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National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)

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    12 Reviews
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      25.07.2013 09:58
      Very helpful



      A great family day out, prepare for a bit of walking. Informative.

      Myself and my partner visited the Cornish Seal Sanctuary last week as part of our 5-day camping holiday down in Cornwall. We were staying in Helston so this was thankfully just 5 minutes away. Finding the sanctuary was not hard thanks to my sat nav, but without one you simply follow the instructions to go along the A roads, then the Sanctuary is sign posted with brown signs.
      When turning down the road to find the Sanctuary, it seems unusual because it just looks like a road full of houses and doesn't look like the kind of place to have a tourist attraction, but it is here! The car park is quite large and can accommodate a number of vehicles - we arrived 15 minutes prior to it opening and got a great space under some shade.

      The weather that day was pretty hot, around 30 degrees. This made the experience more enjoyable than if it had been raining, but it did get very hot whilst standing in one place for too long. One of the feeding presentations was actually delayed because a lady with type 2 Diabetes felt weak and required a sugary drink (they hadn't come out with anything to drink, in 30 degree heat with Type 2 Diabetes - this is asking for trouble!)

      Before going, if you are staying somewhere local it is worth finding a tourist information place to get a leaflet about the Sanctuary or a book containing lots of local attractions as this will give you discount off the ticket prices. I had a "Save £4 on all adults" ticket but then just happened to have gone to Penzance the day before and when parking, my ticket had a "50% off entry" ticket which was the best deal - prices for the tickets when I went were £14.50 each, so this got the two of us in for £14.50.
      When paying you get asked the usual question of whether or not you want a souvenir guide book - we said no!

      After paying and entering, there is a 5-10 minute walk along an unmade road before you actually get to the area where the animals are. There is a train available that takes groups of people to and from the entrance to the animals for the elderly, unable, families with young children or the just plain lazy!
      We walked and it is quite a nice short walk up a small steady incline with some good views. When you get to the animal area itself, there is a small place to stop where you can buy drinks and snacks and sit down and have a rest.
      Next to this there is the hospital for the seals - a few people were here disappointed they couldn't see anything, however we weren't because it means there are none poorly enough to warrant being in there!

      The feeding times and talks were at 11am so we spent the first hour exploring the rest of the Sanctuary. There is a small farmyard animal area with some horses, sheep and goats which is quite nice, all the animals are named and their full history is on display on signs attached to their fences.
      After this we went through a nice group of trees and wild flowers/grass where a bird feeder was located, this joined up to a field where there is a large play area for children with plenty to do and to keep them occupied!

      Otters were next which is another walk of around 5-10 minutes; again this was quite picturesque, especially on a nice day such as this! Upon arriving the Otters were quite difficult to find because they were sleeping together under some branches. There are signs that inform you they are most active during feeding time which was 12.30pm and 3.00pm.

      There are a wonderful collection of Penguins up near the seals that were quite friendly. They were all out and basking on the rocks next to their water so were visible right next to the windows. There are 3 viewing areas for the Penguins - one under water down some steps, another on regular ground level through the windows and a third one up some steps looking over the whole area - this gave us the best view. One of the Penguins chased a butterfly, this was funny!

      After all of this it was nearly time for the Seal feed and talk so we went to visit their pools; there are some wonderful seals here with many different types on show. The talk at 11am started on the furthest pool and then made its way from left to right so there wasn't far to walk in between talks.
      The information provided by staff was excellent and you get a real personal history of a lot of the seals giving you a real understanding of why many of them have to be kept at the Sanctuary and not released into the wild. One Seal was 42 years old and believed to be the oldest in the world! Many of them have real individual personalities.
      Watch out for the Seagulls too - they know the feeding times and managed to get several fish from the Seals! There is even a Seagull with one leg who they named Eileen, leg bitten off by an angry seal fighting for the food!
      The 3 talks and feeds lasted around an hour and were the highlight of the day.

      After this we had to head off - a lot of things to squeeze in to 5 days so we drove down to visit Trebah garden which was a phenomenal experience! A quick visit to the gift shop on the way out - this had lots of nice local things but we didn't spend any money.


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        05.11.2012 18:38
        Very helpful



        Worth a visit

        As a child I went to the Gweek seal sanctuary a number of times with my Dad and on a recent trip to Cornwall this past August I took my boyfriend along for a visit.

        What is is and where?
        Now known as the Cornish seal sanctuary it is located in Gweek (suprisingly enough) by the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall. They rescue seals and sea lions etc - rehabilitating them where possible for release back into the wild.

        What animals are there?
        They have seals, sealions, penguins and otters on the lower level of the sanctuary (the whole place is perched on a slope), at the top are some farm animals including goats and a sheep called Patrik.

        Getting around:
        There is a large carpark available, which again is steeply sloped so make sure your handbrake is in full working order! You then walk down to the entrance lobby to get your tickets and proceed out the back where a tarmac road ascends slightly - you can get on the back of a 4x4 driven trailer here if you want or you can walk along it.

        A little up the road you can turn up a small woodland path - this is very steep and quite slippery at times (when we got to the end of it we saw someone sitting on the ground as they'd managed to lose their footing and twist their ankle) but you might see some birds. We came across a rather tame robin who was quite happy to sit still and very close to is while I took a couple of photos.

        If you go along the woodland path, you will exit it at the very top of the sanctuary where the farm animals are - here you walk along past the sheep and goats, before walking down a steeply sloping field to the lower half of the sanctuary.

        Down at the bottom there are properly defined paths the weave around all the different seal and sea lion pools and along to the otters at the far end. The penguin enclosure can be viewed from ground level or under water and the rehabilitation pools have a higher viewing platform so you can look down on the pools from above.

        As you can probably tell alot of the sanctuary, isn't really wheel chair friendly - you should be able to get around the lower level without issue, but then I personally feel like you'd be missing out on a good third of it which seems a shame. That said I don't see how they can do much to improve disabled access due to the location.

        Down the bottom of the sanctuary around the main hub of pools was a small cafe - the had a chilled cabinet containing a selection of drinks, fruit and sandwiches and I think there was a small range of warm foods available to order. As we just purchased some bottled drinks I didn't look into it to closely.
        The drinks were as expensive as you'd expect in this sort of establishment - over £1 for a bottle.
        There were also a couple of vending machines near the entrance.

        There is a small gift shop next to the cafe - I didn't venture in on my most recent visit, but I remember my dad buying me a dolphin tshirt from there when I was a child. There's another gift shop by the entrance/exit which you have to go through to leave.

        Prices didn't necessarily seem unreasonable - my boyfriend purchased a sterling silver neckglass and a little glass octopus for his mum's birthday from here which came to £23.50. As he'd spent over £20 he got to chose either a free cuddly penguin or dolphin (he went for the penguin).

