Donna Nook

By 22:00hrs on Thursday 5 December 2013, Donna Nook was a scene of devastation. Donna Nook Warden, Rob Lidstone-Scott describes what happened:

“At 17:00hrs (two hours before high tide), the water was already lapping round the foot of the dunes and rising very quickly. We opened the five gates in the fence but it soon became apparent that this would be insufficient so we started cutting holes in the fence. We were soon joined in the dunes by lots of seals, so that getting around by torchlight became quite dangerous. We continued cutting holes in the fence until rising waters and dimming torches drove us back. At this point, at least two of the huts, including the big green information hut were moving.

We retreated at 19:30 to fetch more torches and returned about 20:30. The water level had dropped back beyond the fence, so avoiding the many seals in the dunes, including some mums and pups (it was great to see them still together), we surveyed the damage and checked that there were no seals in obvious distress; not surprisingly, there were several pups calling.”

The seals at Donna Nook are counted once a week and it is impossible to say how many of the adult and pups had returned to sea at the time of the surge. The surge did displace seals over a wider area and into the sand dunes. Some pups were separated from their mothers and 37 were taken in by Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary for care before they can be released.

The total number of pups born was a record 1,676 and the surge is not expected to have a long term impact on the seal colony.

The infrastructure of the site was seriously damaged. The fence which protects the seals from the thousands of visitors during the pupping season had just be replaced with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The fence and information huts will all need replacing ready for the start of this year’s pupping season at the end of October.

Elsewhere at Donna Nook, the freshwater mere and areas of grassland were flooded with saline water. The flooding of dune slacks and saltmarsh with saline water may actually have a positive impact on these habitats. 


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Donna Nook National Nature Reserve