Newest Review: ... finding a tourist information place to get a leaflet about the Sanctuary or a book containing lots of local attractions as this will g... more
Gets my Seal of Approval...
National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)
Member Name: Novabug
National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)
Advantages: Lovely Animals, nice clean surroundings, educational and interesting.
Disadvantages: Some seal pools are a little ropey, Quite expensive without discounts. 'Bus' is too small.
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~~
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
Summary: Recommended with my seal of quality.