        Entrance fee:
        Standard fees are pretty expensive at a whopping £14.40 for a single adult - there are discounts for students, children and concessions, but you can get even more discount. To be honest you should never have to pay full price - if you book online you get 40% off and if you don't have access to the internet you can cut discount vouchers out of the local papers and leaflets.

        My experience:
        Luckily when we went it was a lovely day weather wise so we could properly enjoy walking around. The otters were fun to look at - especially when one woke up and started licking the other in a rather intimate place only for a child to ask 'mummy what's it doing?' and everyone else had to supress a little giggle. It was also pretty funny watching the seals in the rehab pools sleeping in the most awkward and uncomfortable looking positions with their mouths wide open.

        We also got to listen to a talk on the penguins which was pretty interesting - especially when they said how fussy penguins are when it comes to fish and how they're just not interested if if not quite right.

        If you're a bit on the unfit side or maybe getting on a bit, you could struggle to get around in places - my nan can walk without a stick, but I know she wouldn't have managed to get up at least one of the tarmaced slopes due to the steep incline.

        Overall I do recommend it - the entrance fee is excessive at full price, but the discounts make it reasonable. Access could be an issue for quite a few people, but the sanctuary can't do much about the location and the views are stunning.


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        29.09.2012 10:40
        Very helpful



        Recommended with my seal of quality.

        One of my favourite holiday destinations within Britain is the wonderful county of Cornwall, and until I move to live there, I try to visit it as much as possible. I also try to take in and visit new places around the county, and this time we choose to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in the village of Gweek. I'm a big fan of locally based animal havens such as this, and think it's great that they open to the doors for the public to view, creating an attraction and whilst having the added bonus of bringing essential funds in to continue with their work. I thought it would be an enjoyable day for both myself and my family, and it certainly was. Here are my thoughts on the Sealife Group's National Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall.

        --Sealed with a Kiss--

        The origins of this sanctuary lie in the coastal town of St Agnes on the Scilly Isles, and is one of those little caring stories that make you proud to be a part of the human race. Ken Jones and his wife lived there, and one day in the winter of 1958 found a baby seal stranded on the nearby beach. He took this seal in and cared for it, and subsequently began to grow his own small save haven for more seals and injured sea birds. News spread about his caring work and both local and mainland people contacted him about other injured and abandoned seals.

        In 1975, with more funding available and expansion desperately needed, the sanctuary moved to Gweek near Helston on the mainland, just on the mouth of the river Helford. The sanctuary is now ran by the Sea Life organisation, and is still in a continuous effort to expand and improve it's facilities. While it tries it's best to return many of the seals and other water dwelling wildlife it rescues back to nature, some are injured to seriously to return to the sea, and thus become residents of the complex. While it now promotes itself as a tourist attraction, the work it does is still fine indeed, helping the local animal life around the Cornish shores which would otherwise perish.

        --Getting There, Parking and Prices--

        Gweek is a very small village in the southern part of Cornwall, only 3 miles outside of the nearest town of Helston. Getting to it by car will require traipsing the narrow B roads such as the B3297. This comes from the direction of Redruth, leaving the A394 at Edgcumbe. Other routes can to made directly from Helston or Falmouth, the latter being about 11 miles away. We made out way there from Redruth, which is about 10 miles and took about twenty minutes in journey time. Bus links are available from Helston however, and national train links are at Helston too.

        The entrance is a little tricky to find, just next to the central village store of Gweek, with signposts that need a little enlargement. Our Sat-Nav got confused and took us the other side of the river Helford into a riverside industrial area! However, once located it's a short drive to the car park and main reception. The car park is on various slopes, and a little rough in places, but there are plenty of spaces, around about 120. Additional parking is also available for camper vans and mobile caravans alike.

        I must admit, I was a little surprised about the entry fee's. Prices start at £7.20 for an adult. Include the VAT and it's £8.64 each. Children under 16 for just over £6 and under 3's are free. I think this is a little pricey for what you get to see, but it's difficult not to make too many complaints. After all, most of this money does go into the funding of the sanctuary. You can save a little more buy buying a family ticket for £26.64, and another small perk is that the ticket your purchase has a week of lifetime on it. You could return within a week without paying again. Still, I do feel that it's a little over the odd's for what the experience is.

        ~~The Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, near Helston, Cornwall TR12 6UG, England~~

        --My Thoughts--

        After a short queue to the reception desk and paying for my rabble, you are welcomed into a spacey room with various colorful and informative pictures and text to take in about the sanctuary and the seals that inhabit it. The main building is all rather nonchalant, simple brick walls and colours matching the elements of nature. I suppose it's best it's like this for the kind of place this it, but I was I tiny bit despondent, even though the cheery maps and pictures did brighten things up. Children receive a fun questions and answers scratch card, where upon you have to find the questions about sea life scattered around the complex and scratch off the right answer. I liked this a lot as did my 4 year old, very engaging and interactive I feel. She got so excited when finding another question (mounted on bold coloured boards in the complex), it did make me smile. Learning and fun, that's the best way.

        After leaving the main building, you can either wait for the 'Tour Bus' (A themed Land Rover with a trailer with seats in it, very Jurassic Park!) or walk up the hill along the riverside woodland to the first seal pool. We chose to walk as the 'bus' was very limited in space and would require more waiting for the next one to arrive. However, it is not a steep incline, and a pleasant walk following the flora and fun animal cut-outs placed along the way was relaxing and not strenuous. At the top there is a Ice cream and refreshment store that included a sand-ornament making activity for the children and more importantly, the sanctuary's special seal hospital which you can enter. Here you get to meet the veterinarians and see the seals recovering from treatment. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your view, no seals were in the hospital at that time, having all recovered from their injuries. On a more practical point, the toilets and baby changing facilities were also located here.

        Down the hill beyond the large sign showing the various pools constructed and fund totals, we came to the first pool. Again, I felt slightly disappointed. This was a pool for general wild seals and looked in a slightly shoddy condition. The water was mostly dirty, and little life seemed to be dwelling in it and it's disregarded beach balls and hula hoops stood still and lonely. Suddenly, a pair of dark eyes popped up from the surface and blinked coquettishly at us. In unison we all went "ahhhhhh". That set the tone for the rest of the morning viewing these wonderful animals. Pathways led the way to the next pool which in turn was the first part of the primary complex, and almost right on the side of the river Helford providing excellent views for the eyes to behold.

        The next pool is the nursery and weaning pools for the common grey seals. You can either be level with the pool, or stand above on a ridge overlooking it's guests. There were many seals in this pool, and it's lovely to watch them go about their frolicking. A large dark male seemed to be sunbathing on the steps, which we all found rather amusing, and another lighter grey female flopped around the poolside staying clear of the others. We found out later about these two characters during the feeding time. The next pool on housed some South African seals, and the pool adjacent from this had the boisterous and vocal sea lions. Again, all these areas could be viewed from ground level or from above on the higher ground. Opposite all these pools was a good sized gathering area for the visitors, with several shelters, picnic tables and the waiting stop for the 'Tour Bus'. On the ridge above the pool were grasslands for more picnicking and play.

