British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2013-08-16 09:40:02

Mum walks 300 miles for Cornish Seals!

On Thursday 15th August, Mum of two, Jes Hirons finished an incredible journey around the coast of Cornwall after walking over 300 miles in three weeks. On the last three mile leg of the trek, Jes was joined by her two children, Oliver and Elizabeth. Jes set out to circumnavigate the entire Cornish coastline to raise money for four organisations that are working towards the conservation of one of Cornwall’s most iconic animals, the grey seal.

Jes started her challenging walk on the border in north Cornwall and walked right around the coast, finishing on the border with Devon. Because of the numerous hills and valleys Jes encountered on the way, she climbed a total of 18,000 metres. That’s the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest - twice!

Jes has a particular interest in grey seals: “I’m a volunteer for Cornwall Seal Group (CSG) which does photo-ID research on seals, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which rescues sick or abandoned seal pups and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Strandings Network, which records all stranded marine animals around our coast. I also help out at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and the Helford Marine Conservation Group and I love what I do.”

“Most people aren’t aware that the UK is home to around 40% of the global population of grey seals, of which 1% is found around Cornwall.” Jes continues, “They are one of the rarest seal species in the world, as rare as red squirrels, yet seals face all sorts of threats like entanglement in rubbish and fishing gear. Some spend their lives with netting caught permanently around their necks, which causes horrible injures like gaping open wounds. Many others are badly affected by pollution, over-fishing or human disturbance from boats and kayakers at their haul out sites. I’m raising money for these groups because they work every day of the year to help protect, rescue, rehab and research the seals, helping to ensure a brighter future for the species.”

Jes trained hard before she set out but says that despite all her planning, nothing could have prepared her for the real thing. “It’s been really hard at times,” she says, “and it was as much of a mental challenge to keep going as it is was a physical one, but when I was feeling really demotivated, I would just think of all the challenges facing our marine wildlife, including seals.” Jes is a determined person and despite experiencing problems with her leg, she carried on, sometimes walking more than 20 miles a day to her next destination on the route.

She adds: “I really hope that my achievement will help not only raise much needed funds but also public awareness. Walking around our beautiful Cornish coastline has reaffirmed for me just how lucky we are and how important it is for us to protect our marine creatures.”

Jan Loveridge, of Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Strandings Network, explains why the research work the groups do and Jes’ support for it is so important: “We're really grateful to Jes for helping to raise funds for our seal research. We get so many seals stranding in Cornwall. Last year alone our team of volunteers - including Jes - recorded 75 dead seals, and there's so much we need to learn about their lives and what causes them to die.”

“We know they're affected by what we humans do around them, not just through disturbance that could cause mothers to be separated from their pups, for example, but also from our careless use of the sea which, after all, is their home. From recording all the seals that wash up we've seen it all over the years: seals hit by boats, seals with hooks in their mouths, others with horrific wounds around their necks from entanglement in fishing nets or from plastic debris. We're hoping to have more seals examined by a veterinary pathologist so that we really understand the threats they face and can press for their protection. We're also doing some research into diet and seal genetics, and Jes' efforts will help to fund this important research. We can't thank her enough for her amazing effort.”

Dave Jarvis of BDMLR is also impressed by Jes’ dedication: “What Jes has achieved really is quite a remarkable feat of endurance. Over the past few months she has gone about organising her adventure, made her arrangements and trained for the event, whilst at the same time volunteering for the organisations concerned and then fitting in her family as well. When she first spoke about what she was hoping to do I thought that she was mad. Now I know she is!”

Sue Sayer, from Cornwall Seal Group, adds: “Jes is as passionate as I am about seals and so it has been a privilege working with her over the last two years. Jes runs CSG’s sightings database and has been instrumental in increasing the number of seal sightings reported to CSG from around the southwest. She has helped me to identify individual seals particularly from the Isles of Scilly, the Fal and the Lizard. Jes has used her knowledge of individual seals as motivation for her walk – when her leg, knee and feet hurt, she decided this was not as bad as a seal entangled or injured for life by storm damaged or discarded net.”

Sue adds: “I always knew Jes was an amazing person and now I know she is a very determined, amazing person, whom I could not admire more. The seals are lucky to have Jes on their side and fighting their corner!”

Dan Jarvis, Animal Care Assistant at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, said: “Everyone who meets Jes comments on how enthusiastic and passionate she is about marine conservation and her latest efforts really highlight the kind of person she is. All of us here at the Sanctuary are proud of her achievement and appreciate what she has done and it also shows how much difference one person can make for so many causes.”

Jes set up her own website about her journey and is hoping that people will still make donations to this important cause. To find out more simply visit Trek Cornwall 2013 at:




Editors’ Notes

Cornwall Seal Group

This group monitors seals around the coast of Cornwall and Devon and identifies individuals from their unique fur patterns. Volunteers record sightings and take photos to help better understand the species and their movements around the Celtic Sea, including Wales, Ireland and France. Understanding how seals utilise their habitat helps CSG to give seals a voice in legislative and planning consultations and informs seal conservation efforts.

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British Divers Marine Life Rescue

BDMLR trains volunteers in the rescue of seal pups that are malnourished, injured or separated from their mothers. They work closely with specialist rehabilitation facilities to ensure the long term care and eventual return to the wild of rescued seals. The charity also rescues live-stranded cetaceans and turtles.

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