Category Archives: All Posts

From pets, wildlife and farm animals to bugs, birds and fish, if you’re under 19, enter your pics into the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham wants young people to get snapping during the school holidays and enter their photos into the RSPCA’s Young Photographer Awards.

Whether it’s a bird, a bug or a big beautiful mammal, it’s a fun way to spend time during the holidays and photos of any kinds of animals are welcome.  And whatever the age – under 12, 12-15 or 16-18 – there’s a category for everyone.

One of the two new categories in this year’s Awards – ‘Picture Perfect Pets’ – offers young photographers the opportunity to take the best photo possible of their pet.  Whether pets are captured in motion, in portrait, in black and white, in an arty shot, or doing something that captures their character, the RSPCA wants to see these inspiring photos.

A second new category exploring the Human Impact on Animals has also been introduced into the competition.  For this category, youngsters are being challenged to take photos showing how man-made materials and processes such as litter, plastics, deforestation, pesticides and pollution are affecting animals and how they are adapting.

Naturalist, presenter and judge Chris Packham and his fellow competition judges will be looking for powerful, imaginative and original photos of animals.

Chris said:  “This year I am very excited to see two new categories, a move that should open up the competition to an even wider range of abilities and interests.

I’m really delighted that there’s a new category for young people’s photographs of their pets, something which is particularly close to my heart.  And I expect the other new category which shows human impact on animals to produce some very poignant, powerful images.”

Last year, the top prize was taken by seventeen-year-old Gideon Knight from Ilford, whose winning photo of a little egret feeding in a London park was singled-out from thousands of entries.  Titled ‘A stab in the dark’, the picture beat off fierce competition from more than 3,500 photographs to win the top prize in 2017.

As well as Chris Packham, the judging panel of photographic experts includes award-winning photographers Andrew Forsyth, Jules Cox, Elliott Neep, Ellie Rothnie and Mark Sissons, andformer RSPCA Young Photographer Awards overall winner Catriona Parfitt.  Awards sponsors Warners Midlands Plc, Natures Images and Wex Photographic also help with the challenging task of judging.

The overall prize is a weekend photography break courtesy of Natures Images – ‘Deer and Birds of Prey – UK – 2019’ (worth £890), and up to £800 of camera vouchers from Wex Photographic for the category winners.  Winners, who will also receive a trophy and certificate.

The closing date is 4pm on Friday 17 August. Hopeful entrants can submit their images online at

For 2018 there are seven categories, of which entrants can enter three images with a maximum of 35 photos that can be submitted in total:

  • Under 12 years
  • 12–15 years
  • 16–18 years
  • Portfolio
  • Picture Perfect Pets
  • The Human Impact on Animals
  • Mobile Phone and Devices

An overall winner will be chosen by the judges from the winners of each category.

In addition, a selection of photos entered in the mobile phone category will be put to the public vote in March 2019 (promoted on the RSPCA website and social media). The photo with the most votes wins the People’s Choice Award.

Winners will be presented with prizes at an awards ceremony hosted by Chris Packham at the Tower of London in December 2018.

Every two hours, the RSPCA answers a call about an animal that has been harmed by rubbish, new figures have shown.   The animal charity answered 5,081 calls about animals affected by litter in 2017. Previous competition runner-up Owen Hearn managed to capture the human impact on animals brilliantly in 2014, with his prize-winning image of gannets nesting among bits of rope from nets and fishing debris washed up from the sea.

Chris Packham said: “I have been judging the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards for many years and I am always amazed by the high standard of entries.

““This is a such a brilliant competition as it really makes us stop, look at and think about the animals around us. Some of the photos we have seen in past years have captured really magical moments and I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s entries.

“It is great to see so many young people picking up their cameras and having a go. We hope many more will take part this year too.”

Stagecoach Performing Arts celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Launched by Stephanie Manuel in 1988, Stagecoach is now the largest performing arts network of its kind combining singing, dancing and acting classes for children. 30 years on and Stagecoach has more than 700 schools training almost 45,000 students across nine countries.

