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.

 

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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!

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

 

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

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

 

 

3 days!

It is getting wonderfully close to kick off!

Everything is in place and just a few last minute updates…

Sadly, Tris will not be joining the walking team owing to family circumstance. He will of course be sorely missed during the walk but remains an integral member of the Dove Step team. All the best to Tris and family and we look forward to many future adventures.

The Dove Step beer is currently brewing away and melding into a delicious thing under BlackBar brewer Joe’s expert guidance. Keep an eye on the BlackBar Brewery website and Twitter for announcements on which pubs will be stocking Dove Step beer next month.

Here are a few photos of the creation process, kindly shared by Joe:

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Rosemary! Dove Step beer first principles! Photo © @BlackBarBrewery

 

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Bay tree butchery! Photo © @BlackBarBrewery
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Looking really good! Photo © @BlackBarBrewery

 

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Brew my beauty, brew! Photo © @BlackBarBrewery
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What colour is that? I’d say its Turtle Dove mantle ginger! Photo © @BlackBarBrewery

A massive thank you to BlackBar brewery for the continued support – it means a lot. We couldn’t be more proud of our sponsors: BlackBar Brewery, Wild Frontier Ecology and of course Bridgedale Socks.

A special mention also needs to go out to Dove Step artist and true gentleman Gyr Crakes. You can still purchase his Turtle Dove t-shirt from the Zazzle store, as modelled by these lovely ladies…

Turtle Dove t-shirts c/o @GyrCrakes
Turtle Dove t-shirts c/o @GyrCrakes

Hugely humbling and massively inspiring is the support we have received via the JustGiving page. At the time of writing, the total raised is a whopping £885! This has already surpassed our expectation and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated.

We will do you proud! We are chomping at the bit to get walking and we will cover each mile proud of the funds we’ve raised to date and any more we are able to. 300 miles for Turtle Doves – here we go!

DOVESTEPXXY

 

11 days and counting…

Turtle Dove - picture c/o Barry Woodhouse http://tinyurl.com/pfozgvr
Turtle Dove – picture c/o Barry Woodhouse http://tinyurl.com/pfozgvr

With many thanks to those of you who have followed our preparation to date. I think we are ready! Where possible, we will update this blog as we walk or have a Dove Step fellow relay our progress from their internet enabled location!

Analog Dove Step advertising - cards in the visitor Centre at Lackford Lakes SWT http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/reserves/lackford-lakes
Analog Dove Step advertising! Cards in the visitor Centre at Lackford Lakes SWT
http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/reserves/lackford-lakes

As I type, Dove Step sponsor BlackBar Brewery are preparing to brew the Dove Step beer which you will be able to drink at various pubs in the east of England during our walk. We may also have a limited supply at some stops of our journey!

BlackBar Brewery  http://blackbar.co.uk
BlackBar Brewery
http://blackbar.co.uk

We have a working itinerary for each day which currently looks like this:

Day 1 we follow the course of the Little Ouse before joining the Great Ouse and following it all the way to the Denver Sluice. After crossing the river we will camp at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen. We camp in the beer garden of The Cock, on Church Road adjacent to the River Great Ouse.

Day 2 we continue along the course of the Great Ouse crossing at West Lynn to join the Peter Scott Way then stay at Gedney Drove End, where we camp in the beer garden of The Rising Sun.

Day 3 following the edge of the Wash we cross Fosdyke Bridge, then take the Macmillan Way to Frampton Marsh RSPB where we will stop overnight. We are also giving a talk here on Turtle Doves, Operation Turtle Dove, Dove Step and Tristan’s 1000 miles in memory of Martha project.

Day 4 once again on the Macmillan Way we will pass through Frieston village then Butterwick and finish up at Wainfleet all Saints.

We will camp here – let us know if you have garden or even floor space!

Day 5 we cut across to the coast and head north along the beach to stay at Mablethorpe.

We will camp here – let us know if you have garden or even floor space!

