July 22, 2021 9.39 am

Stray seal found in Lincolnshire garden identified as famous paddleboarder

Not the first time it’s made headlines

A fame hungry seal who found fame after hitching a ride on a paddleboard has now shown up sunbathing in a garden – more than 20 miles from the Lincolnshire coast.

Police were called to rescue notorious grey seal Dandy Dinmont after a bemused homeowner discovered her basking on her garden wall in Billinghay on Tuesday morning.

The wandering seal was released into the River Welland at Fosdyke – but when RSPCA inspectors examined Dandy’s orange tag, they discovered it was not the first time she had made headlines.

The rescue came just months after Dandy stunned a woman by clinging onto her paddleboard during a lesson in the River Witham at Boston.

Police were despatched to Billinghay – 30 minutes drive from the North Sea – after a startled resident woke on Tuesday morning to the unexpected sight.

Anne Page, 72, was out gardening when she saw the seal sunbathing on her lawn. | Photo: John Aron

Anne Page, 72, called her son, Rob, 48, for help, who in turn called local police wildlife officer PC Martin Green.

“I went out to water my plants in the back garden just after 7.30am and straight away I saw the seal on my patio,” an astonished Anne revealed.

“We were just staring face to face. I put down my watering can, went back inside and then went out again as I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.

“I blocked the steps, as I know they can be quite aggressive, but I seemed to frighten it and the seal moved onto the lawn under our willow tree.

“I then rang my son. I don’t think he believed what I was actually saying.

“Instead of a seal in the garden he thought I was telling him the seal had gone on my door.”

Rob said: “Mum was quite surprised. It’s not your everyday thing you see.

“I tried calling the RSPCA and the seal sanctuary but couldn’t get a response, so called a friend in the police and he came along and dealt with it

“The seal seemed very tame and quite relaxed.

“She was in the sun at first but then moved into the shade when the temperature rose as I got there.”

The seal had crawled out of the nearby River Skirth and made it up the bank. | Photo: John Aron

Initially thinking he was having his leg pulled, PC Green dismissed a suggestion the seal had wriggled out of the nearby River Skirth and up the bank, into the woman’s garden.

“At this time of year the Skirth is only eight feet wide and one and a half feet deep and full of weed – not suitable for a seal,” explained PC Green.

But PC Green quickly learned that a well-known seal had been swimming up and down the nearby River Witham for over a year, regularly sighted and videoed catching fish.

Not your everyday sight, PC Green found a seal in a Billinghay garden. | Photo: Sleaford Police

PC Green said: “The RSPCA have received numerous reports about this seal, nicknamed Dandy, but whenever they have turned up they cannot find her.”

Central Lincolnshire has seen some of the hottest temperatures during this weeks heatwave, with local thermometers measuring 29 degrees.

PC Green revealed: “By that point the seal had moved onto the garden looking for some shade.”

Having asked the householders to bar the way back to the river until he arrived, he enlisted the help of an RSPCA inspector and they found her taking shade under a tree.

Mr Page explained: “We kept our distance and did try to give her some sardines, but I guess she didn’t want them in tomato sauce!

“Even the police and RSPCA used boards to usher her into a kennel.”

The family, who run a haulage and potato business, were not aware of the wandering seal before Dandy’s surprise appearance.

Anne added: “We must be at least 20 or 30 miles from the sea so it was a real surprise.

“I had cut down the reeds at the end of my garden which allowed her to get up.

“She must have swum all the way up the main River Witham and then into the River Skirth which is another four miles to us.”

The seal was eventually freed back into the water after his crafty travels. | Photo: John Aron

PC Green added: “She was in good condition for her age.

“I would say she weighed 60 to 70kg. It was not easy to get her into a kennel in the back of his (the inspector’s) van.

“We then released her into the River Welland down river from Fosdyke Bridge near a grey seal colony.”

Dandy has a bit of a record for straying and has been rescued and released by the RSPCA once before in the past.

PC Green said: “This is very rare. I have dealt with three seals in my 23 years of policing.

“We would not recommend people approaching seals, instead call an expert as they can give a nasty bite.”

It is not the first time Dandy has made headlines.

In September last year the cheeky seal hitched a ride on a paddleboard, surprising a woman who was taking a beginner’s lesson.

On that occasion Dandy was much closer to home near the coastal port of Boston and was caught on camera by instructor Phil May.

“There have been rumours before of the Witham Seal, well here he is,” he said afterwards.

Mr May later contacted Natureland Seal Sanctuary in Skegness, as he could see the seal had an orange tracking tag.

It revealed the seal was called Dandy Dinmont and was released by the RSPCA into the sea in 2017 after being found at East Mersea Island in Essex.

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