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

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

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…

Goodrick on top of Win Hill
The view from Win Hill…
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…
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.
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!

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.

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:

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

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!

Wild Frontier Ecology joins Dove Step!

20100322 WFE 20100322 plover

Regular readers will have seen from Sir Rob’s post some seriously exciting news (and his battered toe nail!), the eagle eyed amongst you will also have noticed the addition of Wild Frontier as a Dove Step sponsor on the right hand side of the blog.

Wild Frontier have kindly come on board as our first corporate sponsor the result of which is a serious boost to our fundraising total on the JustGiving page. Between Wild Frontier and a number of private donors the last week has seen us surpass our previous fundraising target already! It is a happy requirement that we are discussing a reasonable upwards revision to our target. With many, many thanks to both Wild Frontier and also those individuals who have chosen to support Dove Step, Operation Turtle Dove and also the RSPB.

Wild Frontier are an independent ecological consultancy, based in Norfolk but working across the UK for a number of clients including statutory advisors, developers, conservation bodies, landowners and local governments.

Be sure to view the Wild Frontier website for their full capabilities including the surveys they undertake, development services and news via the Wild Frontier blog.

Although best known for his expeditions and world travel Sir Rob holds a directorship at Wild Frontier and has the following to say on behalf of Wild Frontier Ecology:

As ecologists, we get some opportunity to be involved in habitat enhancement, some of which benefits farmland birds such as the turtle dove. But the situation is now so urgent for this species in particular, that direct action for fundraising and awareness raising, such as that being taken by the Dovestep team, is necessary. I am delighted that Wild Frontier Ecology have the opportunity to be very much a part of this initiative, and hope that other corporate sponsors will come forward and make every mile walked a big step closer to securing the future of our farmland birds“.

A huge thank you to Wild Frontier Ecology and poignant words from Sir Rob there. Do get in touch if your company would like to become a corporate sponsor of Dove Step and members of the team will be happy to discuss what we can offer in return – aside from the satisfaction of supporting Operation Turtle Dove!

Just 46 days and 7 weeks  until we commence our march – as a team we are getting seriously excited!

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…

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…

Peak training…

I am writing this the right side of 100km worth of training so far this month. The lions share of which was done in the Peak District, with a further 40km yesterday and the remaining distance made up of training runs with the dog.

Despite the lull in updates on here we continue to make good progress with preparations. As can be seen from both Sir Rob and Tris updates last month, as well as getting some miles in our legs, we are testing equipment to maximise success in both training and of course during Dove Step itself.

As an extension of this expect some equipment reviews over the coming days and weeks. We have no brand allegiance and as such will review items openly. We would be equally willing to test kit if you or your company are confident enough to offer it up…

So as mentioned two super fulfilling weekends of training already this month with lots of important lessons learnt ahead of next April.

Here are the notes made in the tent after the first days efforts in the Peak District, back on Saturday 2nd:

A full eight hours of effort today with c20kg packs & 20+ mile covered in, at times, prohibitive weather.

With Gooders outdoors skills/ equipment & my manhauling of sufficent beer & whiskey we have established a cool but dry & comfortable camp.

I type this tent-clad & wrapped in me sleeping bag. Although the wind is raging & rain lashing Gooders tarp allowed us to cook & shelter for a few hours & following the exertion of the day I will sleep well!

I don’t know how far exactly we’ve covered but it’s in excess of 20m & with heavy packs. When we take them off for a break it feels like your body re-grows the compounded inches & you gain a foot in height!

Crazed sensations!

With the booze & feed rations now depleted tomorrow should be easier going.

Our first days effort saw us meander between Baslow, Hathersage and Ladybower before camping above Ladybower reservoir itself. The next day we broke camp and headed back towards Sheffield parallel with Snakes Pass but via open country. It was a magic and truly epic weekend.

I learnt a lot from Gooders (correct way to peg out a tent, how to put up a tarp shelter, not to leave your bag cover off overnight!) and we established a good idea of the times required to break camp, cook and boil water. All tasks we will want to be second nature by the end of March.

Here are some pics showing why it was all worth it (aside from our unrelenting Turtle Dove drive):

Heading out from Baslow…
… looking down on Baslow…
… not the best weather for camping…
... happy camper...
… happy camper…
... looking back over our route before heading back into Sheff toon.
… looking back over our route before heading back into Sheff toon.

So, the Peaks proved we could cover ground with all we needed to camp and still get up the next morning to carry on! Success.

Yesterday Sir Rob joined me to do a practice day – covering the full daily total of 40km / 25mile through Suffolk Breckland. Again we weighted to mimic a typical day on Dove Step. Here is the route we covered and the all important stats:

Walking Activity 40.08 km | RunKeeper
40km / 25m of success!
... mid walk coffee stop...
… mid walk coffee stop…
… Sir Rob enjoying much needed tea and cake at Suffolk Wildlife Trusts Lackford Lakes visitor centre ahead of the last 10km to home.

So, plenty of momentum. I am sure Sir Rob will post his side of events from yesterday in due course and I know Tris and Gooders are equally high-achieving with their own training . We have also settled on a start date; 29th March 2014 – which if we are successful, will see us arrive into Saltholme RSPB on Thursday 10th April.

Finally, thank you!

Thanks for reading this, thanks to those who have donated to the JustGiving page which we are proud has already crept up to £120! Also, with many thanks to those who have got in touch to offer help and accommodation. We very much look forward to starting at Lakenheath RSPB and arriving into Saltholme RSPB.

As ever be sure to keep an eye on the Operation Turtle Dove website and more updates on here soon…