Sharing in the success is Stagecoach Epsom which was taken on by Rachel Crouch in 2014. Under Rachel’s helm, the Epsom school has grown from 380 to an amazing 600 students all training weekly in singing, dancing, acting and confidence!

On reaching 30th years of success, Rachel comments “we are delighted to be celebrating 30 years of Stagecoach. Our students and teachers have all been wearing special 30th anniversary t-shirts this term and I’m looking forward to sharing further celebrations with our students and parents over the course of the year.”

Whilst it’s not the main reason for children joining Stagecoach, Rachel and her team are incredibly proud of those students who have performed in West End shows including Matilda, School of Rock, The Ferryman, Bugsy Malone, Lion King to name a few. With others appearing in TV dramas and major movies. For those destined for the bright lights, Stagecoach Epsom also trains students (aged 15-19) wanting a professional career or looking to take their training to a more professional level.

“I love the impact that Stagecoach has on children’s lives. Although we train stars for the stage and screen we also train them for life and schools often report how our students have grown in confidence and focus in the classroom too. Stagecoach offers skills for life and creative courage for whatever children go on to be.” Rachel, School Principal – Epsom.


Over half (54%) of the UK’s 2-5 year olds don’t regularly use knives and forks when eating at home – with 46% of parents not even providing utensils as an option.

The surprising statistic comes from a survey undertaken by, the UKs stem cell bank. The survey covered parents of 3,000 children between two and four years old across the UK and highlighted regional disparities.

While many parents will be able to sympathise with the struggle of getting their toddlers to eat their food rather than decorate with it, the survey revealed differing attitudes towards encouraging little ones to use cutlery.

The survey conducted by who spoke to 3000 parents through out the UK

When asked does your child (aged 2-5) use a knife and fork to eat

Yes – 46%

No – 54%


Some parents, such as Malcolm, 37 from London, were determined to instill good table manners into their children – despite the usual messy drawbacks of mealtimes with youngsters. Malcolm said:

“I’m normally at work when the kids eat, but we do all have breakfast together, which includes the occasional boiled egg. At the weekends we all eat together though – and although it’s normally its cold by the time they have finished and half of it’s on the floor, they do have to use a knife and fork to eat their meals!”

Others found that looking up to older siblings encouraged reluctant cutlery users, with Anna, 34, saying “It helps that our four year old uses a fork as the two year old loves to copy – although I’m not giving her a knife just yet!”.

However, some parents were less rigorous when it comes to mealtime etiquette – and fussy eaters were revealed as a problem. Mercedes, 23, from Bradford, admitted that her child only opted for food which didn’t require cutlery, such as toast or crisps, adding: “I’ve tried giving him chicken nuggets, but he’s just not interested.”

However, warned that not teaching your children to use cutlery correctly would be a hindrance once they reached school age.

Anna Edwards, spokesperson for, added:

“It’s important that children learn life skills early on. Schools expect that a child without any additional difficulties would be able to use a knife and fork by the time they start Reception and parents cannot expect teachers to be cutting up their children’s food for them.”

The NHS offers plenty of free advice for parents looking to help teach their children this important life skill, such as ensuring the table is at the right height and clear from clutter or distractions like the TV to encourage concentration.

The guidance also notes that while progress can be slow – and, as respondents to the survey agreed, messy – “it is important for them to learn the sequence and movements required for feeding”. The fine motor skills gained by putting these movements into practice also help your children’s brains develop as they grow.’s Anna Edwards concluded:

“It might seem quicker and easier to help mealtimes along by assisting your child in eating – but this is a skill that they need to learn for themselves. By cutting up food for your child, you’re not giving them the chance to practice and many children will abandon their cutlery altogether in response, reverting back to using their fingers.”

“Independence at school lunchtimes is just one of many reasons why this is important for children. By encouraging them to be present and engaged at mealtimes, you will help foster healthier attitudes to food, mindfulness about what they are eating – which can lead to healthier food choices – and, of course, give them impeccable table manners for life!”



