Winterton Dunes.
The National Coast Path, managed by Natural England, and maintained locally by Norfolk Trails (a section of Norfolk County Council), follows the coastline here and is indicated by fingerposts and local information boards.
Proposed site map Hopton-on-Sea to Sea Palling index map
In summer Horsey Beach is a magnet for families looking for unspoilt quiet beaches.
In winter a voluntary beach closure is operated while grey seals give birth to their pups (November to January).
From Horsey Gap car park marked paths on the dunes lead to the best places to watch the seal rookery without disturbing the seals.
Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) volunteers are on hand at weekends and daily throughout the Christmas/New Year holiday period to help visitors and talk to them about the seals – look for their yellow high-visibility vests.
There is ample pay-and-display car parking at Horsey Gap and at Horsey Mill.
Horsey Gap Beach Car Park is managed by Horsey Estate and is entirely separate from Friends of Horsey Seals and the seal wardening project.
Horsey Mill is managed by the National Trust (NT) and also has public toilets (open on some days during the winter) and a shop and café (check NT website for seasonal opening times).
There are no toilet facilities at Horsey Gap car park or elsewhere on the site.
The land stretching inland from the shore belongs to the Horsey Estate (farmed by the Buxton family and owned by National Trust). Burnley Hall Estate adjoins Horsey Estate to the east of the pillbox and is privately owned.
The main path from Horsey Gap car park follows the line of the dunes and is essentially a farm track. It is level but can be rutted and becomes muddy with puddles forming in wet weather.
A metal gate, wide enough to allow access to wheelchairs and buggies, leads on to the main path but there are no other adaptations on site for visitors with special needs. There is no easy access on the dunes for wheelchairs or buggies and the grassy/sandy paths are sloping and uneven.
If you have mobility difficulties, please bear in mind the distance to the main viewing platforms (about 1 mile – 25 minutes walk) and that they are reached by a long flight of wooden steps. Please also bear in mind that there are no lights on the site and darkness come s early in the winter months. Taking a torch is a good precaution for visitors arriving in the afternoons.
To assist people who prefer a shorter walk, a path leads off the main track onto the dunes just a short distance from Horsey Gap car park. This path leads to the crest of the dunes where you can see the rookery. If you wish to go further you can follow the path as it continues towards the World War II pillbox then re-joins the main track.
Before leaving home, check the weather forecast and bring suitable clothes and footwear with you. Winds off the sea can be very cold when you stand to watch the seals. We recommend layers – clothes you can add or remove – a hat and waterproof footwear. There might be puddles to negotiate. Wellies are a must for the children!
In high winds protect your eyes against blowing sand.
There are no toilet facilities and no shelter on the site, so be prepared for the worst and make the best of your visit!
There are toilets for the use of customers at nearby Poppyland Tearooms and the Nelson Head public house in Horsey village. Horsey Windpump, run by the National Trust, has toilets adjacent to their car park. Opening hours are restricted and it’s advisable to check that facilities will be open when you visit. Link to the website of Horsey Windpump (NT)
Some of our seal wardens are trained in basic First Aid. In the event of a minor injury, ask a seal warden if you need help. Any of our volunteers or car park staff will help you to get the attention you need. Basic First Aid kits are kept at Horsey Gap and Crinkle Gap.
Should you need to call the emergency services while on site, dial 999 or 112. Ask for the Coastguard. You may be asked to give the grid reference of your location. Please be aware that mobile phone reception at Horsey can be poor. You can usually overcome this by making your call from higher ground.
Grid references: Horsey Gap – TG464242
Crinkle Gap – TG473233
Friends of Horsey Seals and the landowners cannot be held responsible for loss or damage to you or your property. Take care. Be safe and keep your belongings secure. Check you have your valuables with you before leaving the site.