Conservationist's verdict on 'dogs on leads' rule at popular beach

New rules around dogs on parts of Holkham beach

New rules around dogs on parts of Holkham beach were introduced at the start of April. Inset: Jake Fiennes, director of the Holkham Nature Reserve. - Credit: Denise Bradley / Getty Images

New rules requiring dogs to be kept on leads on parts of one of Norfolk's most popular beaches have so far proven a success, according to a conservationist.

Jake Fiennes, Holkham National Nature Reserve director, said virtually everyone he had spoken to about the scheme had supported it.

The new dog zones at Holkham and Wells beaches. 

The new dog zones at Holkham and Wells beaches. - Credit: Supplied by Holkham National Nature Reserve

Mr Fiennes said: "You can't please all of the people all of the time but I think a significant majority have understood exactly why this has been put in place. The vast majority of dog owners are hugely responsible and I think this has highlighted that."

Under the rules, dogs must be kept on leads on a 90-hectare section of beach around Holkham Gap between April 1 and August 31, and in those months dog owners are advised to keep pets on leads in the 20 hectare area called Gun Hill on the beach's western edge.

Under new rules, dogs must be kept on leads at Holkham Gap between April 1 and August 31.

Under new rules, dogs must be kept on leads at Holkham Gap between April 1 and August 31. - Credit: Supplied by Holkham National Nature Reserve

An area at Wells beach where dogs were already banned has been extended northwards to include a seal haul-out area - increasing the exclusion zone from four hectares to six.

Mr Fiennes said there were around 300,000 dog visits per year on Holkham beach, and in one hour on a weekend earlier in May 170 dogs walked onto the beach with their owners. 

Jake Fiennes, director of the Holkham Nature Reserve

Jake Fiennes, director of the Holkham Nature Reserve. - Credit: Denise Bradley

He said he understood that while not everyone was happy with the new rules, Holkham's increasing popularity made them necessary in order to protect the environment.

Mr Fiennes said: "I've only had two emails saying 'I've been coming here for 40 years, why is my dog causing any harm?' But in 40 years, and particularly in the last 10 years, the level of footfall on Holkham beach has increased significantly.

Ringed plover nests are especially vulnerable to dogs

The new rules around dogs at Holkham beach are designed to protect birds that nest on the shore, such as little ringed plovers. Picture: Steve Bond - Credit: Steve Bond

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"We can look at the population of shore birds like ringed plovers - there were 50 pairs on the Holkham coast line 40 years ago, and now we're down to about 20 pairs, so that's a 60pc decline."

Mr Fiennes said the 2021 nesting season for ringed plovers had already got off to a shaky start, as their first attempt to nest had been washed out by high tides and northerly winds. But they have since re-nested, and little terns were also about to start their nesting season. 

The welcome is set to be a little warmer for visitors to the little tern colony at Winterton this ye

The welcome is set to be a little warmer for visitors to the little tern colony at Winterton this year thanks to a new 'geodome'.An appeal has been launched for volunteers to help keep a watchful eye. - Credit: Archant

The reserve's total area accessible to the public, including pinewoods and sand dunes, is more than 650 hectares.