Sharp Shots Photo Club and The Royal Photographic Society launch competition that invites young people to explore their identity through photographs

Sharp Shots Photo Club, the UK’s number one provider of kids and teens’ photography courses, has partnered with The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and Nikon School to launch their latest photography competition. ‘The Alternative Selfie’ calls for young people, aged between 7-15 years, to capture a series of images that tell the story of who they are, going beyond the standard ‘selfie’.

The competition is now open and accepting entries until 31 August, when it closes. Judges will select their winner based on originality, creativity and the most cohesive story told, as well as photographic skill. A Nikon Coolpix W100 Digital Camera, worth £129, will be awarded to the age 7-11 category winner, and a Nikon Coolpix P900 Digital Camera, retailing at £539, for the age 12-15 category winner.

The winning entrants will also receive an RPS goody bag and have their work displayed in an online gallery on the RPS website, along with 10 runners-up.

Lillian Spibey, award-winning lifestyle photographer and founder of Sharp Shots Photo Club, said, “Young people have grown used to expressing themselves through carefully-curated social media posts, in which they use ‘selfies’ to construct their digital selves.

“We decided to launch this competition to challenge ‘selfie culture’, encouraging kids and teens to explore their identity in a way that goes beyond physical appearance. We hope that through this, they will be able to express their individuality and tell their story from behind the lens, rather than looking into it.”

Liz Williams, education manager at RPS, added: “Photography is embedded in everyday life – and never more so than with younger people who spend more and more time viewing, visually documenting and publishing events and non-events in their lives. It’s important that we encourage them to be critical of their images as well as creative.

“Photography competitions are a great fun way of getting young people to consider what they photograph and to take the time to stop, analyse and question how they express meaning in their images. The RPS is very happy to be working with Sharp Shots as it encourages children and teens to take up a camera and have fun learning, which after all is the best way to learn.”

The Alternative Selfie is a UK-wide competition for young people aged between 7-15 years old. Entry will be in two age categories: 7-11 years and 10-15 years. Entries close at midnight on 31 August 2018.

Kids and teens can enter via Instagram, following and tagging Sharp Shots and RPS using the hashtag #SSaltselfie, or via email. For more information on how to enter the competition, go to:

Winners will be announced on social media on 7 September and also contacted via email or direct message. Follow Sharp Shots Photo Club on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay updated.

Steve Reice started the business back in April this year, and has spent the last two and a half months tasting a wide range of artisan goods.

‘When customers visit our online store, they will find the finest range of foods and skincare, all of which have been produced with love, care and a focus on being ethical and cruelty free.

Once the customer has completed the check-out process, if they live within one of the ‘in-house’ delivery postcodes, their goods will be delivered and unpacked by a member of the artisan team, who will also be happy to answer any questions the customer might have…for example the best way to serve a product or what to pair it with.

Our delivery vehicles are all spotlessly clean and are 18 plate Kia Niro’s officially the world’s most fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle…the artisan general store is committed to exceeding expectation and to providing an experience that confirms to the customer how valued they are.

Shortly we will also be introducing a range of luxury hampers, artisan tasting experiences and ‘made-to-order’ desserts.’

Please visit our website




The government is failing to see the full picture of the effects of domestic abuse on children, including its significant impact on children’s mental health, Barnardo’s has warned.

In its response to the consultation on the Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill, the leading children’s charity says children affected by domestic violence and abuse need specialist services to help them deal with trauma and have the chance to lead healthy and happy lives.

Research by Barnardo’s, which runs 14 specialist domestic abuse services, shows that children in families where there is domestic abuse are often also vulnerable in other ways and can be affected by the experience for the rest of their lives.

While services across the country focus primarily on working either with adult victims of domestic abuse or perpetrators, Barnardo’s says not enough is being done to address the trauma children have suffered and the long term impact abuse has on their lives.

More needs to be done to break the cycle of domestic abuse, the charity says, as children who are not supported have a high chance of going on to be perpetrators or victims themselves.

