London - Two surfers riding an inland river bore saved a stranded baby porpoise and released it back into the sea - after driving it 209km in the boot of a car.
Dave Butterton and Ben Rogers were riding the Severn Bore when they found the distressed young porpoise lying helplessly on a sandbank.
It had become beached by the outgoing tide and was in danger of an agonisingly slow death by the side of the Severn in Gloucestershire - kilometres from the open sea.
The pals wrapped the stricken mammal in wet sheets and towels and carried it to the car using one of their surfboards as a stretcher.
After heaving the animal through the river and up the muddy bank, they rested it on to firefighter Butterton’s 3m-long surfboard and dragged it nearly a kilometre back to their car.
Model-maker Rogers said: “It was quite a young one so it wasn’t too heavy, but there was still a lot of muscle there. It was probably the size of a small child.
“We had to get it up the bank through all the reeds, which wasn’t easy because the bank was steep and it was just the two of us.
“We got it up to the top in the end and put it on Dave’s board, and he dragged it along while I steadied it along this footpath,” he said.
“It was so tired it just sat there.”
The pair decided that Butterton, from Ilfracombe, Devon, would drive the porpoise back home with him that night and release it into the sea.
So they wrapped it in blankets and a wet towel and popped it in the boot of his car - where it stayed for two-and-a-half hours.
He made a couple of stops along the way to check on the porpoise and make sure it was kept wet.
He stopped at his house to pick up his partner, Mary Taylor, 48, and their two sons, Jamie, 12, and Tommy, 10, before driving to Hele Bay beach, where the porpoise was set free.
Taylor, an artist, said: “We drove to the edge of the beach so we wouldn’t have to carry it too far.
“Jamie and Dave carried it across the beach and into the sea. They went in about waist deep.
“It lay still for a moment and then suddenly leaped to life and swam away,” she said.
“We were hoping it would give a little jump like in Free Willy and it didn’t, but it was an amazing sense of satisfaction. It swam away very happily.”