Photo Mural – North Devon District Hospital

Huge Westward Ho! photo mural installation

Back in June I was approached by the Engineering Manager of North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, to see whether I was interested in having one of my photos used as a photo mural on the new A&E reception area – I was delighted to donate a photo for such a worthy project.

Finding a suitable photo for the space was much trickier than I had initially thought – it is a long, narrow space and the photo needed to represent the North Devon area. So I had to choose a photo that had something iconic, but could also be cropped to the necessary dimensions. The Engineering Manager, Architect, printers and I had a play around with a few images before settling on one featuring the wooden groynes and pebbles on Westward Ho! beach, at sunset.

 
This afternoon I had the opportunity to go up and see the photo mural for myself, now that it has been installed into the A&E waiting area. As A&E was in full operation, unfortunately it was too busy to get a photo myself, but here’s a photo the Engineering Manager took shortly after it was installed. 😍
 
This is something I’m really proud of – it’s quite incredible and overwhelming to see your work on this scale.
Hopefully it will brighten the wait for many patients during their time at A&E, for years to come.NDDH photo mural

North Devon Photography and Instagram walks

I am pleased to be able to offer guided photo walks and Instagram Walk & Talk experiences in North Devon in partnership with Airbnb experiences and experience booking portal Tobooka.

North Devon Instagram walk and talk.

Instagram Walk and Talk
I love living in North Devon and I am passionate about the area. On my Instagram walk and talk, I’ll introduce you to some of my favourite ‘instagrammable’ spots in the area. Join me as we explore the beautiful buildings, nature and landscapes that North Devon has to offer. I will offer you expert advice to make your Instagram profile stand out based on my own personal experience and knowledge. Bring your camera or smartphone. Let’s have some fun! We will take a break at the end of our session to review your photos and I will give you advice on how to grow your following and create engaging content.

Photography walks

Westward Ho! photo walk
My Photo walk is aimed at beginners or intermediates, there is no experience necessary – just a camera or smartphone required. We’ll go for a walk and take photos along an area of the North Devon coastline. I will teach you the art of composing and creating awesome beach shots. As we explore I’ll offer hints, tips and advice, as well as answering any questions you may have. This is not just an opportunity for photography lovers but also for enthusiastic travellers and explorers. If you can’t see the date or time your want, please message.

If you can’t find the date you would like to book listed, then please get in touch. I am also able to offer alternative locations if you prefer.

10 of the best locations for landscape photography in North Devon

10 of the best locations for landscape photography in North Devon

Grab your camera and head to one of these North Devon landscape photography locations!

North Devon has so many picturesque and photogenic locations that it can often be overwhelming to know where to visit for photo opportunities. To help you out and to give you some inspiration I’ve come up with my top ten North Devon photography spots to visit for landscape photography.

1. Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! is the only town in Britain to have an exclamation mark in it’s name! It has a vast sandy beach that extends for two miles north of the village ofWestward Ho! and is backed by a pebble ridge. The pebble ridge leads onto the the grassy plains and salt marshes of Northam Burrows.
Westward Ho! has numerous beach features which make excellent subjects for landscape photography including groynes, rock formations, sea pool, remains of a Victorian pier, rock pools, beach huts as well as the vast sandy beach.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

2. Instow

Instow is on the estuary where the rivers Taw and Torridge meet, between the villages of Westleigh and Yelland and on the opposite bank of Appledore. The beach is perfect for photography as it enjoys few waves because of the sandbanks at the mouth of the estuary cancelling out most of the ocean swell. There are also a large number of boats anchored on the sand which make great subjects. Further down the beach towards Yelland there is a wreck and old jetty.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

3. Hartland Peninsular

The spectacular cliffs at Hartland Quay with their incredibly contorted rock layers are always worth a visit and at low tide there is plenty of sand, rock pools and rocks to scramble over. This wildly beautiful bay offers an ancient quay as well as some some of the most spectacular geology in Northern Europe,

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

If you drive to Brownsham National Trust car park on the Hartland Peninsula, near Clovelly, you can enjoy a lovely walk which encompasses both woodland and sea and takes you to the spectacular Blackchurch Rock.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

4. Clovelly

Clovelly is well recognised for it’s steep cobbled streets and quaint cottages but it also has a pretty harbour

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

5. Woolacombe

Woolacombe has a long expanse of sandy beach or venture half a mile down to Barricane which is a small picturesque location with rocky outcrops and rock pools.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on


6. Croyde

Croyde is a village with old world charm, based on the west-facing coastline of North Devon. It’s sheltered bay makes it a fabulous location for various water based sports. There are three fantastic sandy beaches to choose from and some pleasant walks along the cliff top footpaths.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

