Hoping for Hope!

From the age of about ten I got hooked on helping, developing a passion for volunteering once I realised that little old me could actually make a worthwhile difference in this crazy world. I must thank the www.wwf.org.uk as they were the ones who put on a sponsored walk in my local park and this gave me the opportunity to take part in something which had a tangible result. Raising money and giving my time gave me a buzz back then and has done repeatedly over the years for the many community and charity projects I’ve been involved in.

Creating a community orchard
Creating a community orchard

So 34 years on from that WWF walk I’m currently working full-time fundraising for a Hospice charity but I have been looking for an interesting challenge for a little while now. I’ve jumped out of a plane for NSPCC and climbed the highest mountain in North Africa for Rainbow Trust, helped build our local Community Centre and done several years political volunteering standing for elections etc. amongst other things but it’s been a few years since I’ve felt excited about a new…big project.

Rainbow trek in Morocco (I'm in yellow)
Rainbow trek in Morocco (I'm in yellow)

As I know I can’t actually fix the entire world (although I do sometimes lay awake at 3am trying to work this out) I would have to say the two things I currently focus on are animals and children. My previous job was fundraising for an animal sanctuary and I’m a dedicated vegan. I also have two rapidly growing children who are my world and I cannot bear to see children suffering anywhere on the planet.

Getting political !
Getting political !

So having been looking for something to help with for a little while two programmes touched me and gave me the direction I’d been looking for. First of all watching TV presenter Saira Khan in Adopting Abroad being handed a tiny baby left on the orphanage steps in Pakistan completely broke my heart. As a lifelong feminist, the fact that this was a baby girl really hit hard, one of the lucky ones not left to die alone soon after birth on a rubbish tip in a culture which values males far above females.

The second programme was Kolkata with Sue Perkins which highlighted the work of The Hope Foundation with street and slum children in this Indian city of 15 million people. I was sold. Hope needed volunteers and I had my cause.

So I’ve applied to spend 3 weeks in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) volunteering plus fundraising in advance and trying to help raise the profile of this incredible little charity which I will tell you more about over the next few months. With working full-time and having a family I can only commit to the minimum volunteering stint of 3 weeks. So while I wait for the interview and reference process to be completed, I’d love to hear comments from you of the things which have made you jump up off the sofa and do something useful with your life and any tips and advice on travelling and staying in India also appreciated. Please post your comments below…

Sue with the street children The Hope Foundation helps
Sue with the street children The Hope Foundation helps

‘Ridiculous’ speeds in Battishorne Way

This is a picture of my children waiting to cross the road near Honiton Bottom Road with cars whizzing past!
This is a picture of my children waiting to cross the road near Honiton Bottom Road with cars whizzing past!

Action is needed to fix a faulty speed detector sign on a 30mph road used as a rat run in Honiton. That is the view of town councillor Sharon Pavey, who says vehicles are “hurtling” along Battishorne Way “at ridiculous speeds”. See full story in the Midweek Herald http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/ridiculous_speeds_in_battishorne_way_1_1659014

Rugby Against Domestic Abuse

Mid Devon Police challenge the fire Service in ‘Rugby Against Domestic Abuse’ Charity Match

A charity rugby match will be played at Tiverton Rugby Club, Bolham Road, Tiverton on Monday 8 October. The ‘Rugby Against Domestic Abuse’ match will raise funds for the local domestic abuse service – Stop Abuse For Everyone.

The match organiser PCSO Dion Howells, from the Tiverton Neighbourhood Policing Team said, “This is the third of these annual matches that raises funds to support local victims of domestic abuse. In the last couple of years we have raised over £2000 and we hope to raise lots of money this year too. Both teams are fit and eager to go and the police team are keen to get their first win! This year we not only have a raffle but also a charity auction after the match so we hope many spectators will come and support this event and bid for the fantastic auction lots.”

The evening will commence at 6pm with a tag rugby event for local primary schools. Four schools are involved and the winning team will receive a cup. The main match will kick-off at 7pm with the cup being awarded to the winning school at half-time.

The Charity Auction will start at approximately 8.30pm with auction lots including a six month Zest Membership at Mid Devon Leisure Centres, tickets for Exeter Chiefs, a day at Yarak Birds of Prey, and a pamper session at The Stable Club Health Centre, Exeter.

Entry is £2 on the gate with under 12’s at 50 pence. Everyone is welcome.

