Parish: North Somercotes and Skidbrooke-with-Saltfleet Haven
OS: 113 GR: TF 422998 (Stonebridge entrance) Map ref: 15
1149.70 hectares (2841.00acres) Part leasehold, part management agreement 1978
Habitat type: Coastland
Location and Access
The reserve covers more than 10 km (6.25 miles) of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south where it borders the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Reserve. There are several access points off the main A1031 coastal road. There are parking facilities at (from north to south): Stonebridge (GR: TF 422998), Howden's Pullover (GR: TF 449952), Sea Lane, Saltfleet (GR: TF 456944) and Saltfleet Haven (GR: TF 467935). Public access is also possible at Merrikin's Pullover (GR: TF 445958), but there are no parking facilities. Access at Howden's Pullover, Saltfleet Haven and Merrikin's Pullover is down unmetalled roads. Visitors should note that the Pyes Hall, Warren Farm, Red Farm and Coastguard Cottage entrances are all private and should not be used.
Visitors should be made aware that the Ministry of Defence still maintains part of the area as a bombing target range and under no circumstances should anyone enter the bombing area when red flags are flying. However, most of the dune area is accessible at all times.
Access for the grey seal colony is at the Stonebridge car park.
Description and Management
The reserve consists of dunes, slacks and inter-tidal areas. Coastal processes, particularly sand and mud accretion, alter the natural features from year to year, and sand from the beach and offshore sandbanks is blown inland by easterly winds to form dune ridges. Deposition of material from the River Humber has resulted in mudflats and saltings. The advancing dunes have trapped areas of saltmarsh behind them, and these areas have gradually become less saline, allowing an interesting plant community to develop. On the landward side, the reserve is bounded by a sea bank erected after the floods of 1953. The reserve is rich in bird life: 47 species of bird breed regularly and the area is famous for more uncommon passage migrants and rarities; over 250 species have been recorded in total.
The dune system is dominated by marram and sand couch, which play important stabilising roles, particularly in the early stages of dune development. Flowering plants here include yellow-wort, and bee and pyramidal orchids. Sea-buckthorn is encroaching and forms dense clumps in some areas. Among mammals, fox, badger, stoat and weasel are all present, and three species of shrew have been identified. Common lizards also inhabit this part of the reserve. In summer breeding birds of the dunes include red-legged partridge, dunnock, whitethroat, linnet, skylark, yellowhammer and tree sparrow, while in winter the sea-buckthorn berries attract large numbers of fieldfare, redwing and starling. Woodcock, hen harrier and short-eared owl are also regular winter visitors. Within the dunes there are attractive dune-slack meadows where many wildflowers, including marsh-orchids, can be seen.
Between the advancing dunes and the sea bank there are areas of saltmarsh and open lagoons originally formed by excavation work for the sea bank. Although dominated in places by sedges and rushes, the open water with its muddy margins attracts a wide variety of migrating waders and ducks. The lagoons also provide a breeding area for small numbers of coot, little grebe and moorhen and a substantial population of reed bunting and meadow pipit. On the seaward side of the dunes there is a small area of saltmarsh.
The saltmarsh quickly gives way to inter-tidal mudflats on which grow the locally renowned samphire beds. The mudflats attract a wealth of birds: substantial numbers of brent geese, shelduck, twite, lapland bunting, shore lark and linnet gather in winter, together with large flocks of knot and dunlin accompanied by a wide variety of other waders in smaller numbers.
By far the largest part of the reserve consists of sandflats, and the raised sand bars are of special interest as they not only provide a hauling-out point for grey and common seals, but also support one of the few breeding colonies of little tern in Lincolnshire. Ringed plover and oystercatcher also nest in this area. Between autumn and spring huge flocks of gulls gather, while large congregations of terns, particularly sandwich tern, are a feature of late summer.
The reserve has one of the largest and most accessible breeding colonies of grey seals in the UK. During November and December the Trust mounts a wardening service to protect the seals and to organise watching facilities for visitors.
Management has concentrated on managing dune grassland, a substantial area of which is mown to create conditions suitable for a more diverse flora and fauna. Surveys are conducted annually to monitor changes in the flora and fauna. Nesting shore birds are monitored in the spring and early summer, and breeding grey seals are monitored in autumn and early winter. In 1988 an extensive shallow lagoon was created north of Merrikin's Pullover.
Donna Nook Seals
For much of the year grey seals at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trusts Donna Nook National Nature Reserve are at sea or hauled out on distant sandbanks.
Every November and December, the seals give birth to their pups near the sand dunes: a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK.
The Viewing Area - open late October to December
The viewing area at the foot of the sand dunes reduces disturbance to the seals and ensures the safety of visitors.
Seals are large predators and are very powerful. They can move surprisingly quickly and, having teeth similar to a dog, can inflict a nasty bite including the pups.
Mothers with pups can be very protective and big bulls can be aggressive. A mother seal may abandon her pup if it smells of humans or dogs.
For your own safety and to reduce disturbance to the seals, please follow these guidelines:
Stay within the viewing area behind the fence.
Strictly observe all red flag and other bombing range warnings.
Don't get too close to the seals.
Never feed or pet the seals.
No unaccompanied children.
Please be considerate when visiting: park only in designated areas.
If possible, visit during the week. At weekends, the narrow lanes and car park get very congested.
There is a small car park at Stonebridge (maintained by the local authority). A private operator provides an overflow parking area.
There are no public toilets in the car park. The nearest public toilets are in North Somercotes village.
No parking overnight
Catering van (private) operates through the season selling hot drinks and food
Places to eat and stay are available in North Somercotes and the local area. See the village website and Lincolnshire Tourism for further information
Organised parties should be booked in advance. Contact the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Headquarters on 01507 526667, email email@example.com
Photography at Donna Nook
All visitors should follow the Visitor Guidelines above.
It is possible to get wonderful photographs from the viewing area. From this location the full spectacle can be witnessed from cute seal pups and interactions between mother and pup to the powerful and brutal fights between the males.
When taking wildlife photographs it is important to remember:
The welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph.
Photography should not be undertaken if it puts the subject at risk from disturbance, physical damage, and lessened reproductive success, or if it causes the subject anxiety.
Read the Nature Photographers Code of Conduct.
Please help the seals at Donna Nook