7. Great Torrington

Great Torrington is a small market town in the north of Devon, England. Parts of it are sited on high ground with steep drops down to the River Torridge below. Torrington is surrounded by 365 acres of common land surrounding the town on all but the eastern side.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

8. Bideford

Bideford is a historic port town on the estuary of the River Torridge. Bideford has an old arched stone bridge which was built in 1535 and spans the River Torridge. The tree-lined quay still bustles with fishing vessels, cargo and pleasure boats.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

 

9. Barnstaple

Barnstaple is the main town of North Devon, England and possibly the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. The River Taw flows through the centre of Barnstaple. It has a traditional pannier market as well as fine buildings and attractive narrow streets and alleys.

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

10. Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe is a seaside resort and civil parish on the North Devon coast, England, with a small harbour surrounded by cliffs. The seaside town is home to renowned artist Damien Hirst’s famous 20m high sculpture, Verity. This picturesque harbour town is steeped in maritime history and remains one of the key working fishing ports in North Devon

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

A post shared by Kim Stone (@kistography) on

Which of these North Devon locations is your favourite landscape photography location?

15 UK Instagram accounts that will feature your photos

15 UK Instagram accounts that will feature your photos

If you want inspiration or more exposure for your photos and to increase engagement with your feed, hubs are a great way to achieve this. ’Hubs’ or ‘feature accounts’ are large accounts that will feature a selection of photos throughout the day, in return for using their corresponding hashtag.

There are countless hubs on Instagram, which cover a broad spectrum of styles such as sunsets, nature, wildlife, portraits, fashion or landscapes. A lot of the hubs have a massive follower base between 20k – 500k+. This means that if your photo is chosen to be featured it will receive a lot of exposure.

Let’s see some of the popular UK based Instagram Hubs:

1) Best UK Pics

🇬🇧We feature the best pics from UK 🇬🇧Use our tag: #bestukpicsFOUNDER: @quelmarietto ADMINS: @chiarathustra@x_ray_mike@missb68@flying.jc

CONGRATS to 📷@kieran.fallows.photography for this fantastic shot 🙌 💫 Selected by @missb68 ✨(ADMIN) FOUNDER: @quelmarietto LOCALITY: Hadrian’s wall CATEGORY: #Night To appear: • follow us & use #bestukpics We’d appreciate a • REPOST or SCREEN 📷 ⠀⠀⠀ Your pic is also on FB • BESTUKPICS COMMUNITY • @bestpics_community Check out our friends at @ukpotd and @gloriousbritain and use their tag for a chance to be featured ⠀⠀⠀ THANKS A LOT! 😊🏆👏🏻🇬🇧 #bestworldpics #ukpotd #mybritain #britains_talent #photosofbritain #loves_britain #loves_united_kingdom #capturingbritain #icu_britain #scenicbritain #explore_britain #picture_to_keep #excellent_britain #ig_countryside #happytrailz #igersuk #ig_uk #gloriousbritain #britain_online #uk_shots #our_britain

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2) Love GREAT Britain

Official British Tourist Board🇬🇧 sharing beautiful Britain through your pics and stories! Tag #lovegreatbritain to allow us to share on our channels. www.visitbritain.com

3) Britains Talent

🇬🇧#britains_talent🇬🇧 Member @hubdirectory Founder @mrsali88Mods @itslittlemissb@april2740@chrissalephoto@ian_holloway_photography

• We are proud to present this fantastic photo! • 📍Location: Buachaille Etive Mor📍 • Featured artist • 🌟@lee.lumix 🌟 • •🇬🇧🏆•CONGRATULATIONS•🏆🇬🇧• • Please show some 🇬🇧 UK L😍VE to today’s artist by dropping by their gallery and saying hi, tap on a few photos and maybe even change the follow button colour to 💚 • •Photo chosen by @ian_holloway_photography • •🌟Mods • •👉@itslittlemissb• •👉@april2740• •👉@chrissalephoto• •👉@ian_holloway_photography• •🌟Founder• •👉@mrsali88• • For your chance to be featured please follow and tag accordingly: ➡@britains_talent ➡#britains_talent • •🌟Keep tagging you crazy snappers🌟• • #photosofengland #visitbritain #ukpotd #uk #greatbritain #lovegreatbritain #capturingbritain #photosofbritain #visitengland #bbcbritain #instabritain

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4) Loves_United_Kingdom

The Beauty of #UnitedKingdom * Tag #LOVES_UNITED_KINGDOM * Mbr @lovesunited * Team @mpalka_photography@annapemagic@chriswalts@leandri.dannhauser ⇓lovesunited.com

