Blakeney Point

Blakeney Point sits at the tip of a 6.4km (4 m) spit of sand dunes and shingle that extends out from Cley Beach on the most northerly tip of the North Norfolk coast. The surrounding area forms the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, extending from Stiffkey Salt Marsh in the west to Cley in the east, an internationally important area of outstanding natural beauty and special scientific interest. The unspoiled villages of Morston, Blakeney and Cley-next-the-sea dot the coastline with fine hotels, guesthouses, pubs, restaurants and galleries, but it is the salt marsh and sand dunes that draw artists, naturalists and visitors to the area at all times of the year.
  intertidal mud & sand flats  salt marsh  pasture  shingle  sand dunes
The highlight of any visit to Blakeney must surely be a trip out by boat to see the seals and terns that frequent Blakeney Point. Boat companies at both Morston and Blakeney Quay run a regular schedule of trips out to the sand dunes through-out the year, with the opportunity to disembark for an hours exploring around the old lifeboat station on the point.

The outward journey winds through the salt marsh and mudflats, passing the occasional wader picking at the foreshore. Once out into the wider estuary, terns start to fill the air, their curiosity bringing them close to the boats as they move through their fishing grounds.

Their precise wingbeats pull them at pace through the air, easily keeping up with our craft, before a stooping vertical dive sends them down into the water. Disappearing for a second, they emerge and lift into the air, their quarry clamped in a delicate but powerful bill. 

We saw three species of tern on our visit. The Common Tern with it’s black cap and black tipped, bright orange bill, the  Sandwich tern that sports a shaggier black cap and yellow tipped, black bill and the Little Tern, smaller, with a distinctive yellow bill with black tip.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
juvenile Little Tern Sternula albifrons
With the terns for company the boats continued towards the point and shapes start to appear in the middle distance, bobbing in the water. As we draw closer, grey blobs form into seals, hauled up on the exposed sand or wallowing in the shallows. Calm and relaxed, they doze or watch the boats as they pass by, the more inquisitive swimming closer and lifting out of the water for a closer look.
Both Grey and Common Seals frequent Blakeney Point and according to the National Trust’s North Norfolk Coast blog, 887 Grey and 208 Common Seals were recorded in a recent low water count.

Common Seal Phoca vitulina

The long straight nose of a Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus emerges from the water

Grey Seal

The boats make passes and circles of the banks to give everyone a good view of the seals as well as the tern breeding grounds, mostly populated by Sandwich Terns on our visit.
We then move on to the disembarkation point on the point where a step from boat to land deposits you in the dunes 200 yards from the National Trust visitor centre at the Lifeboat House. As we took the path through the interior of the spit we watched Linnets flit amongst the gorse bushes whilst meadow pipits sat out the damp sea drizzle, seeking shelter where they could.

Looking across the interior of Blakeney Point towards the northern, seaward side

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

Not quite the day for deck-chairs
Our allotted hour on the Point over, we assembled for departure and returned slightly damp from the trip but no less enriched by the experience – the chance to see some of our largest mammals and most graceful birds at close quarters was a moment to be cherished.
Further Information
Seal Trips from Blakeney & Morston Quays

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  1. Pingback: On the birthing grounds – The Badger's Eye

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