On the road again…

Or, more accurately, on the sand and mud of Breckland again. It was our first training walk for Dovestep 3, and we were keen to kick things off to a good start. We’d done this walk before, Jonny and myself. It’s a superb tour through all that’s good about the Brecks -grass heath, river valley, pine plantation and open fields. It was also a chance to gauge our own walking performance against previous occasions, as well as a great opportunity to tell Jonny all about my recent trip to Colombia.  

Walking first up through Bury St Edmunds and Jonny’s #patchbirding site along the River Lark, we scored a flyover pair of redshank and four female pochard which Jonny was deliriously pleased with, shouting “Beat Nick!!” several times. I don’t know why. At Culford I was busy relating my tales of Colombia while Jonny looked hard for Chiloë Wigeon, pretending not to listen. 

After a great pit stop at West Stow CP, we headed north into the King’s Forest. Great walking, on a pleasant,cold but still day. The day was notable for the soaring buzzards, and we saw at least 30. We skirted Berners Heath and descended south via Deadman’s Grave along the public byway, while I regaled Jonny with more Colombian adventures. 

This was a walk where nobody suffered. We were both in good nick, and the feet and legs withstood the 27 mile distance well. Just the job!

The final stop took us to SWT Lackford, and a welcome cup of tea and 3 red-crested pochards. Nice. These birds look nothing like common potoos. 

Finally, we got back into Bury at dusk, very happy with the days’ work and ready for rehydration. Here’s a vlog of the days’ events! Enjoy!


Two and a half thousand pounds for Turtle Doves!


This years JustGiving page has now stopped taking donations and the total raised is £2,456.66!

With the addition of Gift Aid the total is £3002.08! £3002.08 that has now gone straight to the RSPB and specifically to Operation Turtle Dove and habitat creation.

This is a clean £1000 over our fund raising target and the GiftAid total is twice the original target – big numbers! Using the Gift Aid figure this equates to 9 hectares / 90 000 square metres of land sown with Turtle Dove mix!

We are obviously delighted with these figures and the upswell of support for Dove Step it represents.

We remain extremely proud that Wild Frontier Ecology, BlackBar Brewery and Bridgedale Socks saw fit to put their names to and offer considerable support to Dove Step. We very much hope they will do the same in 2015 for Dove Step 2.

Aside from the fund-raising legacy, the Dove Step beer continues to be on sale via the Brewery directly as well  as other regional outlets. You can purchase bottles or mini-casks direct from the brewery between 4pm and 7pm today or via the open days listed below. Be sure to keep an eye on the BlackBar website in any case.

Dove Step beers! Lots of them!
Dove Step beers! Lots of them!
The perfect accompaniment to your summer evening!

The closing of this years JustGiving page really marks the end of Dove Step 1 and we are now firmly concentrating on Dove Step 2. Whilst this page will go quiet for some months now – rest assured we are very busy planning and training for a much bigger affair in 2015!

We will be announcing the 2015 challenge, sponsors and updating on all things Turtle Dove in the new year. Until then – don’t forget us!

The Dove Step 2014 finish line – where will the 2015 finish line be?



Dove Step Legacy

Three weeks to the day that this picture was taken…

At the finish line! Saltholme RSPB.
At the finish line! Saltholme RSPB.

Covering the 300 miles – in 13 days – for Turtle Doves remains one of the proudest moments of my life. I’ve set this image as the screen saver on my laptop. A daily pep-me-up when I get into the office each morning!

Having got over the physically of the actual walk, the talks and press I almost forgot the ongoing legacy of Dove Step!

Firstly, you can buy Dove Step beer! You can buy Dove Step beer from BlackBar Brewery direct on their open days (see leaflet below) and take it home for your evenings relax or the upcoming BBQ season! I can vouch for it as Rob and myself took opportunity to visit the brewery this weekend. In addition it will be on sale in 3At3 Deli and Cafe Ely and also Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds. Be sure to keep an eye on the BlackBar Brewery website and Twitter feed for further outlets and which pubs will be hosting Dove Step beer over the coming weeks.

