59 days until Dove Step!

Turtle Dove – photograph Debby Saunders

As January comes to a close we are now just 59 days away from commencing Dove Step! In two months we will be putting on our boots, waving goodbye to our loved ones and starting out from Lakenheath RSPB reserve…

January has seen three of the team participating in the Foot It challenge, which added a good incentive to get out and do some serious milage. I know Sir Rob has pounded the roads and paths of North Norfolk and I managed to cover over 127 miles on foot over New Years day and the following four weekends.

Tris, is as ever running his heart out! Amassing miles towards his 1000 for Martha target. Indeed the next month or so will see a lot more running in our training regime. Tris, Goodrick and myself are all doing the Anglesey Half Marathon known as ‘The Island Race‘ on 2nd March. A month of running should give us a good fitness boost before reverting back to walking based training after the first weekend in March.

As we progress towards the big event Operation Turtle Dove is gaining momentum too, be sure to check out the Turtle Dove Talk blog spot for updates on; the Trichomoniasis disease and Turtle Doves, migratory threats to Turtle Doves including hunting and which farmland features are most attractive to Turtle Doves.

Incredibly there have also been reports of Turtle Dove shunning the migratory urge and over-wintering in the UK! Two have been reported to the BirdTrack online recording system and one was photographed in a Cambridgeshire garden on the 21st of this month! The picture below was sent into the RSPB…

Turtle Dove – Cambridgeshire garden on 21st January, 2014


What a wonderful bird to have in the garden at anytime of the year – but incredible in mid-winter!

Before I sign off a quick thank you – the JustGiving total has already hit the 49% of our fundraising target! With many thanks for supporting Dove Step, Operation Turtle Dove and of course the RSPB.

Just 59 days to go…


Bridgedale Socks joins Dove Step!


It is with great pleasure that I can announce the second Dove Step sponsor is Bridgedale socks! Bridgedale join Blackbar Brewery in adding practical support to the Dove Step trek.

As regular readers of this blog and our tweets will know we have used Bridgedale socks to great effect during all our training walks this year.  I currently have two pairs which have covered over 100 miles in the last 20 days as part of my ongoing Foot It effort and Dove Step preparation. The other team members have similarly benefited from the quality of Bridgedales in their respective training.

We are delighted that our feet will do the 300 miles safely supported by Bridgedales and a whole-hearted thanks to Birdgedale for adding their support to Dove Step and Operation Turtle Dove.

In other news we are extremely proud to announce Dove Step fellow Sven Wair is helping us get organised and has taken on the role of logistics manager. This will massively benefit the team as we can concentrate on walking and our kit knowing that we are properly organised otherwise. Many thanks Sven – you are a true gent.

Speaking of gents the Dove Step team would like to extend a colossal thank you to Gyr Crakes (aka Mark Lawlor) who has significantly boosted our JustGiving fundraising total via sales of his ‘Teenage Mutant Turtle Dove’ t-shirts. You can still get yourself one over on the Zazzle storeninja turtle dove

Momentum is certainly building and we are all increasingly excited as we count down to the start date…

Of pigs, ducks, socks and maps

It’s starting to get serious now. Like, so serious. Walls have been pushed through. Pain has been felt and then callously ignored. Birds have been counted. And yes, toileting needs have been discussed.

After a truly splendid evening meal chez Rankin (and some lovely ladies), in which a glass or two was raised to the absent and sorely missed Gooders, we (this being Jonny and myself) set off bright and early with the dual intention of training for Dove Step, and seeing a few nice birds. However, due to a minor map reading error by the trip navigator (I was the trip leader) it turned into a brutally epic walk, of which Sir Ranulph himself would have been proud.

The first part of the walk seemed to be basically one large pig field. They were everywhere, for miles and miles, pinkness, hairiness, mud, swollen testicles and far too many nipples. Squealing and electric fences. A Saturnalia. There were birds too, thousands of them, including abundant gulls, lapwings, shelduck and thousands of starlings. Of course, Jonny will not be happy unless I mention the presence of a single ruddy shedluck as well, looking like a flying orange.


We passed through Livermere, a frightening and challenging experience for those of us with a fear of ducks. Livermere has an enormous population of mallards, some of which appear to have no hybrid traces at all. Well, we walked quickly through without meeting the gaze of any duck, and survived. Whew!

A bit later on the navigational error occurred. It turned out the nameless navigator (who was not me) was pretty sure he knew the way, so sure that we didn’t need to look at the map. Well, two miles later we realised something was not right, so we did look at the map. Uh oh! whoops!

Route duly corrected, we entered the King’s Forest, a bit like hobbits entering Mirkwood, only less twee. I noticed Jonny was flagging around this time, and it was then he told me some bizarre story about getting into a hot bath after working out and suffering from hyperthermia. Of course, I didn’t believe it, so I just carried on with a manly laugh shouting back at him “come on, man up! We’re in this to win!”. On reflection this may have appeared a bit heartless.


Jonny deciding whether to vomit, faint or just keep walking.

As we emerged from the troll-laden gloom of the King’s Forest, the welcome sight of the excellent Suffolk Wildlife Trust Lackford visitor centre, where we were replenished by lashings of cake and tea, and the stunning sight of a bittern in the evening sunshine. From then on it was a heads down thrash back to Bury, hot baths and check the stats. 24.63 miles. Rob – 1 blister (little toe), minor groinal chafing; Jonny – wounded pride.

The day provided some thoughts to be actioned in the near future.

  1. Sort out places to stay/ camp along route.
  2. Get a system worked out for packs of stuff to be sent ahead.
  3. Rob get new boots (dammit!)
  4. Evolve kit list, to include toilet paper.
  5. Work out 2 day training walk soon.

300 miles in 13 days is seeming pretty scary right now. But, challenges are there to be met and overcome. At least until it hurts.





Happy New Year!

2014 is the year of  Dove Step and I type this 91 days from the start of our journey!

Tris and Jonny, Egleton, August 2013
Tris and Jonny, Egleton, August 2013

Since my last festive post Tris and myself co-authored a wee blog over on the RSPB site. In addition our efforts were also mentioned in the monthly Birdtrack update email. If you do like birds and recording them even on a local or garden level Birdtrack is well worth the effort. It is a free online tool and once you enter your sightings they are secure. You can then do some pretty nifty occurance comparisons year-on-year and for different sites as well as reminisce on previous years sightings.

Following on from Tris’s last post on here there is an update on his preparation for both Dove Step and 1000 miles in Memory of Martha over on his Inked Naturalist site. Keep up the good work Tris!

The rest of the team Sir Rob, Goodrick and myself are meeting tomorrow evening ahead of some winter training in Suffolk Breckland this weekend. We will be covering just over 20 miles then setting up camp overnight before walking back the next day. It is a good opportunity to practice and time how long it takes us to get the tents up, cook dinner and settle in for the night.

Santa was very kind this year so we all have a variety of new items to try out from tents and torches to stoves and boots!

It will be great to see three quarters of the team and get some miles in our legs. As ever more to follow…