Day 6 from Mablethopre we cross Stone Bridge continuing to North Somercotes then follow the beach again to Tetney Lock and stay at Cleethorpes.

Here we stay with Mr Collett – a whole hearted thanks to Mr Collett and Collett junior of Frampton Marsh fame for your hospitality.

Day 7 we pass through Cleethorpes, then Grimsby and East Halton before camping at Skitterness.

Day 8 we cross the Humber Bridge then continue north on the Yorkshire Wolds Way to Beverley where we will stay.

Day 9 onwards ever north on the Minster Way to arrive and stay at Langtoft.

Here we stay with the Spencers – with many thanks for your hospitality!

Day 10 we once again travel the Yorkshire Wolds Way through Filey and then to our resting place Scarborough.

Day 11 onto the Cleveland Way which takes us all the way to Whitby.

Day 12 again on the Cleveland Way this time to Salttburn.

Day 13 we take the Coastal Path then the Teesdale Way to the Transporter Bridge which heralds our glorious arrival at Saltholme RSPB!

If any east coast birders are reading this from Scarborough, Whitby or Saltburn and would like us to sleep on their floor that would be great! Please get in touch via the comments section.

Otherwise, one last training walk planned for Sir Rob and myself this Saturday, Tris is continuing his 1000 miles for Martha campaign and Goodrick is running his weights vest up and down Whin Hill, in the Peak District! We are as ready as we can hope to be…

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Goodrick on top of Win Hill
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The view from Win Hill…
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Goodrick (and weights vest) descending Win Hill

Just 11 days until we get walking!

Mighty Wales!

I have finally come to terms with what proved to be a chronically awesome weekend in North Wales and now feel able to share some of the events as they unfolded…

It was great to catch up with Dove Step team mate Goodrick having not seen him since our Peak Training… and a whole hearted thanks to Mrs Goodrick for been the hostess with the mostest throughout the weekend.

Having travelled overnight I was up early to meet Dove Step fellow Marc Hughes as well as other leading lights of North Wales birding; Henry, Mike and Robin. Marc and co. treated me to a superb day out seeing the very best of North Wales and keeping me suitably distracted from the next days Half Marathon.

Via a tour of various sites we encountered a wonderful array of species including; Black Guillemot, Eider, 5! (yes five) Surf Scoter, Dipper, Scaup, Raven, Hawfinch and Merlin.

Unforgettable awesome in unforgettable surroundings. I have certainly never seen a flock of Surf Scoter before and I am not sure many have in UK waters! It was also amazing to be in such close proximity to Hawfinch.

The view from Bangor Pier
The view from Bangor Pier
Marc, Henry and Mike surveying the landscape...
Marc, Henry and Mike surveying the landscape…
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Wales is awesome!
Raven. Photo copyright Henry Cook.
Raven. Photo copyright Henry Cook.
White Hawk! A beautiful leucistic Buzzard. Photo copyright Henry Cook.
White Hawk! A beautiful leucistic Buzzard. Photo copyright Henry Cook.
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Stonechat in the hand! An incredible bird to see so close. Ringed by and photograph copyright Robin Sandham.

Having soaked up the very best of North Wales birding, in such good company, I was ready to get back to digs and commence celebrating Goodrick’s 30th birthday! Of course mindful that we had 13.2 miles to run in the morning!

We were early up the next day despite the nights festivities. All got focused for the half marathon. Undertaking our various pre-run rituals and heading down to the Menai Suspension Bridge, start point for the half marathon, in good time for the 9am start.

Goodrick and I looked absolutely resplendent in our RSPB vests and I was proud to be running sporting the RSPB logo and in training for Dove Step. The Daily Post had mentioned Dove Step in their ‘Runners ready to raise money for good causes‘ news piece. So I was sure to keep my head up, keep and good pace and run with pride in case anyone recognised me! With many thanks to Ben, with whom I ran the first 4 miles. It made for excellent pace setting and a solid start to the run.

