At first all we see is a pale blob, however as we strategy it resolves right into a bundle of thick white fur – a week-old seal pup. Black-eyed and sleepy-looking, it lolls on the tussocky sand of north Lincolnshire’s Donna Nook nature reserve a couple of metres from its mom, who seems to be doing her greatest to disregard it.
“She’s just given it a good feed and she’s having a break,” says Peter, one of many volunteer wardens who patrol the reserve year-round, however particularly at pupping time.
Peter tells us how the pups weigh 15kg at delivery, and are a roly-poly 60kg by the point they’re weaned three weeks later, due to a few of nature’s richest milk: it’s as much as 60% fats and has the consistency of toothpaste. We additionally study that seal moms don’t get to feed between hauling themselves ashore to provide delivery and returning to the ocean virtually a month later. Their bellies are apparently fairly concave by this level – and so they’re already pregnant once more.
All’s fur … gray seals on the seashore at Donna Nook. Photograph: Alamy
We’re fortunate to see an early pup in October half-term, however by December this windswept stretch of coast presents most likely the nation’s greatest wildlife expertise. By mid-December, 2,024 pups had been born at Donna Nook, and whereas our little blob is a few 10 metres from the trail, house is at a premium later within the season, with seals giving delivery, and mating, proper by the fence – giving youthful guests a swift and graphic lesson in replica.
Human guests to this coast come largely in summer time, when Europe’s largest focus of caravan parks is crammed with households. But I believe the Lincolnshire coast is at its magical greatest in winter. With common winter rainfall lower than half that of, say, Devon, it may be a wonderland of massive skies and crisp, clear gentle. Yes, north-easterlies from the coldest components of Europe can barrel throughout the North Sea – however that’s what gloves and hats are for, and what makes cosy pubs just like the thatched Kings Head at Theddlethorpe so interesting. And although days are quick, the low-lying land means even in late afternoon the westering solar casts lengthy rays over extensive sandy seashores.
Time to replicate … the seashore close to Seaside Lodge, Anderby Creek
On one such afternoon we take a peek on the geometric shapes and massive home windows of the brand new North Sea Observatory at Chapel St Leonards (open in late 2018), then set off to stroll the three miles again to our lodgings in Anderby Creek. Acres of scrub to our left glow with orange sea buckthorn. The solar picks out a lone fisherman on the seashore (hoping for haddock or whiting, he tells us; sea bass if he’s fortunate) and glints on the white blades of 70-odd offshore wind generators. Peace, gentle and house (plus clear power): what higher antidote to metropolis life?
Coastal stylish …. the sitting space at Seaside Lodge Photograph: A Winfield
Our weekend hideaway is Seaside Lodge, a two-bedroom chalet minutes from the seashore and overlooking a fishing lake, the place geese honk and acrobatic starlings carry out large murmurations. Inside it’s cosy and calm, with cream floorboards and seasidey blue-and white furnishing. It has been cleverly up to date, with well-equipped kitchen, tiny en suite with rain bathe, one other rest room and a wood-burning range by the image window. A welcome basket features a loaf of Lincolnshire plum bread.
Beach life … Gibraltar level nature reserve
There’s extra nice strolling subsequent day, at Gibraltar Point nature reserve, south of Skegness, with six miles of footpaths over salt marsh, dunes, grassland and seashore. Like Donna Nook, it’s fashionable all yr spherical with winged guests; uncommon little terns spend summers right here after wintering in Africa, and in winter it’s home to, amongst others, brent geese – smaller and prettier than your traditional Canada goose. They come for the balmy climate: these shores are positively tropical in contrast with their Arctic breeding websites.
Rare little terns are common guests to Gibraltar Point
The reserve’s not too long ago constructed customer centre has glass partitions on three sides, large views, good espresso, do-it-yourself truffles and fascinating lunches, corresponding to a butternut, goat cheese and beet burger. In actually “fowl” climate it might be a congenial house to spend an hour or two, watching wheeling birds and the altering gentle over the dunes and wooded ridges.
There is loads extra to fill a protracted weekend or quick winter break right here: Skegness and Mablethorpe each have an out-of-season appeal, and Theddlethorpe has an enormous seashore, virtually a mile extensive at low tide. We go to close by five-mile-long Saltfleetby Theddlethorpe Dunes nature reserve – protected against the wind by a ridge – for an hour’s glad tramping amongst low, grassy hills vibrant with orange, crimson and black berries. We see tank traps, and absorb seashore views from a number of second world battle concrete bunkers. We don’t see any natterjack toads, however that is apparently certainly one of their few remaining habitats.
Sea buckthorn lends and orange glow to a lot of this coast
One moderately oversold attraction is the (free) cloud-viewing platform at Anderby Creek, with details about cloud sorts, and angled mirrors for inspecting them. Sadly in Britain, even on its drier east coast, we all know solely too effectively what clouds appear to be.
The county’s gastronomic points of interest, nonetheless, are very a lot undersold. The UK’s largest fish market is simply up this coast at Grimsby (Billingsgate, London, is the most important inland fish market) and no self-respecting restaurateur in these components would get provides from anyplace else.
Good fish shouldn’t be a “regional speciality” round right here; it’s simply dinner – for seals and folks. A plaice fillet (£10.50) at restaurant La Piazza in Chapel St Leonards comes with a Sicilian-tasting cherry tomato dressing, however the candy, fine-textured flesh is the North Sea on a plate. It’s bettered solely by battered haddock (£9.95) within the restaurant of the Grange and Links, a low-key lodge in a big backyard near Sandilands seashore: fats chips comprised of dense Lincolnshire spuds accompany tender flakes of dreamy fish.
We could solely have been taking brisk walks in brisk climate, not fasting on an uncovered seashore with hungry younger to feed, however we respect the bounty of this coast virtually as a lot.
• Accommodation was supplied by Seaside Lodge, which has three-night self-catering breaks for 4 from £290