As this year’s seal breeding season gets underway on Northumberland’s Farne Islands, the National Trust is once again offering visitors a unique opportunity to get up close to these fascinating mammals.
The Farne Islands are home to England’s largest population of Atlantic grey seals, with numbers increasing every year. The first seal pup born on the Farnes this year was on September 27, and heralded what is hoped to be yet another successful breeding season.
More than 1,600 seal pups were born on the islands last year, an increase on the previous year, taking the total population to 4,800.
And for only the second year in the Trust’s 88 year history on the Farnes, visitors will be able to see first-hand the challenges faced by a young pup in their first few weeks of life, with a tour which allows them to land on one of the largest islands in the Farnes archipelago.
From Monday 14 to Thursday 31 October, three visitor boats a day will leave Seahouses Harbour, joined by a National Trust ranger, and sail to Staple Island. Once ashore they will be greeted by a team of National Trust rangers who will share their experiences of working with seals.
David Steel, Head Ranger for the National Trust on the Farne Islands, said: “We are delighted to be able to once again offer this exciting tour.
“There isn’t anywhere else in England where visitors can get as close as this to Atlantic grey seals, particularly during the pupping season. This is a really special time at the Farnes and one which not many people get to see, so these tours really do offer a unique experience for the visitor.”
The breeding season for seals on the Farnes usually starts in September 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 been weaned and moulted their white coats.
David continued: “We are hoping that this will be another exciting year for the seal colony and our dedicated staff are looking forward to being able to share their experiences of working alongside these amazing creatures.”
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.
Tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children, including National Trust members, and take place at 11am, 12pm and 1pm. There will be an additional charge for the boat trip.
Bookings are advisable and must be done by contacting either Glad Tidings boat company on (01665) 720 316 or evening (01665) 720 308 or Serenity boat company on (01665) 721 667 or evening (01665) 720 760.
Further details can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The Inner Farne will remain open as normal from 10am to 5pm, throughout the seal tours, and normal charges apply.
To keep up to date with life on the Farne Islands follow David’s blog at http://farnephoto.blogspot.co.uk/ or follow him on Twitter @NTSteely