'They think it's a theme park' - Warning to visitors to respect wildlife rich dunes
PUBLISHED: 11:21 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:32 26 March 2019
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As the days lengthen visitors flocking to one of Norfolk's most beautiful coastal spots are being urged to think about the damage they and their dogs and bikes could be causing.
The wildlife-rich dunes at Winterton are in danger of being harmed by tourists if numbers continue to spiral, the village’s parish council chairman has warned.
Eric Lund is reminding visitors to respect the area, and that summer parking has come into force in Beach Road with a flurry of tickets being issued already.
Meanwhile Norfolk County Council is digesting the results of a consultation looking at banning parking all year round after the village was plunged into parking chaos over Christmas as people flocked to see the seals.
Mr Lund said if all went to plan there would be a year-round ban on parking from October 1, bringing an end to chaotic scenes.
He added education was key to the seaside haven’s continued success supporting rare plants and wildlife.
“Unfortunately a lot of the people that visit here are from urban areas and do not understand wildlife, they think it’s a theme park,” he said.
“The Friends of Horsey Seals have been consistent in their information - respect the dunes and respect the wildlife.
“Sometimes we get quad bikes up there, but by the time the police get there they are gone.
“It hasn’t changed that much in the 21 years I have been here but we are looking to the future.
“It is not just the seals, Winterton is becoming so popular it’s unbelievable.”
In the last few years Natural England has roped off areas of dune to allow them to recover, with some people reportedly ignoring the barrier.
At Horsey, the situation was more contained with some 80,000 people funnelling through during the seal the breeding season.
At Winterton, which was seeing more and more seals, the sprawling dunes and coastline were more difficult to manage although more wardens are being sought for the stretch.
Mr Lund said the colony had been growing every year for about five years, and this year - with many of those first females now reaching maturity - looking to be even busier.
He is advising dogs are kept on leads to avoid them damaging lichens and that people stick to the paths.
“If the number of visitors keeps going the way it is we will not have any dunes,” he said.
“The Marram grass is vital to hold the dunes in place.
“The recommendation is that if you do have a dog on the dunes you have it on the lead.”