The Joey Essex campaign for pond safety

You might be thinking this is a safety initiative being championed by this guy:





Source: @joeyessex instagram

Sorry. Not quite.

Meet Joey Essex, or should I say the late Joey Essex. An eight year old spur thighed tortoise.


We were brought together in a beautiful union on my thirtieth birthday. (You know that moment in the lady in the tramp when the lady is gifted a puppy with a bow, a bit like that. But this living gift was a bit less fluffy and slobbery – more scaly and well, slow). It was love at first sight.

We were destined to see out our days together. He would be passed down to the girls and maybe even outlive us all.

Joey had a good life roaming free in our garden. Each autumn he would bury himself before we managed to hibernate him, clever boy. The highlight of the first warm days of spring would be discovering a little ball of mud wandering around the garden. We would give him a warm bath and his familiar face would emerge, ready to gobble up some greens.


Joey came from humble beginnings, a pet shop in Basildon (hence the name, in case you were wondering). He became part of our family and was a very much loved pet, despite his apparent lack of cuddliness. We took our role as tortoise-parents seriously; researching the right food stuffs for him, and even admitting him to tortoise-hospital when he went off his food, for nursing back to health.


And so, it was with great sorrow our story takes a sad turn. For as nature lovers, our garden did, and does, feature a small wildlife pond. Often quizzed over whether we would fill it in, we ruled out that option in favour of attracting frogs, newts, dragonflies and insects to the garden. We did install a safety net, pegged into the earth and ensured our young daughter was never unaccompanied in the garden. We kept the back door locked and were reassured by the fact she was too small to be able to open the door unaided. It was always a topic of conversation, and although we googled the options for pond covers, fences and meshes, we procrastinated on the actual installation.

And then, one late summer’s day, we noticed Joey was missing. Unconvinced he had wandered off, we wondered if he had gone into early hibernation? Relatively unconcerned, we were sure he’d turn up, as he always did.

He did turn up, two weeks later. He had drowned in our pond. (Or, as the story is told by Tigs…”He got drunk in our pond”).

In hindsight, that net had not been substantial enough to stop Joey coming to an untimely demise. After all, a ten year old tortoise is heavy, and over time the net had become weathered, worn and saggy. The guilt was a heavy burden, and we were devastated that we could have prevented the tragedy. We also felt this was a stark warning to the dangers to our children, that we perhaps hadn’t taken seriously enough.

But Joeys life was not in vain. This story taught us that ponds are a lethal hazard if left unguarded effectively. We installed a robust stainless steel grid over the pond within weeks, and had it secured in place.


We can’t turn back time and bring back Joey Essex. But we can let Joeys legacy live on. If you have a garden pond with no safeguarding, and you have small children, grandchildren, pets or passing tortoises, let’s put that right. Get the ball rolling this week. Don’t put it off.

This summer, let’s make our garden ponds totally safe for visitors, residents and passers by. Let’s make our ponds reem.


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32 thoughts on “The Joey Essex campaign for pond safety

  1. Mother of Teenagers Reply

    A very sad tale but a great piece of advice. There have been so many sad stories of children falling into ponds and surely it is better to be safe than sorry.

  2. anywaytostayathome Reply

    I’m so sorry about Joey Essex. A very worthy lesson though, a good reminder for us all #coolmumclub

  3. Emma Jones Reply

    Ah poor Joey!!! I’m torn between saying great post & feeling sad about your poor tortoise. Although the wire grids make ponds safe I think they can look a little severe although your pond area does look colourful. Good reminder for all pond likers. #coolmumclub lifeinthemumslane

    P.s enjoy your summer break XX

    1. MMT Reply

      Thanks Emma. Absolutely, that’s probably the reason we put it off but had we known what was round the corner we wouldn’t have hesitated. Live and learn! Have a great summer too xx

  4. @fitttrain Reply

    Poor Joey! A sad but very important lesson for the kids, and I am sure a big loss x

  5. S and b mama Reply

    RIP Joey Essex. The moral of this story is so true and may just save a life x #coolmumclub

  6. nipperandtyke Reply

    Poor old Joey. Thanks for sharing your sad experience to help others! I have always loved tortoises – do you think you’ll get another one now you have installed the safety grid? I’m sure you’d have fun thinking of a new name for him/her. May I suggest Russell Brand or Jessie J?
    x Alice
    thanks for hosting #coolmumclub

  7. theidentitythieves Reply

    Ah that’s so so sad 🙁 Poor Joey Essex, and poor you. Thanks though for the reminder to keep extra safe around water x

  8. 2travellingtots Reply

    RIP Joey! At least he didn’t die in vain! we live on a farm and have both a wildlife pond and a lake and I made sure I took both my boys to swimming lessons as soon as they were old enough to make sure they at least know how to turn on their back to float! Not that they are allowed outside on their own yet 🙂

  9. Lucy (@Lucy_at_home) Reply

    Oh this is so sad. Poor Joey Essex! Good on you for promoting this important bit of advice, though. #CoolMumClub

