Epic trek for reindeer entrepreneur
The owner of a rent-a-reindeer business is driving 3,000 miles to the Arctic Circle and back to boost his herd in the run-up to Christmas.
George Richardson, 42, is taking his powerful Mitsubishi 4x4 and the largest towable cattle trailer he can pull and bringing back 10 females and two bulls from Northern Norway to his site in the appropriately-named Cold Hesledon, County Durham.
The garden centre owner started six years ago with three reindeer and has bred a herd of 15 which are a major attraction every Christmas.
He rents them out to shopping centres, fetes, Christmas tree barns, schools and museums.
Mr Richardson, who has loved reindeer since childhood, is bringing fresh stock in to improve the herd's blood lines.
He has befriended Sami reindeer herders living beyond the Arctic Circle who have huge herds which are kept for meat.
Mr Richardson is taking a truckers' ferry from Immingham to Gothenburg, then up Sweden, across Finland and into northern Norway, setting out on Friday.
Though the first heavy snows have not fallen yet, as October continues the temperatures will drop rapidly so far north.
He said: "We have spent six months planning this, liaising with their veterinary authorities and ours to get everything in place.
"Father Christmas doesn't have all this hassle.
"The big thing is he can fly his reindeer, it saves a fortune in diesel.
"This is an adventure for us. We will take our time on the way up, enjoying the scenery, but once we get the reindeer we will have a mad dash to get back, while making sure the reindeer are comfortable."
The rent-a-reindeer business is growing, he said.
"There is demand out there, but I couldn't make a living out of just hiring them out," he said.