Further information is available from:-

Julia Ryder

Community Safety Officer

Mid Devon Community Safety Partnership

Tel: 01884 234997

What shall we do this summer?

My kids Natasha & Aleck with friends on the beach
My kids Natasha & Aleck with friends on the beach

So what have you got planned for the summer with the kids? I’m trying to find out what’s on here in east Devon. Be handy if there was one place it was all listed or a booklet like other areas do. I saw one for Taunton the other day – really good idea for busy parents planning what to do this summer. I will list a few I know about here then please add comments if you know of any more and I’ll add them on this blog. Let your friends know about this page too so we can all share ideas. Thanks.

East Devon’s Heath Week – 28th July – 3rd August. Lots of fantastic activities including Pond dipping and Reptile Rambles click here for more info

Switch Fundays – from 23rd July to 7th August. Face Painting, Circus Skills & Large Games in Upottery (7th Aug 10am – 1pm), Plymtree, Musbury and Newton Poppleford. All organised by the Community Development Workers at  East Devon District Council click here for more details or email switch@eastdevon.gov.uk

Print Workshop at Honiton’s Thelma Hulbert Gallery – Wednesday 15th August click here for details

African Mask Creation Station – Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth, Wed 29th August 2012 11am – 3pm – click here for more info

Also someone on twitter mentioned this site if you fancy going to events in Lyme Regis www.lymeregis.org

Are you coming for a dip?

Beautiful Branscombe beach on a sunny day last summer
Beautiful Branscombe beach on a sunny day last summer

So……..we went over to Branscombe earlier this afternoon. As soon as we got there it started pouring down then sunshine, then rain (you know what it’s like at the moment)! Got out the car and it was quite cold, really windy and the sea quite grey and choppy – certainly too choppy for two little uns who’ve never swam in the sea before. We like to go swimming in a lovely local river when it’s a hot day….so fingers crossed for the school hols coming up in just three weeks.  We’d go to the local swimming pool more often but don’t have spare cash for such luxuries and it’s not cheap for all four of us.

Anyway we prefer the river whenever it’s hot as we get to share it with kingfishers and dragonflies and the kids love the little fishes nibbling their feet. I went swimming with a friend one day last summer and we shared our swim with a very dignified and graceful swan. We all respected each other’s space and she was as curious of us as we were of her. It was quite a magical swim actually.

There’s a good website for anyone who likes swimming outdoors www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com but our secret east Devon swimming place isn’t listed on here. I’m happy to let you in on the secret if you know of anywhere nearby that’s good to swim in and nice and safe for children, we can swap wild swimming info!

Natasha in the river swimming in east Devon last summer
Natasha in the river swimming in east Devon last summer

An Invitation to all – Winter Solstice Celebration!

Here’s a random idea for anyone up for it: Meet on Branscombe Beach 1pm Thursday 22nd December – let’s get together for the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year, midwinter! We can maybe go up to the Mason’s Arms in the village for hot chocolates afterwards.

I’ll be taking the kids and the dog and we’ll be making winter solstice mandala’s like this one (below) we made on Dawlish beach in the summer – before we even knew what a mandala was…..! Maybe we can all make a huge one together?

IMG_1283 (1)

What is a mandala I hear you say…..the Mandala Project website says “The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself – a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.”

A mandala is a geometrical figure with a centre, such as a circle, or polygon, or a square, often in the form of a labyrinth or maze with symbolic meanings.

I must give credit to the idea of making mandala’s tomorrow to my twitter-friend Brigit Strawbridge who posted this video about her beautiful autumn equinox nature mandala on twitter this morning bit.ly/vqBr9V and Brigit has set up a Facebook page called Nature Mandala’s which has amazing photos of lots of other people’s mandalas. I think I may have caught the mandala bug you know – I love concentric, mathematical arty things – and any excuse for a get-together with friends!

Nature Mandala for Peace, community-built mandala at Sierra Azul Nursery as part of the "Sculpture Is" exhibit.

Don’t forget to add a comment on here if you’re coming to the beach tomorrow. See you at one. Bring dogs, children, friends and smiles! Wrap up warm.

A conker spiral by Suzanne Thomas

Diana Heyne's nature mandala's on a foggy beach on the Isle of Noirmoutier
Diana Heyne's nature mandala's on a foggy beach on the Isle of Noirmoutier off the Atlantic coast of France

A Crafty Christmas


Had fun this morning at the Thelma Hulbert gallery in Honiton making festive wreaths. The gallery puts on these fantastic craft activities for children nearly every school holiday, well worth a visit. They are free events but donations help them to keep going so don’t forget the donation box next to the front door.