Presents PHOTOGRAPHER | @annahedderly LOVES OF THE DAY April 22, 2018 LOCATION | #Crooklets ——————————————————— SELECTED BY | @chriswalts ADMIN | @mpalka_photography TEAM | @annapemagic @chriswalts @leandri.dannhauser OUR TAG | #LOVES_UNITED_KINGDOM ——————————————————— ♡ Please show your support to our featured artists and visit their awesome galleries for more great shots ♡ ——————————————————— VISIT PARTNERS COMMUNITY: * @Loves_United_Family * @Loves_United_Life * @Loves_United_Europe * @Loves_United_Italy * @Loves_United_World * OUR MAIL | loves.members@gmail.com This award will participate in our weekly contest on @loves_united_europe __ * #l_u_t_c_e_2018_april * #luk_annahedderly — #wms_europe #ig_europa #super_europe #uk_greatshots #ok_europe #igerslondon #prettycitylondon #prettylittlelondon #london_enthusiast #london_masters #london_city_photo #toplondonphoto #unlimitedlondon #culturetriplondon #hello_london #londonforyou #loves_london #loves_united_england #explore_britain #igworldclub #topukphoto #visitlondon #photosofbritain #visitbritain

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5) UK Pic Of The Day

🇬🇧 Featuring the best pics from around the UK Follow and tag your pics #ukpotd or #ukpotd_apr18 Founder @notbrettk Mods @missb68 & @hanupnorth

🇬🇧••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••🇬🇧•••••••• @UKPOTD by: @sixmileimages ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Location: Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• New pics #UKpotd •••••••• Old pics #UKpotd_apr18 ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Selected by @hanupnorth ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Check out our friends: •@genuinebritain •@explore.wales •@bestukpics •@landscapes_of_britain . #hubs_united #britain #Explore_Britain #VisitBritain #Excellent_Britain #Ireland #InstaBritain #discoverni #gloriousbritain #loughneagh #bestukpics #lough #genuinebritain #landscapes_of_britain #ukpotd_sixmileimages #northernireland #theimaged #ig_worldclub #osmaps #frozenlake #nature #antrim #master_gallery #thelensbible

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6) UK_Greatshots

✦Tag #UK_GREATSHOTS ✦Tag #UK_GSWORLDfor Sunday’s Travel the World Features ➲ A @miniboy_ ➲ M @alycoste ➲ M @olivergmlewis ➲ M @redinscotland

® Presents Sunday World Traveling Special: ⠀ UK GREATSHOTS 🇬🇧 ® PHOTOGRAPHER | @brian__knox LOCATION | Switzerland 🇨🇭 SELECTED | @alycoste ADMIN | @miniboy_ MOD | @alycoste MOD | @redinscotland MOD | @olivergmlewis FAMILY HUB @greatshots_world_community MEMBER OF | @hubdirectory ⠀⠀ FOLLOW US | @uk_greatshots TAG US | #uk_greatshots ___________________________________________ PLEASE VISIT @icu_scotland @scotland_greatshots @traveling_uk @ukpotd ____________________________________________ #earthcapture #globalshotz #travelpic #uk_gsworld #worldshotz #besteuropepics #forbestravelguide #traveling #landscape_lovers #ig_brilliant #bbc_travel #europe_gallery #instatraveling #travelphotography #passionpassport #travelphotography #ig_cameras_united #venice #ig_mood #nightphotography #landscape_captures #europe #natgeoyourshot #lonelyplanet #switzerland

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7) Photos Of Britain

🇬🇧Founded & Stories by @timholt📸UK images, facts & history daily ✨Follow and tag this account for feature!

Tag a friend who would love to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see Shakespeare’s home county! I’ve (@timholt) got a whole load of Shakespeare goodies to send to random replies below from this lovely place. Open worldwide! I took this picture just 12 hours ago of a typical traditional thatched house just around the corner from Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (which you can see in my story from yesterday evening) . According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptised on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptising a newborn. The whole town is celebrating this weekend… It’s bunting galore! . Could you live here? Although the upkeep can be quite expensive. A complete re-thatch could cost anything up to £25,000 (around $33,000) and there are just 350 thatching firms in the entire country, to service between 55,000 and 60,000 thatched houses. But! What a treat if you have the ability to own such a property! And to think, when other more expensive roofing materials came into vogue, thatch became a mark of poverty, and the number of thatched properties gradually declined. Thatch has now become much more popular in the UK over the past 30 years, and is now a symbol of wealth rather than poverty. Funny how things change. Have a wonderful, peaceful Sunday! Shot by @timholt 🇬🇧 Want your Photos of Britain to be featured? Follow us and then tag this account in your shots too! 🇬🇧

