Pride of Reading awards: Olly comes out of his shell with tortoise club
A 14-year-old tortoise lover from Emmer Green wasn’t slow in coming forward to set up a club in honour of his favourite breed of animal.
Olly Staines really came out of his shell to set up the Berkshire Tortoise Club at the start of this year.
Inspired by the Norfolk Tortoise Club Slow, he slowly and steadily built up his group by contacting other tortoise lovers in the area using Facebook.
And on April 11, he launched the club to widespread publicity, including an article on getreading.
The club now has more than 120 Facebook members, an eight-strong committee and monthly meetings attended by up to 40 tortoise fans, aged from nine to almost 80, from across the county.
And plans are shell under way for more events and activities and to develop the support network and up-to-date information on best tortoise care.
And so impressed is Woodley’s Berna Murphy with Olly’s determination and devotion to tortoises that she has nominated him for the Young Person of the Year accolade.
Mrs Murphy, who is the club secretary and nominated Olly on behalf of the committee, said: “Oliver was just 14 years old when he thought Berkshire would benefit from having a tortoise club. [The] Thames Valley had no organisation for tortoise owners.
“[And for] one young person [he] has made a major, on-going difference by following through on an idea, and started a community of people of all ages who share a love of tortoises where none existed before in the Reading area.”
Mrs Murphy also put the Berkshire Tortoise Club up for the Cultural Contribution gong, saying the club is “going from strength to strength”.
She went on: “The club has attracted members from all across Berkshire and fills a niche in creating a community of tortoise owners who can share their knowledge and expertise, help and support each other and keep up-to-date with best practice on how to care for their tortoises.
“England has a long tradition of interest in these animals, many of whom are now internationally recognised as endangered species.
“Olly has succeeded in sparking a truly inclusive new club,” she added.
Olly, who attends St Joseph’s College, said: “I feel honoured and surprised to have been nominated for Pride of Reading.
“I have owned tortoises since 2013 and from that moment my fascination for them has grown. I currently have two Mediterranean tortoises, which are called Frankie and Agnes, believed to be both female. They are spur thigh [tortoises] – this is the species which my Grandad had when he was a kid, and it is estimated that in the 1960s approximately 480,000 spur-thighed tortoises were imported into Britain.
“Tortoises are really interesting pets to keep. It’s amazing that some get to such an old age. It’s a bit of a myth that tortoises go slow; when it’s hot Frankie and Agnes crank up to quite a speed! They have daily baths and eat a diet of garden weeds, plants and flowers and I am really fascinated by tortoise husbandry in general. I am hoping to get some hatchling tortoises this summer so I can expand my group of spur thigh tortoises.”
Olly’s Mum Rachael said: “I think it’s just wonderful that he’s being recognised for his dedication and commitment to his love of tortoises and his initiative in developing the club.”
For more information on tortoise care, email berkshiretortoiseclub@ hotmail.com .
The Cultural Contribution Award is sponsored by Grosvenor Casinos.
The Child of Courage Award is sponsored by Quintiles .