BlackBar Brewery Open Days 2014! Get some!
BlackBar Brewery Open Days 2014! Get some!
Entrance to the beer cave!
Entrance to the beer cave!
Dove Step beers! Lots of them!
Dove Step beers! Lots of them!
Dove Step beer  - in a cask!
Dove Step beer – in a cask!
Dove Step beer mini-cask!
Dove Step beer mini-cask!
From right to left Sir Robert Yaxley, Mr Joe 'beer god' Kennedy and myself Jonny Rankin.
From right to left Sir Robert Yaxley, Mr Joe ‘beer god’ Kennedy and myself Jonny Rankin.

So, that is your bank holiday beer requirements catered for!

When we arrived at Saltholme there was a pack of Jordans cereal products waiting for us c/o Conservation Grade. Jordans are one of the Fair to Nature Brands which you can choose to purchase with your weekly shopping. These products are produced to Conservation Grade Standards which are Fair to Nature. Essentially produced on farms that are managed to be more biodiverse, to the benefit of farmland species, including birds and of course Turtle Doves!

The other big legacy of Dove Step is the result of our fundraising which as mentioned in the last blog post equates to:

  • 7 hectares (70 000 square meters) of habitat creation sown with Turtle Dove mix.

At the time of writing the fund raising total stands at £2376.66! Having risen significantly again since my last post. The JustGiving page is still live should you wish to visit or share with friends.

In summary Sir Robert, Andrew and myself are delighted with how Dove Step turned out. We feel we have created the best platform we could to further raise awareness and funds for Operation Turtle Dove and undertake new challenges.

Talking of challenges we have an absolute monster in the planning for 2015!

I’d like to once again draw attention to the thank you post and we look forward to rekindling the Dove Step journey next year.


One week on…

One week since the finished walking and we are just about adjusting to civilian life.

Our legs are still a little sluggish but the feet are largely healing up excepting the very worst affected bits.

The days marching seem like a distant blur now but, looking at the photographs from the finish line brings back awesome memories and emotions. We did it!

At the finish! I love this photo – the RSPB sign and Tees Transporter Bridge behind us. Photo copyright Lydia Tague, RSPB Saltholme


At the finish with Tees Radio and the Northern Echo. Photo copyright Jonny Holliday
At the finish with Tees Radio, friend and family. Photo copyright Jonny Holliday
At the finish with Tees Radio. Photo copyright Jonny Holliday

There has been some great fall out to, an excellent blog on the Saltholme website, an equally great post and finish line interview on the Love Middlesborough blog and I also did a guest post for the RSPB Nature’s Heroes blog this week.

Crucially our fund-raising total has continued to grow since finishing with the JustGiving page now totalling almost £2 200! This translates directly to significant habitat creation for Turtle Doves, in speaking with Operation Turtle Dove this week they confirmed the funds raised would be used where no agri-environmental funding exists to sow Turtle Dove mix. This is particularly timely as there is no funding for agri-enviornmental schemes in 2014 ahead of the government announcing the next scheme. The Dove Step fundraising total, as it stands, equates to 7 hectares of Turtle Dove habitat creation!

That our efforts has equated to 7 hectares (70 000 square meters) of sown Turtle Dove mix is beyond our expectation when we devised Dove Step. We are absolutely delighted!

So, thats it Dove Step 2014. We have of course already devised the next challenge (we had a lot of time to talk whilst walking!) but for now we await the arrival of Turtle Dove and plan to enjoy the summer!

With thanks for following our journey and supporting.

Turtle Doves! What it’s all about! Photo copyright Malcolm Fairley



Dove Step Thank Yous!

Sir Robert Yaxley and Wild Frontier Ecology – navigator and ever-ready mountain goat! For the 100% commitment from inception to finish line.

Young Andrew Goodrick – for marching 4 days and the best part of 100 miles with us. Been the best raconteur, cook and camp breaker. Mrs Goodrick for the marching cakes!

Joe BlackBar Brewery – for putting your name to Dove Step, brewing Dove Step ale and providing us with much needed beer staging posts! We couldn’t have dreamt of a better sponsor.

Sven Wair – logistics manager for ensuring we had somewhere to camp and or stay each evening as well as fielding the press.

Ms Anna Cornell – for arranging breakfast and a hygiene stop when we most needed it, keeping our spirits up (especially Sir Rob’s) and lightening our packs as we used maps and equipment.