        In the middle of this pool arrangement was a modest wooden adventure playground, all in the shape of a pirate ship on soft wood chips, again surrounded by picnic tables. This was all safe for the children and good to let them play for a bit while you take the toll off your feet. The next area however I feel was the best part. In a walled-off small arena, a staff member sits on an artificial rockpool/walerfall and gives entertaining and educational speeches about the work the sanctuary does and the local sea life around Cornwall. I personally found this captivating as did my daughter, and after the speech has ended, guests are invited to have a look first hand in the rock pools in this area, or hold and touch real live sea life, like a starfish or sand-crab. All of my party found this great for us and the children. Rest assured however, the staff are trained well and very knowledgeable, and tell you how to handle the animals with extreme care. No harm is ever afforded to the animals.

        More things are in the sanctuary to interest you too. There is a small penguin pool which you can walk underneath with underwater viewing windows, or walk to the top and watch the feeding, and a souvenir shop and eating area located between the pools overlooking the brilliant view of the river Helford and Cornish countryside. We sat here for a few moments, had a bit of lunch and enjoyed the view for a bit. The hot food sold is the typical hotdogs, chips, burgers etc, of course, but not overpriced surprisingly, and of good quality too. After a quick bite to eat, we made our way back to the nursery pool where feeding time had begun for the seals. At this point, the sanctuary was quite busy and the pool was surrounded by visitors. The staff came in with good friendly chatter on the tannoy, telling you about the various seals in the pool and some of their history. We were saddened to discover that the dark male who we saw sunbathing was actually brain-damaged, having bashed his head against some rocks on a local beach. The sanctuary had found him and brought him back to health, but he could never return to the wild due to his new mannerisms. The grey female we saw before, we were told that she must be the most unsociable seal in the northern hemisphere, never interacting with the others at all, and actually coming up to the feeding bucket on the poolside instead of waiting for the fish in the water. It was all entertaining and heartwarming, and such a wholesome experience too. We left shortly afterwards, where at the end we were greeted buy another shop on the exit, and my daughters were awarded with medals to remind them of their experience.


        Now, apart from the shameless amount of shops selling gifts associated with the seal theme, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a nice place to visit indeed. The animals are the real stars of course, and it's great to see them happy, healthy and being cared for in the best way. On the whole, it's a great place to see some lovely animals, the complex it kept clean and tidy, the staff are friendly and with top class views of the Cornish countryside it's all good. All the mod-cons needed for a family trip are present also. Despite the steep-ish entry fee, it's worth it for a nice day out. Oh, and by the way, my daughter found and answered all off the questions and got a gold medal from the staff at the exit. The beaming smile was on her face for the rest of the day.

        For information on the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, visit - http://www.sealsanctuary.co.uk/corn1.htm​l

        Thanks for Reading. © Novabug


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          16.04.2011 11:49
          Very helpful



          A brilliant cause

          We have just returned home from a short break in Cornwall. When we were planning our visit we knew we wanted to go to The National Seal Sanctuary. Me and my partner have visited twice before but this time we took his daughter and my niece with us and knew they would enjoy the experience. Even better, because we all have Merlin Annual Passes admission for us was free so it seemed like a good idea to visit, especially as we were only staying 20 minutes down the road.

          ==Where is it?==

          The Seal Sanctuary is located in Gweek, near Helston in Cornwall. Gweek is a small village so I imagine getting there using public transport would require some planning but if you are driving it is easy to get to from Helston. Gweek is well signposted and once you get to Gweek there are plenty of brown signs telling you which direction it is so it really is quite simple to find. If you are using a sat nav the postcode you need is TR12 6UG.

          ==Arriving at the Sanctuary==

          The Seal Sanctuary has a large car park which is on a steep slope (please check your handbrake before leaving the car!) We arrived at about 9:50am and there was only us and another family waiting for it to open however we have often seen the car park quite busy but never full.

          When we got out of the car we went to get our admission to the park. We showed the member of staff our passes and she said they were fine and offered us a guide book at the reduced rate of £2 (I think they are usually £4) I declined because we already have 2 and she said that was fine and then gave us a list of feeding times etc. I thought she was very polite and helpful and not at all pushy.

          The sanctuary is actually a short walk away from the admissions and it is up a slope. However, a bus does run up and down the hill all day (starting at 10:30) for those who don't want to or are unable to walk. We decided to walk otherwise we would have been waiting for the bus for half an hour and we have always walked before anyway. It took us less than 5 minutes to reach the beginning of the sanctuary so it really doesn't take long.

          ==The Sanctuary==

          The first thing you reach when you get to the top of the hill is the seal hospital for any poorly seals they may have. Thankfully none of the seals were ill on the day of our visit so this was empty however last time me and my partner visited there were 2 baby seals in there who had just been rescued. They were very cute and it was great to see them up close. Next to the hospital there are also toilets and a kiosk but the kiosk has not once been open in any of my 3 visits here. I believe these are the only toilets in the actual sanctuary itself (there are some at the admissions) so it is worth making a toilet stop here before you go down, especially if you have young children.

          You then walk down a steep hill and will reach the Common Seal pool. There are usually only two seals in here but this time there were 3. They were very playful and active and the kids really enjoyed watching them swim about for ten minutes. The pool is of a good size and it has glass all around it so younger children can see easily without being lifted up.

          Next is the main pool where there were 13 seals during our most recent visit. This is the most we have ever seen in this pool but there is usually around 10 in here so plenty to see and this is the pool that we always spend the most time at. You can view the pool from ground level or go down some steps and you can see the seals in the water through various viewing windows. It is great to watch them swimming and because there are so many currently in there you are guaranteed to be entertained for a good ten minutes. In the building where you can look at the seals swimming there is also information about whaling and during our last visit children could make a badge if they wanted to (the first one was free and additional badges were something like 50p so good value).

          We watched the seals being fed in the main pool as we always do and this was very entertaining and interesting. The keepers begin by telling the audience a little bit about various seals and it is wonderful to learn about their characters and also how they ended up being at the sanctuary.

          Next to the main pool there are currently two African Fur Seals called Andy and Chaff who are father and son. They were having their pool cleaned out during our visit and they were hilarious to watch. One was right up next to the glass and doing a little dance which of course the kids (and partner!) found hilarious.

          Next are the penguins who as usual are very entertaining. You can view them both inside and out. Inside there are windows set back into the walls so you can literally touch the penguins swimming past the window. My niece thought this was great fun and spent ages watching them go round.

          The penguins are next to the rock pool which has various creatures in it such as crabs, starfish and fish. When we arrived a keeper was just bringing out various things in tanks so people could have a closer look. My niece stroked a starfish and held a hermit crab which she found really enjoyable.