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8) Instabritain

📸Founder @postcardsbyhannah🇬🇧Exploring Britain and the World 👇🏼Checkout our travel guides

9) Explore_Britain_

🇬🇧Please Provide Location🇬🇧 🔹Owner/Admin @ladynicking🔹Mods @peterhumfryes @bethanyfry_ @aemorton1107@lisafroggatt_photography 🔹Part of Explore Family

.#explore_britain . 🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ EXPLORE BRITAIN is proud to present and congratulate today’s featured artist: @tomormerod ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟🌈🌟 . ♦Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures with us. ♦Please be sure to use our hashtag for a chance to be featured. ♦Please consider Following the hub and our accepted tags: #explore_britain & #explore_britain_. ♦Please only submit your own pictures, no internet or stolen photos! . 🌟🎉🌟🎉🌟🎉🌟🎉🌟🎉🌟🎉🌟 . Photo chosen by: @aemorton1107 . 🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟🎊🌟 Founders: @xemjade @alibongo1963. . #ukpotd #loves_united_kingdom #loves_united_england #capturingbritain #fiftyshades_of_history #britains_talent #GloriousBritain #our_britain #icu_britain #excellent_britain #britain #uk #igersuk #ebritain_tomormerod – #keephubcommunityfair A hub with integrity

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10) Visit England

Making you fall head-over-heels with England one photo at a time. Tag #VisitEngland to feature on our channels. Find thousands of trip ideas: www.visitengland.com

@Postcardsbyhannah here again, this is the last you will hear from me over on Visit England, saving one of my favourite places till last! Does anyone recognise this famous street? This is Steep Hill in Lincoln, and as the name suggests, it really is one of the steepest in England. On this street you will find a whole range of independent boutique shops, and plenty of places to stop for afternoon tea. Lincoln itself is a very historic city, dating back as far as 300 BC, making it one of the oldest settlements in Britain. It was the Romans that settled here first, in AD 50, and built a fortress atop the largest hill. The Romans renamed the town ‘Lindum Colonia’. I hope you all enjoyed my snippets of England this weekend, come say hello to me over on @postcardsbyhannah where you can enjoy more of my adventures around my home country. #VisitEngland #Lincoln #SteepHill #Saturday #Weekend #Takeover . . . .

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11) UK.shooters

#uk_shooters Shooting • Vibing • Hosting Creative Photography From Around The UK

Today’s feature 🇬🇧📷. Shooter: @thedronelad Selected by: @m.visuals . #uks_thedronelad . Follow us and tag #uk_shooters to be featured . • Team • @m.visuals | @luke_jclark | @cyrusnezami | @devise.inspire | @spidergirl | . • Fam • @uk.portraits || #uk_ports @uk.spinners || #uk_spinners @la.shooters || #la_shooters . • Alliance • @globalnightsquad || #globalnightsquad . . #shotzdelight #vibegramz #depthobsessed #serialshooters #urbanandstreet  #ourcolourdays #agameoftones #capturedconcepts #main_vision #incredible_shot #loaded_lenses #leagueoflenses  #visualcollective #moodygrams #gramslayers #all2epic #fatalframes #visualambassadors  #reflectiongram #lensbible #sonyimages #uks_moodymeetslondon

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12) Glorious Britain

ғᴇᴀᴛᴜʀɪɴɢ ʙʀɪᴛᴀɪɴ ɪɴ ᴀʟʟ ɪᴛs ɢʟᴏʀʏ 🇬🇧 🄶🄻🄾🅁🄸🄾🅄🅂 🄱🅁🄸🅃🄰🄸🄽 🇬🇧 #GloriousBritain #GB_GB for features

13) UK Scenery

The UK’s Best Scenery! 🇬🇧 Founders: @shot_by_tom & @jbs_creative🤘 #ukscenery to be featured 📸 Check out our other account 👉 @earthscenery🌍

Featured Photo 🤘🇬🇧 Photographer 📸: @creativecapturesuk Location📍: Ayr Selected By: @jbs_creative . Make sure you check out the photographers gallery and show some love! 😎 . Don’t forget to tag your photos with #ukscenery to be featured so we can show the amazing views here in the UK 🇬🇧 😜 . 👉 Hub Family 👈 @earthscenery – #earthscenery @londonscenery – #londonscenery @devonscenery – #devonscenery . Be sure to check out our friends 👇 @gloriousbritain @north_devon @uk_shooters @ukpotd @traveling_uk . #ukscenery #UK #GreatBritain #Britain #England #Wales #beautifulwales #Scotland #NorthernIreland #uk_shooters #icu_britain #mybritain #explore_britain #visitbritain #excellent_britain #photosofengland #gloriousbritain #coloursofbritain #photosofbritain #bestukpics #ukpotd #britains_tallent #capturingbritain #ig_scotland #insta_scotland

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14) Scenic Britain

Discover the Great British Outdoors! The best countryside, coast and mountain scenery. Tag your shots with #scenicbritain to share.

