Terry the tortoise, who went missing in early July from his home in west Hull, was rescued from the nearby railway and returned home by rail worker Alan Axon.
Loving owner Tracy Taylor, who has owned Terry for 14 years, had been distraught since his disappearance on 13 July. “My husband Mark had let Terry out of his hut to stretch his legs in the garden while he was cutting the grass. The next thing we knew, he was gone. We looked everywhere – we even moved the garden shed in case he was underneath it. But although we searched the neighbourhood, he’d completely vanished, and we were afraid we’d lost him.”
Terry had wandered onto the railway line which runs not far from the house.
Enter tortoise rescuer – otherwise known as VGC rail delivery deputy supervisor – Alan Axon. Alan and his colleague Paul Gregory were doing a ‘walkout’ – a pre-site inspection of the railway line – before arranging to deliver new rails for Network Rail upgrade works.
Alan spotted Terry ambling along the tracks. “Walkouts are done when the lines are closed, for the safety of the operators,” he said. “But Terry wasn’t going to be safe once the trains started running again.” So he picked Terry up and took him back to his vehicle.
After the shift, he sent a photo of Terry to VGC’s head office, before taking Terry to a friend who runs a reptile centre. Later, Terry was looked after by Alan’s friend Gemma Hall, a staff nurse at Durham University hospital.
When Mark’s son Daniel spotted Alan’s photo on VGC’s Facebook page, Tracy couldn’t believe it. “We were absolutely astonished – but also so excited.” They got in touch with VGC, and today Alan has taken Terry back where he belongs.
“Family and our friends can’t believe how lucky we are,” Tracy continues. “We cannot thank Alan enough for looking after Terry and saving him from harm.”
Terry has had more than his fair share of adventures, as Tracy explains.
“We got Terry when our daughter Shelley was 7 years old. She wanted a pet but she was allergic to any animals with fur, so he was a good choice.
“His first adventure was only a year later: he climbed into Mark’s work jacket which was among the laundry on the floor. I had put it in a boil wash. Then I realised Terry was missing. I stopped the machine immediately, but we had to worry and wait for an agonising minute before we could open the time-locked door. He came out of the jacket, shook his head, and walked off as if nothing had happened!”
He has also crawled into Shelley’s bag and spent the day in it at work – she didn’t find out until she came home. And earlier this summer the family had to fend off an attack from an angry magpie.
But the latest escapade has been the most traumatic for Tracy. Shelley, now 23, has moved to Birmingham with her partner, so Terry is an even more important part of Tracy’s family. She’s delighted to have him home again: “A massive thank you to VGC, for all they’ve done in for arranging for him to be brought home to us so quickly and smoothly.”