The route was superbly scenic and the weather added extra drama – with drizzle and strong winds whipping up as we passed Beaumaris Castle, on the return leg along the sea front the wind was pushing the tide so hard it was ankle deep on the path and waves cascaded at head height! Exciting stuff.

Having kept strong pace throughout I felt moved to finish with a sprint (well a slight increase in speed – I am no Usain Bolt!). Goodrick finished strong in 02:01:28 and I crossed the line a few minutes later in 02:04:09.

Home » RTRT.me

With the RPSB logo on our vests and the Dove Step mention on the Daily Post article I was incredibly proud to have made the distance, without stopping and to look reasonably composed for the finish line photo!IMG_9900

With the remainder of Sunday to recuperate and fine weather forecast on the Monday we made the most of our North Wales location and got some miles in our legs around Llyn Padarn in the shadow of Snowdon. Beautiful!

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50% of the Dove Step team, training walk Llyn Padarn. Photo copyright Mrs Goodrick.

At the same time Goodrick and myself were shedding miles on Anglesey our team mate Tris was doing the same around Haweswater! Read about that over on Tris’s blog.

All great training and heartening as we are just 23 days away from the start of Dove Step!

A whole hearted thanks to everyone that made every minute of the Welsh trip so enjoyable. In no particular order and hoping to have not forgotten anyone; Mr and Mrs Goodrick, Ben Walton, Marc Hughes (HRH The Duke of Great Orme), Henry Cook, Mike, Robin Sandham, the organisers and volunteers of The Island Race, Always Aim High Events, Blake Welton and the North Wales Daily Post, the good people of Anglesey and any other Dove Step fellows we bumped into, ran with or enjoyed an ale with! Thank you.  

30 days!

Just 30 days until the walk commences! 30 days until we Dove Step away from Lakenheath Fen RSPB and set a bearing north!

As much as I am intimidated by the challenge I think we have all prepared extremely well for the distances involved and I couldn’t be happier with the assembled team. We are gradually refining the route for each day and getting precise distances as well as camp sites or accommodation. At 27.9miles Day 1 of Dove Step will be the furthest distance I have ever walked!

The remaining days we have tallied up all hover around the same marathon distance.

As mentioned we have all been busy training; Sir Rob covered 40 miles over two days this weekend walking the north Norfolk coast, a sure demonstration that he’ll be able to cope with the Dove Step mileage.

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Sir Rob – rightly pleased to be the correct side of 40 miles worth of training walk!

Meanwhile Tris was busy pounding the hills with his first of many planned marathons this year; the Grizedale 26. You can read all about his incredible feat of endurance over on Tris’s website.

Tris post marathon and with a badge of honour!
Tris post marathon and with his badge of honour!

Goodrick and myself have been doing some more modest training runs ahead of this weekends Anglesey Half Marathon, The Island Race. It will be great to sport our green RSPB vests and enjoy the best of Anglesey on foot!

In parallel with our urge to move northward for Dove Step, Turtle Doves wintering in sub Saharan Africa will be orientating north around the same time we do. I happened across this French website and the Turtle Dove Research currently ongoing by Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (Oncfs):

During the 2013 breeding season, 3 adult Turtle Doves were captured in the south west of France (Poitou-Charentes region), within the Chizé forest, and fitted with these transmitters. These 3 birds are closely surveyed since then: satellite tags alternate 10 hours transmitting periods and 48 hours in “sleeping” mode during which batteries are charged thanks to the solar cells. (Copyright Oncfs, February 2014).