Almost 100% of practitioners in Barnardo’s domestic abuse services said children who are affected by domestic violence and abuse need a specialist support worker.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“Barnardo’s knows first-hand that children and young people are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse. They are not just witnesses, even if abuse and violence isn’t aimed directly at them.

“Growing up in families where there is abuse or violence can lead to serious emotional effects which can stay with children for life.

“Research in our services shows many children who have been sexually exploited or who show harmful sexual behaviour live in households where there is abuse or violence. They are also more likely to be in abusive relationships themselves later in life.

“Children and young people need specialist support to overcome trauma and go on to lead happy, healthy lives and this bill is a missed opportunity to put them at the centre of their strategy.”

Barnardo’s works with victims, perpetrators and children in its specialist domestic abuse services, but the charity also works with children who are affected by domestic abuse in many of its other services.

Evidence from Barnardo’s Child Sexual Exploitation and Harmful Sexual Behaviour services shows that experience of domestic abuse is the most common characteristic in families where children and young people are sexually exploited or sexually harm other children.

Because of this Barnardo’s provides domestic abuse support in its broader services like child sexual exploitation and young carer services and children’s centres.

Barnardo’s surveyed its expert practitioners on domestic abuse as well as services that work on other vulnerabilities to fully understand the prevalence of domestic abuse within vulnerable children’s lives.

More than 90% of Barnardo’s specialist domestic abuse services said they see child neglect in families affected by domestic abuse and nearly 60% of child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour services said the families they work with are also affected by domestic abuse.

Barnardo’s practitioners said they regularly see children and young people with mental health issues, social isolation, anxiety and problems at school due to domestic abuse within the family.

An increasing amount of evidence shows children who experience stressful and poor quality childhoods are more likely to develop health-harming and anti-social behaviours, perform poorly in school, become involved in crime and less likely to be a productive member of society.

Barnardo’s is also calling for a joined-up governmental approach involving key departments including Health and Social Care, Education, Work and Pension and Housing, Communities and Local Government to tackle and prevent domestic abuse in the long term.

To celebrate Carers Week 2018, Surrey charity Action for Carers will be organising various activities throughout Surrey for carers to take some time out and to connect with others.

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities across the UK. The theme this year is supporting carers to stay healthy and connected, and the week runs from Monday 11 to Sunday 17 of June.

Events range from afternoon teas to pamper evenings as well as information stalls in prominent places such as Guildford High Street, Cranleigh Market, the Royal Surrey Hospital and Farnham Care Centre. The stalls are to raise awareness of what support Action for Carers can provide.

Find out all about Carers Week here including Surrey events on the listings pages. See a full list of Action for Carers Surrey events for Carers Week below.

Jamie Gault, CEO of Action for Carers: ‘Carers Week is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and also a vehicle for Action for Carers to promote our services and how we can support carers in their caring role.’
About Action for Carers

  • There are an estimated 115,216 carers in Surrey, approximately 1 in 10 people. 52% of carers are being treated for stress. Action for Carers is a Guildford based charity providing free information, support, events, advice and more to carers of all ages, across Surrey.
  • Action for Carers Surrey comprises Carer Support for adult Carers, Surrey Young Carers as well as specialist services: Moving and Handling, Giving Carers a Voice and Armed Forces Carer Support.

Carers Week Events All need to be booked in advance by calling Action For Carers on 0303 0410 1234.

Stalls and Information Events
Monday 11th June: Guildford High Street (outside Holy Trinity Church) 10am–4pm.
Farnham Care Centre, 10am–2pm

Tuesday 12th June:  Royal Surrey County Hospital, 10am–4pm.
Frimley Park Hospital, 10am–4pm

Thursday 14th June: Cranleigh Market, 10am–4pm

Friday 15th June: Farnham Care Centre, 10am–3pm, free hand massage and free healthy fruit.
                                                                                                                                                             13th June: Surrey Heath Carers Week Tea Party
2-4pm, High Cross Church, Camberley. Come and join in the celebrations of carers in Carers Week.

