Singing Seals and Shifting Sands. An Autumn Day on Blakeney Point.

Blakeney Seals 2

Blakeney Point: millions of tonnes of sand and shingle slowly pouring from the sea to form a four mile long spit, moving northwards year by year, century by century.


A little boat full of rain coats, cameras and binoculars.

We leave Morston harbour, a bay sheltered by the Point, its waters calm. As we progress Cormorants and Mergansers float by.

Wind and the cries of gulls, the first spots of rain.

In the distance, long, fat mounds, dark against the sand on a bank, some of them belly-shuffling into the water. We’re approaching some of the seven hundred seals that spend at least part of their year here.

One group of Common Seals comes close to take a look at us, a mass of dark, round eyes following our progress from in between the low waves.

Most remain on shore, relaxing. Some crane their necks to get a better look but most lie on their sides, their “smiles” and whiskers vertical. A quick glance, a scratch with a flipper, all seems ok, no need to stir.

Blakeney Seals

At the edge of the deeper water we see Grey Seals moving through the surf, a few massive bulls splashing around and snorting in the foam. These are the UK’s largest mammals, nearly two metres long and weighing almost 200 kilos.

At the end of the month the cows will start giving birth – their tough little pups born into the rain and wind and sleet of this most exposed of English coasts. North Norfolk faces the polar regions head on and when the winds swing in from the north the beaches rattle with cold.


Later we walk along the Point.

Through the grey above our heads come small flocks of birds, autumn migrants, flying in from Scandinavia, Siberia and Iceland. Some are making land fall after non-stop journeys of thousands of miles.

The Brent Geese have been here for nearly a month, honking and grazing in the marshes, now the Thrushes and Black birds are arriving, a sign that winter is coming.


We walk for miles in an impressionist’s landscape – blocks and slabs of drab shades. Looking north along the spit – two horizontals and three verticals. Below, from right to left, sand, shingle and sea. Above, sky. Muted yellows, greys and blues the only colours on the palette.

We pause to watch agroup of Sanderlings scampering along the strand line.

Off shore, deep under the water, fresh sand and shingle sweep past us, unseen.


Low tide.

We sit among the ripples, dips and humps that a just few hours ago were the sea floor – the water moves fast here. We eat, listening to the wind and watching the small waves lap against the remains of SS Hjordis. It ran aground in 1916 whilst transporting coal, no doubt part of the war effort. Ten men drowned in the currents that had pulled it onto the Point. Over time the sands covered it, erasing the tragedy little by little. But the sands are restless and in recent years they have shifted away, revealing the skeleton once again.

SS Hjordis

There are wrecks up and down Blakeney Point, some hidden, some in view, all testment to the dangers of working at sea.

As we walk away some of the nearby Seals begin to sing their unearthly “song” – a series of long, mournful howls. I can’t help but hear it as a hymn to all the lost souls.

This entry was posted in Birdwatching, Walks, Wild Places and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Singing Seals and Shifting Sands. An Autumn Day on Blakeney Point.

  1. Dina says:

    A great read! Very enjoyable post.

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