24 Mar 2023

Human interest Greater Manchester

Shell-shocked: Trespassing tortoise survives power nap at electricity substation

Harvey Dean-Evans, Mary the tortoise and Ben Baxendale

A missing pet tortoise has been safely reunited with its owner after seven months – having had a long ‘power nap’ at a nearby 11,000-volt electricity substation.

Pet tortoise Mary escaped from her Wigan-home back in August 2022, much to the dismay of nine-year-old owner Harvey Dean-Evans.

Harvey along with mother Jodie and father Ryan searched frantically for the beloved pet, which would usually only hibernate for two to three months, and the family eventually gave up hope of finding the reptile.

But, last week and completely out of the blue, Ben Baxendale, a grounds maintenance operative for power network operator Electricity North West, found the pet whilst clearing litter from the grounds of an electricity substation that powers the local area in Norley in Wigan, Greater Manchester.

“At first, I thought it was some sort of toy on the floor then I saw the tortoise move and retract its head into its shell,” said Ben.

“It was certainly a strange one and something I’ve never dealt with before, I put the tortoise in a bucket and thought I’d knock on a few doors but knew if it wasn’t anybody’s we’d have to find it a home for the weekend.

“We always make it clear that no one should ever enter our substations – they have ‘danger of death’ signs on for a reason – but this is the first time I’ve seen a trespassing tortoise! I’m just delighted we could return her safely to where she belongs.”

With properties just metres away from the substation, Ben started to door knock and as if by magic, the first person he spoke with was Harvey’s grandmother who instantly identified the tortoise as Mary.

Mother Jodie, who also has pet turtles and terrapins, admitted the family’s hopes of finding Mary were dashed after an incredibly cold winter.

She said: “It’s fair to say nobody in the family thought we’d ever see Mary again, given the weather and the time missing, we just thought there’s no chance.

“Mary is used to being outside. During the summer, we regularly let her out in a small pen and she’s quite well known on the estate.

“But that evening in August, she somehow got out of the garden and despite searching all over, there were just no signs of her and we thought she’d been taken.”

News quickly spread about Mary’s return and the family flooded to the house to see the return of the much-loved pet.

Jodie continued: “There was all sorts of emotions when we saw Mary, it was such a heart-warming moment to see the smile on Harvey’s face.

“He’s really into his animals and loves everything about nature, he was devastated when Mary had gone missing but seeing his reaction when she was found made a few of us cry.

“I honestly can’t thank Ben and Electricity North West enough, they really did make Harvey’s day.”

Despite the long hibernation, Mary is now resting back at home as she becomes more accustomed to normal life.