People who want to visit England’s largest breeding population of Atlantic grey seals and witness first hand the trials and tribulations young pups face in the first weeks of their lives can now do so on the National Trust’s Farne Islands in Northumberland.
The Farne Islands are home to over 4,000 Atlantic grey seals which give birth to approximately 1,500 pups every autumn. This year, for a limited period, National Trust will share this exciting experience in a new tour in which visitors will be able to land on the seal breeding colony for the first time in the Trust’s 87 years on the Farnes.
Until Wednesday 31 October two visitor boats will sail from Seahouses Harbour, accompanied by a National Trust Ranger, and land on Staple Island, one of the larger islands in the Farnes archipelago. There, they will be met by a team of National Trust Rangers who will share their first hand experience of working with seals.
David Steel, Head Ranger for National Trust on the Farne Islands said: “We’re really pleased to be able to offer this amazing experience to our visitors. These National Trust tours will offer the opportunity to get closer to nature on one of the best sites in the UK to see seals during breeding season. Most seal colonies are in remote places that aren’t readily accessible.”
Breeding season for seals on the Farnes can begin any time from September onwards with the majority of pups being born in October and November. Although the pups can swim at an early age they don’t normally leave the breeding colony until they have weaned and moulted their white coats.
David continued: “The seal pupping season is by far one of the most amazing spectacles in the wildlife calendar on the Farne Islands. For the first time ever we’re able to share this experience with our visitors. It is a very unique and special opportunity.”
National Trust Rangers are committed to ensuring that the tours cause no undue disturbance to the seals and that visitors are within a safe viewing distance from the breeding mammals. The tours are all weather permitting and National Trust is advising that people should wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing, including waterproofs.
National Trust seal tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children (including National Trust members) and take place at 12 noon and 1pm daily from 13th to 31st October departing from Seahouses Harbour. Spaces are limited and booking is advisable through Glad Tidings boat company on 01665 720308. There will be an additional charge for the boat trip.
Inner Farne will remain open as usual from 10.30am to 5pm throughout the seal tour period and normal admission charges apply.
To keep up to date with life on the Farne Islands follow Head Ranger, David Steel’s blog at http://farnephoto.blopspot.com or follow him on Twitter @NTSteely.