          You then meet a sort of market square where there is places to get food and drink, a shop and a playpark. The playpark is like a pirate ship and was quite good, it looked very well looked after.

          You then have a 350m walk to visit the otters if you wish to. I would recommend going to see the otters as they are very funny and interesting and last time we were there one of them was holding my partners finger through the wire which was adorable! However, this visit they were curled up together in their house having a snooze!

          After you have visited the otters you have to walk past it all again in order to get back so we always have a second look!

          ==Eating and Shopping==

          There are a few kiosks dotted about the place to buy food and drink from, we didn't eat at these as we were only at the park for a couple of hours but the prices seemed about average for this type of place.

          There is a gift shop in the market place which sells various bits and bobs and there is also one right back at the beginning which is the one we always visit. Prices seem average, fridge magnets are £2, small notebooks are £2, small seal teddies are £5.

          ==Our opinion of the Sanctuary==

          We enjoyed our visit to the Sanctuary but we only spent an hour and three quarters here. We could have probably dragged the visit out another half hour and if we had stayed for lunch we could have probably stretched our visit to 3 hours but for us we had seen it all and were all happy to leave after an hour and three quarters.

          The seals all seem very relaxed and happy in their environment. The pools seem of a generous size and they are all clean and in a good condition. The keepers all seem very fond of each seal and know them all personally which makes me feel as though they really care about each seal as an individual.

          We love the seal sanctuary and we visit every time we go to Cornwall as it is a lovely way to spend a morning or an afternoon. Everyone else at the Sanctuary seemed to be enjoying their visit too including toddlers, teenagers and pensioners so it really does seem to appeal to everyone!

          ==A little bit about the Sanctuary==

          The Sanctuary is a Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release centre meaning therefore that if they resuce a seal, they will do their best to return it back into the wild. However, there are of course some seals who would not survive out in the wild and these seals become residents of the Sanctuary. They rescue around 40 seals every season.

          The Sanctuary opened in 1958 when a man rescued a seal washed up on a beach and took it home to care for it. The Sanctuary moved to its current location in 1975.

          ==Additional Information==

          Current admission prices are around £13 for adults, and £8 for children. However, please check in advance before visiting as these are ballpark figures as we did not pay to get in. A family ticket was around £40. Do look out for vouchers before you go as at our holiday park they were offering a family ticket for something like £25 if you bought it in advance. Reduced price tickets are also available from the website.

          The Sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas Day from 10am. Closing times vary throughout the year but usually are around 5 or 6pm.

          Dogs are allowed in the Sanctuary as long as they are on a lead and are well behaved.

          Adoptions are available for a reasonable price (£50 for adults and £30 for child seals).

          For more information visit http://www.sealsanctuary.co.uk/ or telephone 0871 423 2110.


          A wonderful place to visit but very expensive for just a couple of hours entertainment. However, all of the proceeds from admission goes to a very good cause and its great to see what is being done to help to seals. Recommended.


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            10.11.2009 15:49



            You'll never regret a visit to the most brilliant thing to do in Conrwall!

            We have been going to the Sanctuary for years and have enjoyed every second of it! There is just sooo much to do!! Firstly, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful destination. The Sanctuary is set with a backdrop of the gorgeous Helford estuary in the quaint little village of Gweek, just outside of Helston. Theres the seal hospital (this is where the seal pups will be in winter), then several pools which are home to loads of different types of seals. Theres a seal rescue academy where one of the staff will teach you what they do when they rescue a pup and you get a chance to have a go as well. Theres the most wonderful underwater viewing areas - where you can watch the seals swimming towards you underwater!! The kids will sit and watch it for hours!! Then you've got the ginat rock pool which has loads of different types of fish, anemones, sea snails etc and you even get the chance to hold a crab or a starfish! Then you've got the brilliant woodland walk with the nature trail to follow, and two of the cutest otters I've ever seen! My kids have each adopted one and would love to take them home if they could I'm sure!

            You've also got ponies, goats and sheep! And theres a great safari bus that kids just love. I'd recommend seeing the talks at feeding times, their so informative.

            We visit at least 4 times a year with the kids and wouldn't change it for the world!


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            21.09.2009 15:09
            Very helpful



            Great place to see seals in the sun and have a picnic

            We were in Cornwall for a week for a wedding and because it was a glorious day, and we were out and about in the car, decided to got to the Seal sanctuary at Gweek near Helston.
            And we were glad we did. It was great.

            We actually found the place itself a little confusing to find. Although there are good directions, you're led through what seems to be a bungalow housing estate and you do wonder if someone has messed with the signs...don't worry, this is the right direction!!
            There are plenty of car park spaces, although some of them are on a grassy slope and are a bit precarious!

            You enter the seal sanctuary through a rather cramped entrance...more than 10 people queuing to get in and you find yourself out the door! We were quite surprised by the entrance fee and felt it to be a little extortionate at £12.95 per adult. To be fair, they were doing a 'special promotion' whereby you could pay £15 for an annual card which gave you unlimited access to all seal sanctuaries and sea life centres [I think] and 20% off food etc. We actually had gone to Morrisons the day before and picked up a leaflet about Cornwall which had numerous vouchers in and one for £4 per off per adult admission price, which was good. I actually found out afterwards that if you go to the seal sanctuary website you download a 2 for 1 voucher [valid until 21/12/09] so please do so, otherwise it's really expensive!

            The park itself is relatively small and compact. There is a relatively short uphill walk to the pools or you can be driven there by a 'train' of sorts which is nice. We took the train there and walked back, because we didn't want to miss the Otter feeding session. When you enter you will be given a feeding timetable and these are worth going to. The otter feeding was good, but be aware there is quite a walk to the otters and you will want to leave enough time to get there. Also, there is quite a high glass screen in front of the otters pen and it's difficult to see over this; I'm 5 ft 3 and was standing on tiptoe as the screen was quite smeary and you couln't see all that much through it.

            The seal pools themselves are well organised and there are plenty of seals and sealions to see, though there were no babies when we went as it was the wrong season. The seals seem very used to having their photographs taken, so you're guaranteed to see them, they're not shy!
            The feeding and talks are very good as well. Not only are they informative but you can participate! I and several others got the opportunity to 'chuck a fish' over at the seals; luckily you get to wear a rubber glove! But that was fantastic, and it's worth putting your hand up for.

            For lunch we had a pasty and a drink at one of the many picnic tables. I thought the pasty was reasonably priced and as it was homemade [you can tell the difference] tasted great. The bottles of pop were 2 for £2 which again I thought was reasonably priced given we were at an 'attraction'.

            Not only were the seals great but so was the location. Overlooking Helston river, the views were fantastic and we couldn't have asked for better weather...and it is a place to go when the weather is good.
            I would recommend this as a place for anyone to visit, but perhaps not for the whole day. I would wait until you get a good day though. And please visit the website to get your 2 for 1!!!


            and the day before we saw 3 wild seals in Newquay harbour which was altogether a brilliant experience!!!