15) TopUKPhoto

#TopUKPhoto the best of UK 🇬🇧 info@trendingreach.com by @patrickcolpron

Read more about how to get featured on Instagram or how to understand the Instagram Algorithm

Which are your favourite UK Instagram hubs and communities? Share with me in the comments.

The Education system in Cambodia

 

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

History of education in Cambodia

Over 40 years ago Cambodia’s education system was destroyed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, which saw the destruction of all schools and intellectuals were executed. Although, since then the education system has been rebuilt – it still has a long way to go.

According to UNESCO, only 1.6 per cent of Cambodia’s Gross Domestic Product (GNP) is spent on education. The GDP on education in most western countries is anywhere between 5.5 to 6.4 per cent.

The number of children entering education in primary school is increasing and the gender gap is closing, however completion rates for primary and lower secondary school are low. Parents are unable to afford the indirect and direct costs of schooling and many children are required to stay home to help with chores, field work or accessing the labour market.

There is also the problem that due to the insufficient funding, there is a lack of quality education and resources. Much of the education centres around learning by rote – rather than child-led and child-centred teaching practices. Also, children often repeat years and there are many over age children in the primary system who have not transitioned into secondary education. This all contributes to the high drop out rates as children are bored and become unmotivated.

There is also a gap in the provision for early childhood education. Less than 26 per cent of three and five year olds have access to early years development opportunities. Social and languages skills are developed in early childhood and it is important to embrace this stage to facilitate their academic success.

We were lucky to have the opportunity to visit a rural State school in the Preah Sihanouk Province (photos below). The school was closed for the summer holidays but even so – the lack of resources, basic equipment, teaching materials and the state of disrepair was concerning. The library was empty – the books worn, tattered and barely usable. 

Cambodian State School

Cambodian State School Library

Cambodian State School Library

Cambodian State School Library

Cambodian State School Classroom

Cambodian State School Classroom

Cambodian State School Classroom

Cambodian State School Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schools are frequently overcrowded so often have two shifts – one set of students in the morning and another in the afternoon.


 

NGO support for education is vital.

 

This is where the work of Edukid and Care for Cambodia comes in. Using the donations they receive they provide supplementary education in their village projects during the afternoon and each child is provided with a school pack which contains everything they need to attend school for that year. Edukid currently supports 2015 children.

It was delightful to witness the children receiving their school packs:

Edukid - Cambodia School packs

Edukid – Cambodia School packs

Me with children receiving Edukid – Cambodia School packs

Edukid - Cambodia School packs

Me with children receiving Edukid – Cambodia School packs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here are some photos from a few of the CFC run schools we visited during our trip.

CFC school near Phnom Penh

Children enjoying activities in a CFC school near Phnom Penh

CFC school near Phnom Penh

Children enjoying activities in a CFC school near Phnom Penh

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

CFC school in Preah Sihanouk Province

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How you can help:

Through Edukid sponsorship for £20 a month:

  • A school pack containing school bag, uniform and study material for one child
  • One hour’s supplementary education every day after school
  • Supervision and monitoring of the programme both incountry and externally
  • You will receive annual reports, films and lesson plans and further teaching resources.

Download a sponsorship form here

Alternatively you can make a one of donation via my Justgiving pagehttps://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kistography

SOURCES:
https://www.unicef.org/cambodia/3.Education.pdf

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/columns/education-and-its-role-cambodia

http://careforcambodia.org.kh/about-cfc/our-projects/

 

 

 

THE MOROCCAN SENSORY LAYER CAKE. TRIP REPORT – DAY ONE!

REPOST FROM PREVIOUS BLOG FEB 2015
Curious to see more of the world, I decided to book my first ever holiday outside of Europe, bringing my 16-year-old daughter along for the ride too. Fortunately she is better travelled than me – having already visited Swaziland last year with her school. After much research and reading of the Trip Advisor forums I opted for Morocco as my destination of choice. My friends told me I was ‘brave’, ‘mad’ and that I should cover up (head to toe). ‘Stay safe’ were their parting words! Clearly these are people who have not truly experienced Morocco.