13th June: Hydration and falls prevention
1.30-4pm, Godalming Rugby Club. Join us over tea and cake to learn more about how to look after ourselves by hydrating better and preventing falls.

14th June: Pamper Evening
6:45 – 9:15pm, St Pius Church Hall, Guildford. An evening of massage and relaxation for carers.

18th June: Packet Boat and cream tea
2-4pm Enjoy a relaxing afternoon floating down the River Wey with a cream tea.

28th June: Salsa Dancing with Mundo Latino
10 – 12noon, Ash Centre, Ash Learn some new moves or brush up on your technique. No previous dance experience needed – just come and have some fun!

5th July: Looking after your health and wellbeing
9.30am-2pm, The Ash Centre, Ash

A reminder that all events need to be booked in advanced by calling Action for Carers on 0303 0410 1234.
Thank you.

Thousands of Surrey residents join national nature challenge 30 Days Wild starting on Friday 1st June

Naturalists, TV presenters and authors are backing The Wildlife Trusts’ national nature challenge to do something ‘wild’ every day in June.  30 Days Wild encourages people to connect with the beauty in nature on their doorsteps every single day. New research shows taking part improves health, happiness and conservation behaviour.

Kate Humble, TV presenter, wildlife, nature and science programmes, said: “I have got a challenge, I want you – throughout the month of June – to go outside every day! That’s 30 whole days going outside. Why wouldn’t you?  Just go wild in June!”

Research by the University of Derby  shows that 30 Days Wild is unique in improving people’s perception of beauty in nature, and that noticing natural beauty makes people happier and want to care for it.

Dr Miles Richardson, Director of Psychology, University of Derby* explained:

“Tuning-in to the everyday beauty of nature becomes part of a journey which connects us more deeply to the natural world. As people’s appreciation of natural beauty increases, so does their happiness.  We respond to beauty – it restores us and balances our emotions. This, in turn, encourages people to do more to help wildlife and take action for nature.”

So far thousands of Surrey residents have signed up to 30 Days Wild, individually or through schools and corporates. Surrey Wildlife Trust hopes to encourage even more people than last year to take part across the county.  Across the UK over 54,000 people have already signed up to go wild in June and The Wildlife Trust hopes to reach over a quarter of a million people this year.

Charlotte Magowan, marketing and Communications Manager for Surrey Wildlife Trust, said:

30 Days Wild is a lovely way to get closer to nature and marvel at the everyday wildlife that lives all around you. Sit quietly and enjoy watching birds at feeder or take a moment to notice the bees pollinating wild flowers. Create a log pile house for minibeasts or get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog highways. No matter how small the action, it all counts!”

For the first time this year the Trust is holding a Big Wild Weekend on June 16-17 to inspire everyone to go wild. Guildford Goes Wild returns to Guildford High Street on the Saturday, while the Trust’s Bay Pond reserve in Godstone is holding a family open day on the Sunday. And there are a host of 30 Days Wild walks, talks and family events throughout June.

With Surrey Wildlife Trust you can also sign up for Wild Tots at Nower Wood near Leatherhead, for forest school inspired adventures, Forest Bathing at Newlands Corner, designed to calm the body and mind, or discover a chalk grassland habitat at Howell Hill in Cheam.

Taking part in 30 Days Wild is FREE, open to people of all ages and the Trust hopes schools, families, businesses, community groups and individuals will all sign up to go wild. You’ll get a FREE pack crammed with wild inspiration – a booklet of ‘Random Acts of Wildness’, a wall chart to record your wild activities, stickers and wildflower seeded paper to sow. It’s full of great ideas to re-wild your street – from carving hedgehog holes in fences, to putting up bird boxes or doing a local litter pick.

There are also special packs for schools with inspiring outdoor lesson plans and giant Random Acts of Wildness cards to get children closer to nature. Businesses can join in too, with downloadable packs to bring the ‘wild’ to work, which include posters, calendars and even bunting and selfie props!