Children In Need

Off to school shortly to sell cakes for Children in Need, here’s some I baked earlier. Enjoy your Children in Need evening everyone & add a comment on the bottom to say what you are up to tonight.


Stopping at two – a pledge to my children


I recently had my second contraceptive implant fitted (three years on from the first) which will now take me to the ripe old age of 41 without having any more offspring. This made me think of a blog I wrote in December 2009 which I’ve recycled for you below the picture of my two angels Natasha & Alexander.


My mother had five children and my father had five children. I am the only child, from their marriage 39 years ago. They separated when I was very very small and my mother remarried having four more children. My father had several relationships also having a further four children. I have 5 half sisters – Samantha, Susan, Lorraine, Marie and Keelie. I have 3 half brothers – Thomas, Richard and Craig. We all share one parent in common!

I have two very beautiful much wanted and very planned for children but unlike my prolific parents, I will not be giving birth to any more babies (unless my contraceptive implant fails!) I may foster or adopt one day but will not be pregnant again. This makes me a little sad especially as I grew up thinking I too wanted a large family, but there are three very good reasons why I have made this decision not to have any more kids (a decision I share with my husband I hasten to add).

1. There are too many people in the world – see my previous blog post on the Optimum Population Trust’s Stop At Two Pledge http://www.tishtashtoys.com/blog/2009/08/i-love-my-kids/

2. I now feel a bit sorry for the two children I have, having to deal with the effects of a soaring world population and the predicted catastrophic results of increased greenhouse gases – so maybe it’s best not to inflict such an ordeal on any more human beings from my loins!

3. I grew up with 4 younger siblings and not much attention from my mother (who was single for part of my childhood). I don’t think my mother intentionally ignored me, she just seemed to be either pregnant or looking after a small (noisy!) baby for most of my childhood. I love all my siblings but I don’t think most of us were planned and really thought through. My own mother recently said as much as she loves all her children, if she did it again she would only have two children, and advised me to do the same.

In my family now, there are two parents and two children so there’s always a knee to sit on or a cuddle to be had. Put even one more child in the equation and I’m not sure how we’d share ourselves and I’d be heartbroken to watch either one of my two ‘pushed out’. If you are a parent reading this, you will understand how there never seems to be enough hours in the day, especially if you also work like I do.

Can I just add – if you do have more than two children, this is not a personal gripe against you in any way, shape or form. We all make our own decisions in life and this is just mine. I would love to hear your comments. Please post below.

Greens demand safer roads in Honiton


Honiton Green Candidate Sharon Pavey is demanding that the town makes it’s roads safer for children and other pedestrians.

The East Devon Green Party recently surveyed 200 people in Honiton and 70% said they think cars drive too fast in Honiton. A substantial 67% of Honitonians were in favour of introducing some 20 mph zones in town. The Greens think that 20 mph zones should be in place outside our schools and parks including the Brand Meadow park on Battishorne Way.

Currently families are unable to cross Battishorne Way safely to get the new Brand Meadow nature reserve and play park. Sharon uses the park regularly with her two children aged nine and five and also crosses there to walk her dog on Roundball Hill.

Sharon says “It’s such a wonderful children’s park but such a shame you have to cross a dangerous road to get to it. I believe a crossing has been looked into for the past couple of years and that now recent cuts mean a delay in getting anything done about it. Surely safe access should have been in place when the park was opened!”

Drivers regularly speed along Battishorne Way at much more than the 30mph speed limit and with so many people crossing at Honiton Bottom Road to use the park, the nature reserve or Roundball Hill, there may well be an accident there sooner or later. It would be sensible to have a crossing there or speed cameras and traffic calming measures”

Results of the resident’s surveys also highlighted the need for a safe crossing on New Street, and a 20mph zone outside Littletown and Millwater Schools. Residents also commented that the Exeter Road roundabout near Sidmouth Road was a dangerous place to cross as cars exceeded the 30mph speed limit on the Exeter Road.

The Honiton Greens are happy to take up these issues at council level if elected in May. Sharon adds “With 42 children killed or injured on our UK roads every single day, road safety is a top priority for the Honiton Greens.”



ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) 42 children are killed or injured on the road every day in Britain http://bit.ly/ePEKrT

Photo above – Sharon Pavey. Photo at the top is Natasha and Aleck Pavey waiting to cross a very busy Battishorne Road next to the park