Ms Fiona Shaw – for seeing us off at Lakenheath, the marching muffins and organising us at the finish and beyond when at our most decrepit! The telephone pep-ups and looking after my wee brun hund whilst we walked.

My Mum – for the ‘quotes of the day’ and ensuring we were quickly spoilt once we finished. Plus dealing with 2 week old laundry!

My Dad – for joining us for two evenings r n r and gathering the medical supplies we so sorely needed and hadn’t thought to pack!

Rowan and Zena Yaxley – for putting up without a Dad for 2 weeks and keeping him chipper via telephone.

Toby and Keith Collett – for the unrivalled hospitality and medical advice when we were in a medical pickle! Your generosity made Dove Step.

James and Ann Spencer – for letting us take over a relaxing Sunday afternoon and raid the fridge!

Lydia and all at Saltholme – for creating a celebratory finish and immediate beer / feed recovery.

Bridgedale Socks – for supporting us from training to execution and minimising the damage to our feet.

Tris (aka The Inked Naturalist) – for the Rocky quotes, welfare calls and continued online support.

Welcome commitee – Mum and Stephen, Mr and Mrs Goodyear, Mr Holliday, Ms Martin, the Northern Echo and Tees Radio as well as the staff and volunteers at Saltholme RSPB.

Fundraisers – everyone who supported our JustGiving page which has seen us exceed our origional fundraising target – twice!

Dove Step’ers – everyone who engaged with our journey, read the blog, shared and RT’d our passion for Turtle Doves and birds. You walked with us!


Dove Step – Day 13

Duration: 9 hours
Daily Distance: 22 miles / 35.5km
Total cumulative Distance: 300 miles / 481 km
Distance left to go: 0 miles / 0 km
Temperature: 13 Oc
Wind: 13 mph westerlies
Cumulative number of bird species encountered: 128 with Eider, Common Scoter, Purple Sandpiper and Red-throated Diver new today.

Sir Rob highlights – beach walking between Marske and Redcar. Finishing! The finishing party – a very special moment.

Jonny highlights – achieving our goal! 300 miles for Turtle Doves. Arriving to a welcoming party of wonderful individuals!

Day of three halves! We started with maximum enjoyment shifting distance along sandy beaches! We did Saltburn to Redcar along the tideline and with great birds to look at.

Things rather dropped off when the Teesdale Way petered out after crossing jet black knee length puddles of industrial waste and bramble thickets! We then had to cross a series of industrial pipes, scale a embankment and bin off 11 miles via road!

The third half of the day was much, much better and blurs into a mass of family and friend greeting party, Tees Radio Interview, giving a talk and heading back to my mothers house.

As ever great support on the social networks too. Fuller thanks to follow when we’re sufficiently recovered!

We did it!




Dove Step – Day 12

Duration: 7 hours 10 mins
Daily Distance: 20.5 miles / 33 km
Total cumulative Distance: 278 miles / 445.5 km
Distance left to go: 22 miles / 35.5 km
Temperature: 13 Oc
Wind: 14 mph south westerlies
Cumulative number of bird species encountered: 124 with Razorbill new today.

Sir Rob highlights – the hills! Nice to get them in your legs. The exciting potential of this stretch of coast for bird migrants. Good path most of the way and feet felt good.

Jonny highlights – scenery! Awesome views of Sandsend and Runswick Bay. Seeing my ladies at the end of the day!

After a leisurely start we hit the go button! No complaints on the path front. It was happy shifting with the only exception of the incised valleys! Valleys mean steps – I lost count at 157 000 steps. My calves didn’t though! My thighs were equally astute!

We also covered Mount Boulby! A huge cliffed promontory with a near vertical road ascent. Our lungs and legs definitely stung for attacking that one.

We are currently at Brotton, ready to round the coastline and cross the Tees to Saltholme! We have also been spoilt this evening as my ladies; Fee and Fends are here ready for (hopefully) finishing tomorrow.

Literally, unbelievable is that we gained new blisters! Mine on my big toe and Rob’s extended his existing big toe blister!

We’ve had some concerned messages about our feet. I can offer no assurances – they are literally horrific.

Anyway, one last push and we’ve achieved our goal! 300 miles in 13 days for Turtle Doves.

We are reeling over the JustGiving page which has tipped £2k! With that level of support we can do anything in the morning. Anything.

See you at Saltholme!