[THE FLIGHT – ARRIVAL]
Our early morning journey to Morocco began with us having the pleasure (!) of being seated next to a gentleman on the plane who was afflicted with verbal diarrhoea! He deemed it appropriate to tell me his life story, and then continued the one-way conversation by delighting in talking me through mobile phone photos of his dog, Porsche engine, family and 12 beheaded men (as you do)! He also relentlessly tried to get me to join him in drinking his recent purchase of duty free whisky (an absolute bargain apparently)…why am I such a ‘nutter magnet’?! He explained how his last trip to Marrakech had involved 8 men, a villa, 32 litres of spirits and the nightclubs. This time he was bringing his wife back for a similar experience! Lucky lady (?!) Needless to say, his itinerary was clearly very different to ours!

From the minute we stepped off the plane, we were experiencing the sensory layer cake that is the hustle and bustle of daily life in Marrakech. The heat enveloped itself around us. Despite it being mid February, it was pleasantly warm – comparable to a good English summers day. All around the airport, Moroccans were busying themselves (in a way only Moroccans can…often this seems to involve not much, apart from sitting/standing around and chatting)! We could hear the distant throng of a busy city – mopeds, cars, horses hooves, braying donkeys and the general buzz of animated chatter.
On a practical note, when you first arrive at the airport you are required to complete an embarkation card before passing through the passport control, so it definitely pays to have a pen in your hand luggage. Like a good boy scout, my daughter and I were prepared for this. You will need your passport number and hotel/Riad details to complete the form, so make sure these are to hand too.

We made arrangements with the Riad to provide a hotel transfer at a cost of 15 Euros. This meant a smiling Moroccan gentleman, holding a sign with our Riad’s name on it, greeted us in the arrivals lounge. For a fleeting moment we felt important! He whisked our cases from us and guided us towards his taxi, exchanging conversation in broken English and we had our first opportunity to practice our scant French linguistic skills! We trekked across the car park through lines of tired looking beige colour Mercedes (I bet they have many a tale to tell) – but fortunately 15 Euros buys you a little more luxury and our journey would be in a clean, modern people carrier. This was our first taste of Moroccan travel and roads…and suffices to say – anything goes! There seems no limit to how many people you can cram on a moped, or any regulation regarding wearing helmets. Mum on the front wears a flimsy plastic one, small child clinging on behind – no need (hold tight and hope for the best)! Cars, cyclists, motorcyclists, donkeys and pedestrians all seem to have a knack of weaving around each other without causing a collision! With my inexperience and lack of confidence as a driver, I was definitely best placed in the passenger seat! After a hair raising and eye-opening, 10 minute journey we arrived at an arched gateway in the ‘orange-red clay and chalk walls of the ‘red city’ (medina). Here a young Moroccan ‘Ali’ who was our host at the Riad Inaka, met us and guided us down the cobbled streets to the tucked away building.

[ACCOMMODATION – RIAD]

Riad Inaka is nestled amongst several buildings within the narrow passageways and Derb (streets) of the Medina (old town). We’re glad our host, Ali, came to meet us from the taxi, as the black, fortified, door only sported a small, shiny, discreet, brass plaque with the Riad’s name. The red clay, non-descript and unassuming exterior of the building gave no clue as to what lay inside. Once through the door we entered into a traditionally decorated courtyard.

Riad Inaka Courtyard

Riad Inaka Courtyard

The floor was tiled with soft blue and red patterned tiles that extended up and around the base of a central fountain.

Riad Inaka Courtyard fountain

Riad Inaka Courtyard fountain

The space was furnished with a mixture of traditional and modern furniture and had many plants dotted in between. Above us was a sliding roof, which was half open, allowing the midday sunshine to warm the space.

Riad Inaka Courtyard

Riad Inaka Courtyard

 

We were invited by Ali to take a seat, where we were then presented with our first exposure to the infamous mint tea – A small decorated silver teapot and two mini patterned glasses, neatly seated on a silver tray. Being a newbie to this territory, I was not yet familiar with the etiquette to tea pouring and I clumsily went to pour the tea – as Ali arrived back with a selection of Moroccan pastries (cookies). He chuckled, and rescued me from my uncouth moment! It would seem there’s definitely a knack to this tea pouring business – none of this ‘instant cuppa’ we are accustomed to in the UK! The teapot is poured from high, and the first poured glass is returned to the pot. I had read that the tea is very sweet, often with copious amounts of sugar added. This one wasn’t! I guess they were trying to cater for the western palette! It turns out I do prefer it sweeter!