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              11.09.2009 18:55
              Very helpful



              Good place to visit for half a day

              Today we went to the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek near Helston, in Cornwall. It's in a small village and there are plenty of brown signs directing you there. When you get there, there is a free car park. There were plenty of spaces but if you visited on a weekend or in the school holidays I expect it would be alot busier.

              You enter the sanctuary through a small building where you pay your admission. Currently adults are charged £12.95, Children and senior citizens are charged slightly less but I can't remember exactly how much. It is worth picking up a leaflet before you go as these can contain deals. At the moment on the leaflet you get 2 adults and 2 children for £22.

              The actual sanctuary is about a 10 minute walk up a gradual hill but you can get a safari bus to the top. When you first reach the top there is the toilets and a refreshment kiosk which was closed at the time of our visit. The toilets were pretty small but there was no queuing and they were very clean.

              Next to these was the Seal Hospital which didn't have any seals in on our visit. Inside there was a film playing about a seal that they had rescued and also machines that messure your heart rate and your body weight, these cost 20p each.

              You then walk down a steep hill and come to the seals. The first two are very friendly and quite small and we watched them for about ten minutes because they were playful and quite entertaining. We then rushed off to what must have been the main pool. There are 4 larger seals in here 2 black in colour and 2 black and white. I especially thought the black and white ones were beautiful because of their markings. They were doing a talk there at the time we arrived and thats why we rushed over. We learned alot more about the history of the seals including one of them is brain damaged because he was smashed against rocks as a pup. You get a good close up view of all the seals in this pool because they come out of the water alot and are very close to the fence. Joined onto this pool are 4 nursery pools. You can go into a building and get an under water view of these seals. This was really interesting and great fun.

              Next to this pool was 2 more pools of seals. These again were larger seals. There are talks about these at particular times of the day. We didn't spend that long looking at these pools because most of the time the seals were underwater and you couldn't see them very well. However, on the way back through we noticed that there was a seperate section where you can view them underwater, this was much clearer than the first underwater viewpoint and we really enjoyed watching them. Next to these pools was a small gift shop and refreshment stand. The refreshment stand was very expensive and they were charging £3 for orange juice! The gift shop had a variety of stock including branded sea life goods and cuddly toys. There was also a play park for children.

              Next to this was a hut which contained wildlife that could be found in a rock pool. This had a variety of things in it including limpets, hermit crabs, starfish, sea aneminies, crabs and a green edible crab. We found the green crab very interesting as we had never seen one before.

              You then could go and see the otters. This was a 300 metre walk through some woodland. There were 2 otters here who were easy to see. They were called Starsky and Hutch and were quite small. They weren't up to much when we visited but I expect they can be very entertaining at times.

              You then walk back through the park and have the opportunity to look around again or leave the park. We had another look, especailly in the main pool and then walked back to reception. There was a slightly larger gift shop here which stocked a number of things including cuddly toys, sweets and glass seal ornaments.

              Our visit to the seal sanctuary took about 2 hours. For the price we paid, I think there wasn't a lot in the park. I imagine most of the admission fee's go on the seals however I think there could have been more to do on the park as £12.95 each for a 2 hour visit is quite expensive. The seals all looked happy in their environments however a few of their pools looked quite small, but I do not know how deep the pools were so cannot comment on this.

              We did enjoy our afternoon at the seal sanctuary and we would probably go again, but only if we had discount vouchers as it was expensive. The staff were all friendly and polite and I really enjoyed the talks they gave about the seals. I would recommend this park for a half day visit as it was good fun.


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                13.10.2008 13:57
                Very helpful



                great to visit for a couple of hours, makes you appreciate life in the sea

                we visit gweek seal sanctuary every year when we go to cornwall, although most of it is still the same apart from the new seal pups that they have rescued it is a great place to visit, you will only need a couple of hours for the whole visit but it is amazing to see the seals close up, there are also sea lions & otters to see as well as ponies.
                There is a play area for the kids & a splash pool where there is a member of staff showing you crabs etc that will handle them to show you them clearer.
                The staff have set feeding times at each pool where you get to learn about the seal/sea lion about how they came to be at the sanctuary.
                there is a seal hospital where the new seals are admitted, the seal pups you see in there are gorgeous, but it is heartbreaking to hear there stories smetimes, but often they get released back into the sea.
                there is also a nursery pool where they are getting ready to be relaesed or mixed in with other seals.
                there is a nature trail for the kids & they are also given a special scrath sheet with questions on & they can get the answers as they go around, so the learn something too.
                When you get there there is a bus that can take you down the track to the seals & bring you back up again if you want too, we have used this but i must admit i enjoy the walk down to them as there are some amazing views out to sea.
                My 2 boys are another reason we visit every year, my 4 year old has taken to a sea lion named rocky that is blind & going to cornwall would not be the same for him without our trip to the sanctuary.
                It is well worth the visit once, the seals are breathtaking, untill you have seen one up as close as you do there you will never realise how beautiful & amazing they are & it will make you more aware of there safety in the sea, ie, not leaving your rubbish behind etc as you will see the damage it can do.
                A nd you will go away after your visit knowing you have helped the seals in a way by visiting as the money from your tickets helps them.
                Be prepared for an amazing shop at the exit, oh & there is one half way around now too near the new lagoon where you can go under neath & be below the water level so that you can see the seals swimming around under the water, most of the time they come really close to the glass.


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                30.03.2008 19:47
                Very helpful



                great place to visit!

                The sanctuary in Cornwall is based in Gweek, which is a small place, 45 Minutes from St. Austell. It is well signposted, so easy to find or just type in TR12 6UG into your sat nav ;-) .

                Why is a Sanctuary important?
                the seal sanctuary treats injured seals, baby seals that seem to have been abandoned. They provide awareness of the marine environment as well.
                Every year they rescue and rehabilitate over 30 injured or abandoned seal pups. Not all of them can be released. The adult animals you can see in the Sanctuary are the ones, that wouldn't survive in the wild anymore.

                The sanctuary offers it's visitors to adopt an animal, which helps, giving the animal the best chances of recovery. The adoption cost £30 for children and £50 for adults if you want to adopt one of the animals in the sanctuary (you can choose which one as well). You get a years free entry for that, a Certificate and a gift. If you want to adopt a pup, it only costs £20.

