Norfolk tortoise is a first world war ‘veteran’

For most soldiers, Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag were marching lyrics sung to strengthen morale.

And It's a Long Way to Tipperary was a popular tune amongst the troops as they made their way to the front line.

But one Tommy took the lyrics to the first world war song quite literally as he made his way back from the disastrous military campaign in Gallipoli – packing a Turkish tortoise into his backpack and bringing it back to his Blakeney home.

And, almost 98 years later, Blake the tortoise has outlived his soldier owner, thought to be a Mr Marris, by more than 30 years.

Proving that slow and steady wins the race, as he nears what is thought to be his 100th year, the retired reptile is looking for a new home.

Marion Skinner, 67, from Neatishead, his owner since 1983, can no longer look after the ageing spur-thighed tortoise and contacted the Norfolk Tortoise Club to find him temporary fostering whilst a permanent home is found.

Mrs Skinner said: 'I really want Blake to find a special home because he's so elderly and actually very geriatric. He needs a bit of tender loving care and a quiet life now.'

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Dillon Prest, general manager at Swallow Aquatics, in East Harling, has had Blake as one of 40 tortoises in the garden of his home.

He said: 'Blake is really quite fit and raring to go, just mooching about my garden.

'The only problem is that he has cataracts which has proven difficult when he meets a female tortoise he quite likes.'

And it seems that although Blake is almost a century old, he still has the sparkle in his eye.

Mrs Skinner said the tortoise was still fathering, even a year ago.

Eleanor Tirtasana, rehoming officer at the Tortoise Club at Bracon Ash near Norwich, said: 'Many tortoises like Blake can live well in to their hundreds, meaning they often outlive their owners.

'As a club we are able to help tortoises find new homes where they can thrive with continued support, and look for homes where a tortoise can thrive and not just survive.'

An ideal home for Blake would offer access to a secure sunny garden, with a healthy diet of weeds and wildflowers dusted with calcium, as well as a warm dry shelter during bad weather, such as a greenhouse or utility area with a UV heat lamp.

The Tortoise Club will be holding a check-up and information afternoon this Saturday at Uplands Way Vet Practice, in Diss, from noon until 4pm when help and advice on how to help your tortoise live a long, healthy and happy life will be given.

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