  10. Tall Mum in Manchester Reply

    What a sad end for Joey Essex but so good of you to turn it in to a pond safety warning. We had a pond in our garden when we moved in to the house. It’s filled in now but wasn’t when we were letting our cats out for the first time. On one occasion one of them performed a feline miracle and ran across the water. I’m still not sure how she didn’t fall in completely but we had a cat with a very soggy back end as a result. We also lost a few baby hedgehogs to the pond water. Definitely worth giving them a strong cover. #coolmumclub

  11. One Messy Mama Reply

    So sorry about little Joey. We have a pond as well… My nerves are always on edge.. Thank you for bringing about some awareness! #coolmumclub

  12. teacuptoria Reply

    Noooooo poor little Joey! Firstly I LOVE that you called him Joey Essex. Secondly, that was told in a very funny way and I so did not expect that ending!! I am gutted to hear your little Joey drowned. Pond safety is a biggie over the hols I suspect. Tor xx #CoolMumClub

  13. thetaleofmummyhood Reply

    Ah poor Joey Essex 🙁 a very sad story, but a very important message excellently put across.


  14. motherhoodtherealdeal Reply

    Have to admit it was not THE Joey Essex but seriously, pond can be a scary overlooked trap so this is a really important post my #coolmumclub huni xx

  15. Sarah Reply

    Ahhh boo,RIP Joey Essex, but hopefully his untimely end wasn’t in vain. May his legacy live on in more awareness for pond safety! #coolmumclub

  16. Emma Plus Three Reply

    Oh no, poor Joey 🙁 This has broke my heart x #coolmumclub

  17. Something About Baby Reply

    RIP Joey Essex. Such a sad story, but a good warning to everyone of the dangers you often don’t think about – I fell in my nan’s pond when I was a little girl, and while I don’t remember it, my mum has never forgotten that day and the danger I was in #coolmumclub

  18. Rhyming with Wine Reply

    I’m devastated for you! I was so happy and smiling as I was reading all about your tortoise friend (and my heart actually skipped a bit when I read about him appearing each spring like a little ball of mud! Seriously – I need to go to a pet shop and buy one right now!) I then noted the subtle switch to past tense and I knew that this story was going to take a turn for the tearful. Poor little man. What a terrible shame, but how valiant for him to go for such a great cause. RIP Joey – you will go on to make a world of ponds much safer. You are a hero in a half shell. #tortoisepower.
    #coolmumclub xx

  19. Helen Reply

    Oh blimey, RIP Joey Essex. Poor lad. You look like you’ve got that pond well covered. Perhaps one day there’ll be JEII. x #coolmumclub

  20. Lex Reply

    I’m extremely sorry for your loss, a pet holds a very special place in our hearts. We don’t realise that our pets are also in that risk factor when it comes to ponds, it’s definitely opened my eyes. And at least you have a throughly secure pond area now. Thanks for a touching, eye opening post! #coolmumclub

  21. min1980 Reply

    Oh my God I think I actually snorted I was laughing so much from making our ponds “reem.” A serious message (poor Joey Essex) but brilliantly written! #coolmumclub

  22. wendy Reply

    Aww poor Joey Essex and poor you. Atleast loosing Joey gave you a kick up the make your pond safer. I don’t think I could have a garden pond as I would worry too much. I have wanted a tortoise for years, they fascinate me. I hoe the girls and you are ok after loosing your much loved pet xx #coolmumclub

  23. Mum in Brum Reply

    aw RIP Joey, that must’ve been a pretty shocking discovery. But thanks for sharing and a worthwhile reminder. I’m always paranoid about T around water and when we had the paddling pool up I could never relax. x #coolmumclub

  24. bridiebythesea Reply

    Aw poor Joey 🙁 I’ve always wanted a tortoise…that must have been a bit horrible to discover…definitely worth remembering how important pond safety is. Thanks for hosting #coolmumclub and hope you have a fab summer hun xxx

  25. Emma Reply

    awww poor buba, what a sad story. I used to have a tortoise and he used to escape the garden regularly. #coolmumclub

  26. The Speed Bump Reply

    Poor Joey Essex, but he’d be proud that his legacy is to do something good and encourage others to stay safe. Great post #coolmumclub

  27. Double the Monkey Business Reply

    Oh no I am so sorry to hear that, it certainly has made me think about the pond in our house that we are about to move into. Great that you are encouraging others to stay safe. x #coolmumclub

  28. butterflymum83 Reply

    Oh goodness, how horribly sad 🙁 I absolutely adore tortoises and Joey was a beauty. Great advice though, bless you xx #coolmumclub

  29. Silly Mummy Reply

    Aw poor Joey. I am very nervous about ponds and children – if I ended up with a garden with one in, I think I would install a grate like the one you now have as well, just in case. The only pet I have is a cat, who would presumably be unhappy about a dip in a pond, but should survive one, but I would worry about the kids. #coolmumclub

  30. Ashley Beolens (Views from an Urban Lake) Reply

    Pond safety is so important, great job highlighting it.

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