                The layout:
                after you park on a very steep carpark, and buy your ticket for £8.50, you walk for about 10-15 Minutes through woodland. You can take a little train if you want to, but we walked. The first thing you see is the hospital. The new pups are here in 3 different pools, depending on which part of the rehabilitation they go through at the moment. When we went, there was only one pup. It was 18 kg, and should be double that at his age. It looked very, very cute. The notes next to the pool said as well, that he had wounds, but they seem to have healed very well. Next to the hospital are the grey seals. You get information about all Seals on the pool, which is very nice. It was feeding time for the convalescence pool, so we quickly moved on to there. Here you can see different types of seals. It was amazing to see the different sized next to each other. Next to them are the common seals and then the fur seals. These were my favorite, because they were rescued from shows, they did a few tricks for there food, which was very entertaining.
                The latest edition to the Sanctuary was the underwater walkthrough. This only opened the day we went and I really liked it, because you were so much closer to the Seals, never mind the one who farted and pooped straight infront of us...
                There are 2 pools with Californian and Patagonian Sea lions as well.
                There a few nice things for kids as well, like a playarea and the "cornish Coast experience", which is a few rocks with water, sand a few crabs running about. Kids seem to like it though.
                there is a cafe and picnic area as well. Well refreshed, you can continue through another walk through some woodland to the otters. They were just great. I love otters anyway and find them very funny, but these two guys were just so cute and came running towards us with there little pink noses up in the air.
                That is the end of the sanctuary, so you just walk back the way you came. Next to the hospital are some paddocks with Ponies and goats as well. (which can be adopted as well by the way for £25 each)
                It is not a huge place and we only spend 1,5 hours there, but on a nice day with a picnic planned, you could make it a great day out. And the main thing is obviously the good work they are doing. This is definitely worth a visit. The pups are born from August onwards, so that's the busiest time for them, and the best time for you to see the action.
                Have a look at the website as well.
                thanks for reading.


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                  03.08.2002 15:14
                  Very helpful



                  • "steep inclines."

                  Hubby and I have just returned from our usual two-week annual holiday in the beautiful county of Cornwall (known, with justification, as the “Delectable Duchy.”) Since we have been visiting Cornwall for many years now, we have seen quite a number of the many and varied attractions on offer there. But one place we had yet to visit was the Cornish National Seal Sanctuary in the small village of Gweek, near Helston. Now I will be honest here. We had been lucky enough to receive from The Daily Mirror two free adult tickets to the Sanctuary, which was a big saving on the admission price. So one Monday morning we headed for the Sanctuary, arriving just before ten am. There is a good car park at the Sanctuary but just one word of warning, especially for those of you who are a bit unsteady on your pins. The car park is very, very steep and seems to tilt slightly to one side (No…I hadn’t been at the scrumpy!!) You are advised to leave your vehicle in gear and make sure your handbrake is holding. There was already a sizable queue when we arrived at the entrance and more joined behind it. It seemed to us that the Seal Sanctuary was a very popular attraction, especially for children. The Sanctuary rescues sick and injured seals and nurses them back to health in its hospital wing before releasing them back into the sea. In some cases, where the seal’s injuries are such that the animal would no longer be able to fend for itself, the Sanctuary becomes a permanent and safe home. So, all of us patiently queuing visitors were quite eager to get inside and see these cute creatures. Unfortunately, the queue was manned by only one person and moved exceedingly slowly. This poor girl was also required to repeat a mantra to each block of visitors, regarding the times when the seals would be fed and also to warn visitors who needed to “go” to “go” now, as there are no toilets on the main site.
                  Now, I suppose I am a bit touchy on the subject of queues, because as a Post Office manager, I am used to cracks about the length of the queue in the Post Office.But there were other staff milling around, and I would have thought it possible to open another till. In the event, it took us fifteen minutes to pass through the door. The Sanctuary has a number of pools where sick and injured seals are treated. At the time we visited there were no seals in the hospital, the patients were on the mend and had been moved into the convalescence pool. There are also Nursery pools and Resident pools for those seals who have decided to stay on as “guests”. As well as seals, the Sanctuary also has in residence some Californian and Patagonian sea lions. Each pool has a plaque which tells you a little about the seals, their names and how they came to be living at the Sanctuary and what type of seal they are. Some of the seals are too infirm to ever go back into the sea, and at least a couple of them are blind. But they all seem very content! The animal care team staff who were feeding and playing with them clearly adore their charges. I confess to falling in love with Rocky, a blind Californian sea lion who lives with his lady friend Pepper.One of the staff told us that although Rocky cannot see Pepper he knows when she has moved away from him and cries softly until she has come back to him. Aah! Feeding time is a lot of fun and visitors are advised when the next feeding time will take place. The seals have obviously become used to pleasing the crowds and some are little scene-stealers. Watch out for Magnus, whose party trick is to splash the water while catching fish. Stand back, folks! One of the larger pools has an underground viewing tunnel where visitors can get a good look at the seals as they swim past. You just walk through a small tunnel where there are windows through which you can view the seals. One small problem is that the w
                  ater is sometimes quite murky and the seals appear as grey shadows. There are notices apologising for this. The pools are cleaned regularly, we were told, but the water used to refill them is sometimes not as clear as it could be. Incidentally, visitors are not able to touch the seals as there are fences around all the pools. Notices also warn that some of the residents may bite. At peak times you may have to wait for someone to move away so that you can get a look at the seals. Try to stand on the raised path above the pools for a better view. A new feature at the Sanctuary is Otter Creek, a home set up for the Sanctuary’s latest residents, two Asian Short Clawed otters named Bamboo and Thai.Hubby and I followed a group of very excited children along the woodland walk towards Otter Creek.The enclosure comprises a wooden lodge for the otters to shelter, with a viewing window and a run for them to play in. Sadly, on the day of our visit, Bamboo and Thai seemed to be out, as no amount of coaxing and cajoling from the children produced an otter. I can’t be sure whether the otters had yet arrived, but the signs led visitors to believe that they were there. A rather cheeky grey squirrel did his best to amuse us, but it was a bit of a disappointment not to see the otters. Also on site is a small playground for younger children, which filled up quickly while grateful parents rested their legs. There is close by a gift shop selling a fair selection of souvenirs, many of them seal-related, such as cuddly seal pups, beany seals, seal t-shirts, pens, pencils, sweets, mugs, snow globes etc. The gifts are not cheap, but you can get a t-shirt for £7.99.There is also a small selection of pocket-money gifts such as note pads, erasers, bookmarks and rulers.Nearby is a small cafe selling soft drinks,ice creams and snacks. On our way out, we decided to catch the land train which runs around the site. No extra charge, just climb aboard, i
                  t’s a bit of a pull up that hill! Now, you will want to know the admission charges to the Seal Sanctuary? Adults: £7.50 Seniors: £5.50 Children (4-14 yrs): £4.50 Under 4’s: Free Students: £5.00 Disabled: £2.50 Family tickets are also available. 2 Adults & 1 Child: £18.00 2 Adults & 2 Children: £22.00 2 Adults & 3 Children: £25.00 Opening times are: Summer : 9 am -5pm Winter : 9am-4pm. How to get there. Follow the signs for Helston and look out for signs for Gweek.There is a map on the Sanctuary’s website at www.sealsanctuary.co.uk The address is: National Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, nr Helston, Cornwall, TR12 6UG. The next bit is the personal opinion of Hubby and I, and has no reflection on the work done at the Seal Sanctuary or the obvious dedication of the staff. Seals have a big “aah” factor and none more so that sick or injured seals. For that reason the Sanctuary is a big attraction for kiddies in particular and also for true animal lovers. Your ticket price is a big help towards the costs of treating and caring for the sick and maimed seals and sea lions and you may consider it money well spent. We thought that the admission price was a bit steep. Although the adverts for the Sanctuary state that your ticket “includes the full use of all facilities all day”, to be honest, apart from the kiddies playground and land train, there was not much else in the way of “facilities.”Our visit lasted a scant hour and a half, after which time we had seen everything, so we did not honestly feel that we had had value for money. There are other attractions in Cornwall priced similarly, but where there is more to see and do. However, do not let me put you off visiting the Seal Sanctuary.They do sterling work there and they rely on visitors. But I would be being less than honest in this review if I were to say t
                  hat you get value for your admission charge. But then again, that is just our opinion. If you do visit the Seal Sanctuary we hope you enjoy your day! ©Suzan Aug 2002.