Of the birds satellite tagged, Bird 1 ‘Marcel’ produced the most informative data and was tracked all the way from the south of France to the wintering area south east of Mali in the Niger River Valley:

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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 6th – 16th September 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 15th September – 2nd October 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 29th September – 8th December 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 7th December 2013 – 14th February 2014 Copyright ONCFS

It will be interesting to see if ‘Marcel’ offers insight into the return migration route for Turtle Doves this spring and the Dove Step team eagerly awaits updates from the excellent Oncfs project. It is notable that last years migration skirted west Africa, through Morocco and Western Sahara before heading inland to Mali. Interestingly, this west coast route would be the most feasible for us humans wishing to get to the same end point. Although this is more for reasons of political and social unrest in addition to the hostility of the desert.

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Red dots shown possible two-way border crossings, though not all in the desert are accessible. Many other border crossings are used by locals, but are closed to non-Africans or tourists without good connections.
Purple lines show the two main trans-Sahara routes at the moment; the orange route is the classic Hoggar route that hasn’t been done since about 2010. Red lines show borders which cannot be crossed legitimately (some may be mined and you may be arrested or run into bandits/smugglers/rebels/terrorists). Unmarked border lines can, up to a point be crossed as long as you check into the nearest immigration point. Some pass through extremely remote or outlaw areas where you still may get arrested or robbed. As you can see, it’s principally northern Mali and Niger – not a place where any tourists go at the moment. No entry signs relate to regions, not entire countries, and only the main current no-go areas are identified.
Wherever possible use official border crossings, marked with the red dot or expect the consequences outlined above. Copyright Sahara Overland http://saharaoverland.wordpress.com/home/

As ever many, many thanks for reading and following our progress. A whole hearted thanks to our sponsors and supporters, be sure to check out the recently updated ‘Supporters‘ page and if you are able do consider a visit to the JustGiving page.  

30 days and counting!

Six weeks…

As we are now within six weeks of the start date I thought I’d give a quick round up on all things Dove Step and also Turtle Doves…

As muted in this post last month, we could we be witnessing the pioneering of a new survival strategy for ‘our’ Turtle Doves? The excellent BirdTrack site lists four birds recorded as wintering this year, across four counties; Cambridgeshire, Lancashire, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. The below two images are reproduced with kind permission of the British Trust for Ornithology, retrieved 17th February, 2014.

Location of all records to date in 2014 within 10km squares Red: 25+ records Orange: 1 to 25 records Yellow: Sites visited, no records for this species
Location of all records to date in 2014 within 10km squares
Red: 25+ records
Orange: 1 to 25 records
Yellow: Sites visited, no records for this species
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Weekly reporting rate for Turtle Dove
(the proportion of complete lists submitted that include this species)

The Milton Keynes bird was also shared via the RSPB birders Twitter feed and can be viewed below:

Another over wintering Turtle Dove - this one in Milton Keynes copyright Ms Julie Lane
Another over wintering Turtle Dove – this one in Milton Keynes copyright Ms Julie Lane c/o @RSPBbirders Twitter feed.

Obviously, four records doesn’t constitute a population trend! But when considered against the sheer volume of available habitat for wintering Turtle Dove it could be considered an indication of a larger number of unnoticed wintering birds? Of course it has been a mild albeit very wet winter, sick birds that were unable to migrate when the urge required may have stayed on. Or birds may even have escaped from captivity! All food for thought and fingers crossed these over wintering individuals make it through the next couple of months to be re-joined by the migratory brothers and sisters.

Also, are any youngsters (or oldsters for that matter) reading this and considering their future? How about applying for a Turtle Dove Fieldwork internship? What a wonderful opportunity!

Moving onto our Dove Step preparation Tris is continuing to rack up serious miles ahead of his first, of 14! marathons this year this coming weekend. The following weekend three quarters of the team will be over on the Isle of Anglesey for the Island Race – half marathon. Any other competitors or spectators will be able to spot us via our green RSPB vests, as modelled by Tris here:

Tris - looking fly in his new RSPB vest!
Tris – looking fly in his new RSPB vest!

With thanks for reading and as ever many thanks to those who have supported Operation Turtle Dove via the JustGiving page which stands at 136% of our fundraising target! I must up our fundraising target but I am both amazed and delighted at the progress to date!