It’s a direct result of not being from this country, but I really love it with all of my wanderlusting heart. Sometimes I also hate it – which is part and parcel of a long-term relationship – sometimes misunderstanding of the culture and other times frustrations that you would get living absolutely any where rear their head. That’s the joy and challenge of expat life in a nutshell – even for a long-termer like myself.
It’s funny though, it means that I view the country with travel spectacles. A case in point? I was watching a documentary a couple of months ago that highlighted a seal colony that migrates to a certain cove once a year to have their babies in safety, away from predators of the ocean. To my husband, Donna Nook is a RAF base. To me, it’s a seal slumber party spot.
And, it’s only half an hour from my in-laws house.
For over a decade we’ve been catching the train out of London to spend family time with them (occasionally sneaking for a wander to places like the working Waltham Windmill) and for a decade half an hour’s drive from their place in Cleethorpes – North East Lincolnshire – seals have snoozed with their pups around October/November. And I haven’t known about it.
We set off on a Saturday afternoon meander simply following the GPS as it guided us through narrow roads that curved through fields, laughing at the slightly random place we were going to visit, and beginning to wonder if we were on a fool’s errand.
And then we came upon the ‘Seal Traffic Only’ signs that directed us along a one-way road.
Wild Grey seals return every year in late October, November and December in very large numbers to the Donna Nook National Nature Reserve on the east coast and give birth to their pups right next to the sand dunes.
Those brown & white bumps above are just a few of the resting seal Mommas – oh, you betcha I squealed with delight. The pups are snow white until they reach a few weeks old (and 45-50kg!) and shed their baby fur in time to learn how to hunt for their own supper.
Apparently 2016 was a bumper year, with record numbers reaching 1,956 baby seal pups born at Donna Nook – and this year looks to have an increase.
There were a few snoozing right up by the viewing fence – one pup resting their head on the fence posts – and more as far as the eye could see. Just look at those flippers – doesn’t it melt your heart? (This is when my childhood hope of becoming a vet, mostly foiled by a lack of science skill rises to the fore.)
It’s a popular spot for photographers, animal lovers, families and dorky bloggers alike.
Practical tips for visiting the slumbering seals at Donna Nook:
– Try and visit during the week, the weekends are super busy.
– The seals are usually there from mid-October to around December.
– Visiting is free, but if you get popped into the overflow parking, you’ll need to pay £2 in cash.
– Driving is best (in fact I’d be amazed if there is public transport.)
– Wear practical shoes and something warm – that breeze is straight off the North Sea.
– You will get suckered in by cute seal donation boxes, and the proceeds go towards the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust so take some cash. C’mon, it’s free and run by volunteers…
We then made our way back to Cleethorpes (stopping quickly for an ice cream at a local cafe)…
…and then a wander along the promenade at twilight.
We then stopped into the most glamorous fish and chips restaurant I’ve ever been to – which gave the infamous Steel’s Restaurant a run for it’s money…
Oh, and did I mention we spotted a unicorn?