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                    28.11.2001 11:25
                    Very helpful



                    O.K You lot, here's the deal, my last 3 ops haven't quite hit the mark and that's because I was so aware of the complaints I'd been getting that I changed !! What into you say, you're no butterfly ?? Well no, harmonyk can confirm that !!! No, I became a caring sharing, listening person. Jennifer3002 has just erupted, and her computer screen is covered with cornflakes right now !! O.K deal is, I'm me, no holds barred, and you all give me another Crown ??? Good, deal, did I ever tell you I've got 8 Crowns, oh blimey, I better not start that lark had I ?? Before I give you some Very Useful information on adopting a seal I'll tell you a little joke eh !! Yes, that's it, op is getting into the swing now. Fine, well I've not been name dropping the super Angied0 much lately, and her reads have been dropping because of this you naughty people, so I went into a pub with her. Now, I know this would be very unusual for me and harmonyk is going to go bonkers at the end of this op, but this is Dooyoo. Anyway, we were sitting discussing new ops, when I said to the barman "Have you heard the joke about the blonde ?". The barman said " No, I haven't sir, but I must say that I am blonde, 6 foot 6 inches tall, and very fit : my wife there is also blonde and an ex-champion WWF wrestler: over there is my brother who is also blonde and an ex-black belt judo champion: sitting behind you is my sister who is also blonde and weighs 16 stone and the other barman is her husband who is also blonde and quite a size, so carry on with the joke sir !!" . I replied "Oh, I don't think I'll tell you the joke if I've got to repeat it 5 times ". Shall I start the op, o.k. I'm going to tell you about the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek near Helston in Cornwall. There is a website at www.sealsanctuary.co.uk if you want to go away for a while as I ramble on. First dear readers I must tell you how
                    I got into Cornwall, cos Smark1985 has been bothered about how I could have achieved this and avoided his barricades. Well, I'll tell you, basically I'll go another route next time anyway. Actually I got to Cornwall via France !! Well, you see, before the lovely harmonyk stopped me smoking, I needed the duty paid cigs and lagers so I hopped over there on the Friday night, filled the car up, and then stayed near Folkestone in Kent for the night !! In the morning, I kept to the A259 coast road, and nearer Southampton I got on to the M27 motorway and speeded up a bit. Entering Devon, I mingled with the traffic in Exeter until I reached the A30, and then put the wheelie in on the car and flew. I did pass a speed camera at 85 mph with my foot on the brakes as well. See Smarky, that's how it's done !! Now, where was I ??? Right, seal sanctuary. The National Seal Sanctuary is set on the picturesque reaches of the Helford Estuary. It is a home for some fascinating members of the marine worlds creatures. The National Seal sanctuary has welcomed over 5 million visitors over the last 25 years of its existence. This is Europe's leading marine animal rescue centre and cares for dozens of sick, injured and orphaned seals every year. The basic admission price is £6.50 for adults £4.25 for children, but many discounts can be obtained on this, for example I had a leaflet offering £1 per person. The sanctuary is open from 09.00 to 17.00 most of the year, 16.00 in winter. Does ANDREWSJK know about seals you say, keeps on at Sue26 about sheep, but seals ??? Listen, seals are born between September and December, they mate 12 monthly, and the gestation period is 9 months. When the baby is born it is approx 30 lbs in weight and 3 feet in length. An adult seal weighs approx. 700 lbs and is 7 to 8 foot long. As a true mammal it can live out of water, but can stay under water for up to 30 minutes. A seal moults every spring. An adult seal eats 10 to 1
                    4 lbs. of fish a day. It has two internal ears and a baby seal is born with teeth, and with a white creamy coat which it loses at three weeks of age. It also has five digits with long nails on the front flippers, like hands, and carry the full weight of the seal. The back flippers are large webs with which they swim, and they have a small tail about three inches long. Females are usually light grey and males dark grey. The are mature around seven years of age and have good hearing and sight. They are very intelligent. Baby seals need no water during their stay in the hospital. You were saying about ANDREWSJK not knowing about seals ?? So, layout of the sanctuary. Well, firstly you walk through the shop and bung the sanctuary tons of your hard earned cos you want a plastic model of a seal to go with a rubber model of a kangaroo you got from last years trip to the zoo, and then you step outside into the land train as it a bit hilly and you might as well have a ride as it's free. There are five pools and a hospital, so I'll start with the hospital and the idea. Hospital Was that funny ??? O.K without going into a mammoth history of the Grey Atlantic Seal, let me say that a baby will be separated from it's mum by either being washed away by the tide or the mother may be off finding food while the baby does a runner !!The baby may be washed miles away, and by the time it is washed ashore it will be exhausted, suffering from shock and pneumonia, and this is where the hospital come in. Entering the hospital you see a video of the hospital team going to a beach following a tip-off phone call (???) . They of course have Land Rovers etc to retrieve injured seals. The seals are taken to the hospital, made well over a period of anything from 6 to 12 weeks, marked for tracking purposes, and then released back into the wild. During the breeding season there will be many seals in the hospital, how many did ANDREWSJK see. EEEr, one actually, w
                    ent wrong time of year didn?t I !!! Now, about the five pools ?? FIVE POOLS Stop laughing, I can't help it. There is a residents pool where the older seals are kept. These have some disability which means they will not be returned to the wild. The best time to see the residents, when I went their names were Magnus, Scooby, Anneka and Ming, is at feeding time. Although they may be deaf, blind or whatever, they have great personalities. There is also a rehabilitation pool, a nursery pool and a convalescence pool and there is an underwater observation point which was a bit of fun. One minor criticism I would make however is that at the time of year I went, late September, some of the pools were empty, so chose your date carefully. Listen and remember what ANDREWSJK tells you now. See Aunty Faye fg2001, they do listen to me sometimes !! O.K. even I can count, that was four pools, well the fifth contains something different, sea lions so neer to you. There is Carus, a Patagonian Sea Lion and Rocky, a Californian Sea Lion. Rocky was born in captivity in a facility at Brighton and is now blind. He leads a contented life with Pepper, a female Californian Sea Lion who came over from Cape Cod Aquarium in the USA. There is also an underwater observatory here. Now, feeding time with the Sea Lions is a scream, they run about and swim, chase the fish everywhere and do tricks, must be seen. The pools are being upgraded, but really the money the centre produces is well spent is protecting the species. Now you want to know if ANDREWSJK adopted a seal ?? Well, I'm a very shy person, and as I haven't told harmonyk yet, can I tell you later ?? And for the next in my adoption series, see "Adopt a sheep".......


