Walking for doves

END OF THE ROAD: Jonny Rankin (left) and Robert Yaxley  after arriving at Saltholme
END OF THE ROAD: Jonny Rankin (left) and Robert Yaxley after arriving at Saltholme

A WILDLIFE reserve welcomed two intrepid heroes when they crossed the finishing line of a gruelling 300-mile walk.

Jonny Rankin and Robert Yaxley spent 13 exhausting days walking from Suffolk to RSPB Saltholme near Billingham.

They, along with their friend Andrew Goodrick, who joined them for the first 100 miles of the journey, raised more than £2,000 towards efforts to save the European turtle dove from extinction.

They magnificent sum of money will go to Operation Turtle Dove, a project launched by conservation charities including Saltholme managers the RSPB.

Jonny said: “We’ve been involved in Operation Turtle Dove since its inception in 2012 and each year we look for bigger and better ways of raising the profile and raising funds for this iconic species.

“This walk has given us a chance to start planning next year’s expedition.

“However, right now I’m terrified of taking my boots off because I feel like they’re holding my feet together.”

Jonny, Robert and Andrew began their walk from Lakenheath Fen, on the boarder of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Lydia Tague, RSPB Saltholme’s marketing officer, said: “These guys truly are an inspiration. Their passion is infectious, and we’re all excited to see what they do next.”

At the moment the lads are keeping their plans under wraps, but they are promising something bigger and better next time.

Operation Turtle Dove is headed up by the RSPB, with Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England.

You can read more about the lads’ journey on their blog at www.dovestep.wordpress.com, and for more information about Operation Turtle Dove visit www.operationturtledove.org.

Saltholme is located near the mouth of the River Tees between Billingham and Seaton Carew and is open almost all year round. Visitors can walk the grounds observing the visiting birds and wildlife.

and it holds regular activities for children.