After 10 or 15 minutes to enjoy our beverage we were shown to our room. It was situated on the upper floor, which overlooked the courtyard below. The bijou size of the room allowed for two single beds, with just enough space to get between them. There was a compact curtained wardrobe and to the right an ensuite with sink, toilet and shower. Ali showed us how to operate the air conditioning – setting it at 30 degrees for us (!), then left us to unpack. The room was simple, well presented and met our needs. For the price we paid (about £25 a night) I was delighted with the standard.

Riad Inaka bedroom

Riad Inaka bedroom

Like many of the buildings in the Medina, the Riad has a roof terrace. We took the opportunity to take in the panorama of the distant snow-capped Atlas Mountains, looming above the tightly packed rooftops of the cramped Medina.

Riad Inaka roof Terrace

Riad Inaka roof Terrace

Breakfast was substantial (compared to what I would usually eat)! Every meal in Morocco seems to be accompanied by bread – breakfast was no exception, although rather than the customary round Moroccan bread, we were treated to French baguette. We had a choice of tea or Coffee. We chose coffee for our early morning caffeine jumpstart, plus we were also given freshly squeezed orange juice. The main breakfast was pancakes or potato scones.

Jumping ahead a little here, but it seems appropriate to include this now as I am describing our Riad experience… Having read the Riad reviews, and then met Ali, we wrongly assumed that he was someone who’s word was reliable. We discovered this was naively misplaced, after we returned to the Riad from our four-day desert trip. Whilst we sat and enjoyed a welcoming mint tea he enquired as to the cost of our desert trip. I told him the price (350 EUROS each) and he looked shocked and told us that it was too expensive. I had done extensive online research, and the price was the cheapest of all the quote requests I’d made for our itinerary (about seven quotes altogether). I know that you can go on group trips for significantly less, but we made a conscious choice to pay the extra, and have a private tour. I thought nothing of this conversation, and just assumed Ali was not fully aware of the full package we had benefited from (and also the fact that to Moroccans, this is a lot of money). The next morning we decided we wanted to visit the Ensemble Artisanal. According to our Trip advisor app it was 2 miles away. Having only spent a brief amount of time in Marrakech on our first day, we thought we’d take a taxi there and then walk back (via Djemaa El-Fna). After breakfast we asked Ali if he could arrange a taxi for us. He quickly replied with “I can do private taxi for 300 Dirham”. I knew straightaway that this was extortionately high. My daughter quickly tapped it in her currency converter app and it was £20! Ali, still hoping for a sale, explained, “Taxi will wait for you and bring you back”. I let him know that it was too expensive and that we wanted to walk back. He replied (with what I have now concluded is a facetious response), “I know. It’s too expensive”. He was clearly having a sly dig at our discussion from last night regarding the cost of our desert trip. He then walked us out towards the main street to get a taxi. On the way we met a local man who seemed to ask Ali if we wanted a taxi. After a stream of exchanges between them in Arabic – it was offered to us at 70 MAD (just under £5). We opted for this just to get where we wanted! With hindsight (and discovering it was NOT 2 miles away) I also believe this was too expensive! I’ll write more about this part of our trip, later!

[TIME TO EXPLORE]

After settling into our room, we decided we would make the most of our half-day in Marrakech, as in the morning we would head off on our four-day tour. We were beginning to feel hungry so we decided to find somewhere to eat, therefore Jemaa El Fna seemed like the obvious port of call.
We asked Ali for directions, but by the time we had followed the first two instructions we had forgotten the rest, so we employed the use of the Trip Advisor City Guides app. Thanks to the app (which you can use offline) we effortlessly navigated the streets… when I say effortlessly, I am simply referring to the sense of direction. There is nothing ‘effortless’ about walking along or across these lively streets! You will find yourself zig-zagging around food stalls, parked vehicles, ambling pedestrians, stray cats, rubbish, parked donkeys – whilst also dodging the approaching mopeds, cars, donkeys, men pulling carts and cyclists. Crossing the road is a rousing experience, which I can only liken to playing ‘chicken’ as a child! Very rarely will a car stop to let you cross the road (even at marked crossing points). We quickly learned to shadow the locals as they crossed the road – closely following their path between the moving vehicles. By the end of our stay we were able to cross like a local too!

