Now although the camp site was only about 20 miles from Donna Nook as the crow flies my van unfortunately didn't have wings and there was no truly direct way of getting from one to the other, so my route took me north east first then back in a southerly direction, most of which was along very winding roads and which added several miles to the journey. At one point it seemed as though someone was moving my destination further and further away and I didn't think I would ever get there, but then I passed the entrance to the site I'd stayed on four years before and knew I hadn't much further to go; and finally, an hour after leaving the camp site, I arrived at the car park at Donna Nook. Unfortunately though it was full, such is the popularity of the place, so I drove straight round and out again and went to the overflow car park further along the lane where there was plenty of room and a catering van in one corner. Parked up in a nice sunny spot I made the dogs comfortable under their duvet then put on my final layers of clothes, which in total added up to - 3 pairs of long socks, 2 pairs of leggings, 2 pairs of tracksuit bottoms, long-sleeved t-shirt, short-sleeved t-shirt, cycling top, padded jacket, motorbike jacket, waterproof jacket and overtrousers, 2 pairs of gloves and wellies. And if that lot didn't keep me warm and dry then nothing would - I probably looked a bit like Michelin Man but I didn't care, I was on a mission!
As it turned out I didn't really need all those layers after all; when I got to the place where I would be able to go down onto the beach, at the far end of the protected area, I found it closed off with barriers and several notices prohibiting access - it looked like Expedition Seal was scuppered before it had even started. Disappointed but curious I went to find a seal warden to ask why the beach access had been blocked and he told me that it wasn't just a handful of serious photographers who went out there like it used to be, but sometimes whole coachloads of people on organised trips would turn up and there could be as many as three hundred people out on the sand flats at any one time. This was having a detrimental affect on the seals and between fifty and sixty pups were dying each season because of human interference; and if the young ones kept dying the adults would stop coming to the area and eventually there would be no seal colony left. Put like that it was a no-brainer - to protect the seals the public had to be kept off the beach, and though I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to get any truly wild shots I fully understood and respected the decision which had been made - and I could still get plenty of photos from behind the fence.
Unfortunately though, there was one big drawback to staying behind the fence - dozens of other people were there too and several times I would just get a photo lined up then two or three people would stand next to me, casting a large shadow, or someone would stand completely in my way and ruin the shot. It took plenty of patience and over an hour of wandering up and down before I was satisfied that I'd got all the shots I could - and all I can say is thank goodness for a good zoom lens! Many of the seal pups seem to spend an inordinate amount of time lying on their backs, which gives them the cute look - or maybe the world looks better viewed from upside down - and one baby turned out to be a real poser. He was lying not far from the fence with his nose on his paws but as I pointed the camera he lifted himself up and sat perfectly still while I took several shots of him. Bless him - if I could have given him a treat for being so good then I would have done. I took almost a hundred photos altogether and only had to discard a handful; unfortunately I don't have the web space to put them all on here and it would get boring anyway, so I've chosen the following few as some of my favourites.
With my photography finished I made my way back to the van and took Sophie and Sugar for a walk right round the car park - which was actually a large farmer's field set aside for the purpose - then after stripping off a couple of layers of unwanted clothing I went across to the nearby catering wagon and got myself a cheeseburger and a coffee. They weren't a patch on what I get from Pete's burger bar on Anglesey but they filled a hole and buying the coffee saved me from making my own. Then it was time to head back to the camp site but with a slight detour; along the lane leading to Donna Nook was a sign for The Ark animal sanctuary, and although I didn't know anything about it, or even if it was open to the public, I decided to drive along and check it out. When I got there I found it was open so I left the van in the small parking area and went to have a look round. It wasn't a big place so fifteen minutes was all it took to see everything, but they had quite a range of pets looking for homes and I fell instantly in love with four adorable tiny kittens and a scruffy little blind dog. It's a good thing I live too far away for a home check or I would have the lot!
Back on the road again I decided to go back to the camp site by a different route, so headed south towards Mablethorpe then turned off in the direction of Louth and Market Rasen. Unfortunately though I was heading west and the sun by then was getting low in the sky and shining directly in my eyes - not a good idea when the lane I was driving along passed through a vast expanse of open fields and was narrow and winding with deep unfenced ditches on both sides; my sun visor didn't help much either. Thankfully I reached the outskirts of Louth without any mishaps - though I did pass a car which had gone off the road at some time and landed on its side in the ditch - and once I reached the main A road to Market Rasen the rest of the journey was fine.
The daylight had all but disappeared by the time I got back to the camp site so I fed the dogs and took them for a quick circuit of the lake while I could see without needing my lantern then I put the heater on in the tent and settled in for the evening. With my camping companions gone, and no-one in any of the nearby caravans, I had the place to myself and there was no noise apart from a few hoots from an owl in a tree across the lake and the rumble of the occasional goods train passing on the nearby track. With very little of interest on the tv I spent most of the evening reading my book and playing games on my DS, then as it got later I took the dogs for their bedtime walk, made a final brew and got into my own bed. It had been a good day, and although I'd been disappointed at not being able to complete Expedition Seal as I'd wanted to I'd still got some good photos and I couldn't wait to download them to my pc when I got home.