Sign up for your FREE 30 Days Wild pack or book your wild event at And don’t forget to share the fun of #30DaysWild with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s time to go wild!

Thirty-nine Samaritans volunteers attended a prestigious garden party at Buckingham Palace yesterday, to celebrate His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday.

Newly-weds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were there too – undertaking their first public engagement since they were married on Saturday.

Bob Howe, who has volunteered at the Leeds branch for 17 years, was the man to represent the charity in an official photo, alongside representatives from each of the Prince’s patronages. He was hoping to pick up some tips from the Palace gardener on the well-manicured lawn.

“The gardens are just immaculate – a true oasis of calm.” Bob said.

“The whole day was surreal and a fantastic opportunity to speak to such a range of guests about how we train our volunteers. I was also struck by how Harry is such a natural speaker and how at ease Charles was when he greeted the guests.

“Appearing in the pictures behind Meghan and Camilla has caused amusement among my friends and family! I spotted the BBC camera and moved a bit to make sure I was in shot – and it worked.”

The volunteers and Samaritans staff attended the impressive party after being nominated for their commitment to volunteering by their colleagues.

Ellie McGowan, Volunteering Development Manager at Samaritans was lucky enough to speak to the Duchess of Cornwall. “It was a very unreal moment” Ellie said.

“Camilla walked through the crowds and approached me, shook my hand and asked where I was from. When I said I was from Samaritans, she smiled and said that Samaritans does marvellous work. I couldn’t agree more.”

More than 7,000 guests tucked into sarnies, cakes, royal ice-cream and lots of tea from the famous tea tent. Whilst meandering around the glorious Palace grounds, they were also treated to a band playing a range of hits.

Bury volunteer Darran Latham, felt proud to be part of the event. He said: “It was so inspiring to be surrounded by opulence, fantastic music and everyone immaculately dressed, for a second I felt like James Bond.

“What made it special for me, was that it was a day for unsung heroes and ordinary people that do extra special things. It was a melting pot of diversity and everything that’s special about Britain, all with something in common – helping others.”

Over the years as Patron, Prince Charles has met many Samaritans volunteers and enjoyed a cup of tea from a Samaritans mug as part of the charity’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2013. Over his 19 years as Patron, Samaritans has responded to approximately 96.8 million calls for help.

Samaritans volunteers gathered at a special event before the Party held at the Royal Overseas League where they tucked into nibbles and tea in a warm up for the main event.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland, Felicity Varah Harding, the daughter of Samaritans founder and Chair of Trustees, Jenni McCartney were also at the Buckingham Palace celebrations.

Jenni said: “We were really happy to have the opportunity to thank Prince Charles personally for everything he has done to support Samaritans. It was a truly wonderful event and an important way for us to pay tribute to our wonderful and dedicated volunteers.”

Families can make the most of the good weather this school half term, by getting involved in all the fun of National Children’s Gardening week.

Happening from 26 May to 3 June, this week-long event provides a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to get children outside with nature, plants and wildlife. Garden centres and schools are getting stuck in too providing activities and resources.

Gardening is a huge part of a child’s health and wellbeing with over 1.5 million children gardening at school in the UK. As well as simply good outdoor fun, school gardening has been shown to have many benefits to health and wellbeing. These include being more physically active, being happier and feeling more connected with the natural world, helping with social interaction, and having better behaviour in the classroom and a willingness to learn.

There are many ways to get involved during National Children’s Gardening week from DIY activities at home to going to an event at a garden centre.

The website features lots of great ideas for projects from creating an edible hanging basket to growing a bamboo tipi made of runner beans. There are also resources that can be downloaded to support activities for the week – and the rest of the year.

Over 300 garden centres are taking part in National Children’s Gardening Week so families can enjoy a day out at their local centre. These include:  Wyevale Garden Centres, Notcutts, Blue Diamond, Dobbies, Squires, Haskins, Scotsdale and Bents; check out their events at

Follow National Children’s Gardening Week for all the latest news and events taking place.