As we strolled down Rue Bani Marine, approaching Jemaa El Fna, all of our senses were being invaded and tantalised. The exotic aromas filled the air, and the sounds of drums and snake charmer flutes become louder and more hypnotic. Brightly coloured Caleches (horse drawn carriages) were lined up ready to whisk tourists off around the city.
I had read about the atmosphere (and the pit falls) of the square so we tentatively circumvented the perimeter. We saw leashed, performing monkeys wearing nappies, not something that interests us, Henna ladies perched on plastic stools – accosting anyone that walked within arms reach. Men in fringed hats and multicolour costumes, clang brass cups together, asking “Take photo?”. Teeth sellers sit with their best gnashers, dentures and braces proudly for sale on their table. We quickly bypassed charmed snakes (no thank you) and wide stepped the rows of orange juice sellers who relentlessly called out “Ay, Ay, Ay”. Crowds gathered around acrobats, story tellers and musicians as they performed in whatever space they could find.
Behind the sellers on the central square we discovered the labyrinths of souks (markets). Whilst browsing the vibrant, enthralling and colourful souks we were called ‘skinny girls’, ‘fish and chips’, ‘sexy ladies’, ‘Asda Price’, ‘nice eyes’ as well as being asked to buy some unknown item which included 10,000 free camels and a Ferrari! “Everything is free to today ladies”. “It’s free to look”. I quickly developed a quite tuneful ‘Non! Merci’, accompanied by a cheeky smile – much to the amusement of the traders!

We’d only arrived in this vibrant city about 2 hours ago, but already we felt we had experienced more than our brains could accommodate. We decided it was time to do what Moroccans do so well, and stop for a sit down, a tea, something to eat and recharge! We chose a quiet, shaded restaurant on the far edge of the square. We thought this would allow us chance to digest the experience and avoid the sellers. However no place is free from traders (even high in the mountains as I will detail later)- cigarette and souvenir sellers were free to meander around the outside seating areas of the restaurant! My daughter opted for the safe option and chose pizza, whilst I was feeling braver and chose beef & vegetable tagine, accompanied by mint tea (this time with sugar).

Beef and vegetable Tagine

Beef and vegetable Tagine

With hindsight, the food was average, but as newcomers to the culinary delights of Morocco, it seemed like a taste sensation!

Now feeling recharged and primed to put my haggling to the test, we revisited the stalls in the souks. I proudly carried out my first barter purchase…for some shampoo (we forgot to pack ours). Afterwards, I calculated I had probably paid way too much! But it was genuine quality shampoo you see! “Handmade in the mountains by Berber women with their bare hand…Not factory shampoo”!!

We returned to the Riad taking an alternative route back to amble around the Minaret de la Koutoubia and the park behind it.

Minaret de la Koutoubia

Minaret de la Koutoubia

We had a couple hours breather, sat on the Riad roof terrace, drinking mint tea, and made use of the free WiFi.

That evening we ate on the third floor of the Café De France. We hadn’t chosen this restaurant for its food…but simply so that we could enjoy the panoramic view across Jemaa El Fna. The food was a limited choice, from a set menu (100 MAD – approx. £7). Salad for starter (which we didn’t eat as we read it can cause a dicky tummy). Chicken Cous Cous for main, followed by seasonal fruit (mandarins) for dessert. Drinks were approx 15 MAD (£1) each.

 

 

The sun slowly set on the horizon, creating a beautiful silhouette skyline. The lights of the stalls illuminated the hustle and bustle that raged on below us. A perfect end, to an exhilarating first day.

Djemaa El-Fna at sunset

Djemaa El-Fna at sunset

 

Saal-Digital – Alu-Dibond wall decor review

I was fortunate to be invited to trial a wall decor product by Saal-Digital

After viewing their impressive range of wall decor products I opted to go for an Alu-Dibond print. 

From their site:

Multi talented Alu-Dibond: rigid, weather resistant and high resolution

The print has an impressive saturation and colourfulness with high resolution and sharpness. It is realized through the newest direct UV printing with 6 colours instead of 4, including light inks, and sixfold UV cure. Even large and monochromatic areas are resplendent in saturated colours and absolute subtlety and fineness.

  • Aluminium composite panel 3 mm (matte)
  • custom size available
  • six-colour UV direct printing, incl. light inks
  • stable, rigid and weather resistant
  • according to format type, aluminium subframe, standard mounting or standoffs available
  • For pros: ICC profile available 

Their software was really easy to use meaning it was a simple and straightforward process to get my design set up. 

The ordering process was extremely easy and the print was delivered within 4 working days of ordering. It was very well packaged. The print comes with stick on mounts for hanging.

I chose a 30 x 45 print of this photo of beach huts I took at Paignton:

Paignton Beach Huts

and here is the finished product on display in my living room:

As you can see the print quality is exceptional and the product feels tough and durable. This would well in an office or on a display as it will endure being knocked, touched and brushed against. The design and colours came out brilliantly.I am extremely happy with the finished product.