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                      24.08.2001 21:38
                      Very helpful



                      Last month I was visiting my parents in Cornwall and they also had some relatives staying from Luton. Having relatives to stay is our cue to do touristy things, it is also my Mum’s cue to get out all the freebie vouchers she has been saving from the local newspaper (my family is a great one for offers and discounts, and well basically anything that’s free!). The newspaper was doing a promotion offering free entrance to the Seal Sanctuary (usually £6.50 for adults, £4.25 for children). Well as you can guess, “Free entry – great!” we thought! Ten minutes later we had purchased six more copies of the paper from the newsagent and were all sitting at the kitchen table happily cutting out our vouchers! What is the National Seal Sanctuary? Well this is an attraction which certainly won’t be sued under the trade descriptions act, the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek is exactly what the title suggests, it is a rehabilitation and rescue centre for abandoned and injured seals. The sanctuary is open to the public, providing an opportunity to see the seals and learn about the work which goes on at the sanctuary. The official website gives details of opening times and admission prices (you can buy special family admission tickets which might work out a bit cheaper, there are also concessionary discounts for students etc). Where is it? The centre is situated in the small Cornish village of Gweek, near Helston. This area is in the wonderful Helford Estuary on the Lizard Peninsula. I’m not very good at directions but it’s off the B2391 near RNAS Culdrose. Unfortunately there was no map on the website when I checked, but you could always phone for directions before visiting. The Seal Sanctuary is situated on a hill (with the entrance being at the bottom). It’s about a five/ten minute walk up the hill but there are regular “safari” buses which run
                      up and down (we went up on this and it’s quite a fun way to travel). The History Well it all began a long time ago (1958 to be precise) when a tiny baby seal was washed up on the shore at St Agnes in Cornwall. The seal, who was only a few hours old, was fortunately found by a man named Ken Jones who took the seal back to his garden (not sure if this would be recommended practice now!). Jones then began a small rescue centre for seals using a small pool in St Agnes. Word of the rescue centre soon spread and the pool was no longer big enough. So after a few decades the sanctuary moved to Gweek and the National Seal Sanctuary was born. So what’s at the Seal Sanctuary? The Seal Sanctuary mainly consists of a number of pools (nursery, convalescence, and resident pools) which, yep you’ve guessed it, contain seals. There are placards attached to each of the pools which tell you a bit about the inhabitants and how they came to be there (for example Rocky the Sea Lion was a performing sea lion who was taken in by the sanctuary when he became blind and could no longer perform). The pools aren’t huge and there’s only about 4 seals in each pool. There are also information centres with panels and screens telling you all about seals in general, their natural habitat, physiology and breeding etc. Probably very fascinating and informative but I have to admit my family has never been the most patient when it comes to displays of this kind and has a tendency to skim past them. One of the information centres is known as the Underwater Observatory because it has three big windows that allow you underwater views into the convalescence and nursery pools. A good idea in theory but the natural sediment in the water tends to result in seeing nothing apart from murky green water with the occasional blurry shadow swimming past (I found this strangely relaxing though!). There is also a hospi
                      tal at the Seal Sanctuary, which is where all the baby seals are kept. Unfortunately we didn’t visit during pup season so basically there weren’t any (you would usually need to visit between February and September to see the seal pups). We did time it right, however, for feeding time (this takes place 2 or 3 times a day). Before the feeding takes place (which is great fun, lots of flying fish, noisy seals and splashing) there is an introductory lecture about the seals which was interesting (although be careful where you stand because if you’re on one of the raised banks surrounding the pool you won’t be able to hear much, which means the talk isn’t quite as interesting!). Woodland Walk I noticed that there is also a woodland walk at the centre which unfortunately we didn’t try out. Judging by the map on the information leaflet it didn’t exactly look a long walk (it looked to me like it went round the back of the gift shop, the café and the play area and that was your lot!). It would have been helpful if the leaflet gave some indication as to the distance of the walk and length of time to complete. The Facilities At the Seal Sanctuary you will find all the usual facilities you would expect from a public attraction. There are gift shops (selling the standard fare: postcards, small souvenir gifts, sweets etc), a café and refreshment stands (err also selling the standard fare: light snacks, soft drinks, ice creams and lollies). In the summer months they also have a barbecue stand selling burgers and hotdogs etc. The prices seemed about average. There was also a small play area for children with climbing frames and slides. There are interactive information boards dotted about the place for the children, asking multiple choice questions about seals. A lot of the children also seemed to like the rescued donkeys in some of the small fields at the sanctuary (hadn’t told you
                      about the donkeys had I? Bet you thought it was just seals! Well it isn’t, it’s seals and a few donkeys). One word of caution about the facilities concerns the car park. The car park is situated on a very, and I mean very, steep incline with the spaces very close together. This resulted in our car door accidentally slamming into the car parked next to us when we got out on arrival (yes, unfortunately the owner of the car did happen to be sitting in his car at the time, and yes, he wasn’t too happy!). Getting back into the car when we were ready to leave also resembled something out of Mission Impossible, requiring great stealth and utmost care. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, my family possesses neither of these qualities, so the same thing happened again (just a different car this time!). Is it worth a visit? Okay time to get down to the crucial question, is this place worth visiting? I have to say that I would answer with a rather hesitant “yes”. The Seal Sanctuary is certainly a fascinating place and the seals are just wonderful to watch (even when they’re just sunning themselves and making cute little snoring noises whilst they doze) but I’m not sure how well it measures up as fun day out, particularly when compared to other Cornish attractions such as Flambards. We quite happily spent a few hours at the Seal Sanctuary but I’m not sure it would stretch to a whole day out (even if you did read every single one of those damn information panels!). This was fine because we hadn’t actually paid the entrance fee, but if we had paid I don’t think it would have seemed very good value for money (£6.50 seems rather steep). I’m in two minds about my last point because I am aware that the money generated from entrance fees goes towards running the sanctuary, which in itself a wonderful cause.


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