Saturday, 20 July 2013

Table tennis gone batty – using tools of the trade for ping pong fun!

The launch of a city-wide summer programme for a popular table tennis project begins with a quirky championship in the centre of Brighton on Thursday 25 July.

Local traders are being invited to step up to open air tables in Jubilee Square and represent their professions at the launch event of this year’s Ping! programme. Instead of traditional ping pong bats, participants will bring a “tool of their trade” to bounce the little balls to victory!  Librarians will bring their books, publicans will be wielding beer mats, chefs using frying pans and so on. The Mayor will also be in attendance although the bat of her choice has not yet been revealed.

The fun championship starts a series of free table tennis events taking place across Brighton & Hove until the end of August. The Ping! project is being organised in Brighton & Hove by the council’s Sports Development team working with local table tennis clubs. The programme encourages people to have a go at table tennis to discover how enjoyable and accessible the sport is for all ages and abilities.

Cllr Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee, said: “There is an element of cheeky fun mixed with a competitive streak about the sport of table tennis. It can be played at as high speed action challenge or a calm to and fro volley. The appeal is in the variety and those at the top of their game can deliver some astounding play. I am very pleased to see Ping! back on the streets of Brighton & Hove this summer.”

More than 40 table tennis tables will be placed across the city in more than 20 locations. Bats and balls are supplied at many locations but to avoid disappointment players are advised to bring along their own equipment when visiting the outdoor tables. All the tables can be used for free. Information on where to find the Ping! tables is available on the council website at:

Table tennis clubs across Brighton & Hove are helping to raise awareness of the sport during the Ping! weeks. Many clubs are instrumental in delivering the free events and sessions. Tim Holtam, Brighton Table Tennis Club, said: "Ping! Brighton & Hove was simply amazing last year with more than 35,000 people playing in the space of six weeks in the run up to the Olympics. Ping! has been transformative to the image of the sport in our city and is a fantastic way of people meeting each other and having fun. It is a game anyone can enjoy from the first time they pick up a bat until they are over 100. There are not many other sports where that is possible!”

Events taking place during Ping! include a fancy dress championship, coaching sessions, disability Paralympic ping pong  and a round the table world record attempt. More information at:<

Monday, 15 July 2013

Borehamwood teacher’s story shortlisted for success!

Shayna Evans calls on community support as public voting for children’s story-writing competition opens   

A newly-wed trainee teacher from Borehamwood has beaten hundreds of entries to be shortlisted in this year’s Munch Time children’s story writing competition. Shayna Evans, 29, is one of 10 regional finalists from across the country who now need your vote to win the top prize of £1,000 in the annual search for a budding children’s author.

Her story ‘Here Comes the Aeroplane’ can be seen and voted for at from 1st July. The rhyming tale features Munch the Cow as she tries lots of new flavours and is aimed at parents wanting to encourage their fussy eaters to eat a more varied diet.

Shayna said: “I am thrilled my story has been shortlisted. I thought the competition looked fun and sat down for 20 minutes and the next thing I knew I had 200 words, the story just flowed.“

The competition, by Munch Bunch® yogurts, is in its fifth year and is supported by the National Literacy Association. It aims to highlight and celebrate the importance of stories and creative time between young children and parents, and gives amateur writers the opportunity to shine.  A previous Munch Time winning author has subsequently secured a publishing deal and established successful careers in writing. The winner won't be the only one to win a cash prize, three runners up will also receive £500.

In a recent survey* of parents with children under five, Munch Bunch found that more than a quarter of UK parents harbour ambitions to write a children's story.  It also revealed 8 out of 10 admit struggling to entertain their children, with over 70% citing running out of ideas, or feeing too tired or too stressed as reasons.

Munch Time judge and chair of the National Literacy Association, Ray Barker, says:

" Reading with your child is a beneficial and easy way to entertain and we want parents to help foster a love of stories with their children as early as possible. It's been proved time and time again that children who are introduced to the joy of sharing books and stories at an early age will be at an advantage when they start school. Making reading fun is so important too and the great thing with Munch Time is that it allows parents to discover great new stories to read with their young children.”

Vote now for your favourite Munch Time entry and also receive an opportunity to win a prize at  Voting will conclude at midnight on Thursday 1st August with the winning story unveiled shortly afterwards - watch this space for the announcement!

Fans of Munch Time can also be part of the story writing competition count down on Facebook:

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The RSPCA has hit out at owners who left their dogs in hot cars over the weekend, despite repeated warnings about the dangers.

The animal welfare charity was inundated with hundreds of complaints over the weekend from people who spotted animals suffering as the temperature rocketed to 90 degrees in some parts of the country.

Around 70 calls about animals trapped in hot cars in the South East came into the RSPCA’s National Control Centre over the weekend of 6-7 July.

We also received a further 280 calls across the rest of England and Wales, and unfortunately the heat wave also claimed a number of lives across the country. 

A seven-year old female Staffordshire bull terrier died after being left in a car outside a pub while the owners had Sunday lunch (7 July) in Bradford, West Yorkshire. A woman and two men have been interviewed.

In another incident, a two- year old Rottweiler cross was pulled dead out of a hot car outside their owner's home in Bury, Greater Manchester. The RSPCA attended after a call from police just after 6pm on Sunday (7 July). A woman has been interviewed.

RSPCA chief inspector Dermot Murphy: “The death of those dogs was an avoidable tragedy. Leaving a dog in a hot car has the same kind of effect as putting it in a microwave. They are literally cooked alive, in what is a horrendous death.

“People just aren’t listening. Leaving a window open simply isn’t enough, and in-car temperatures rise quickly, even if it’s cloudy.”

“What people need to realise is that the next animal to die in a hot car, conservatory or outbuilding could be their pet - that’s how serious this is.” 

All too often, owners make the mistake of thinking it is sufficient to leave a bowl of water or a window open for their pet but this is not enough to protect them from heatstroke, which can have fatal consequences.  Even a hot garden without shade can be disastrous for an animal.

As an example, the temperature inside a vehicle can soar to 47 degrees within 60 minutes when the outside temperature is just 22 degrees.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Families invited to enjoy forest magic as survey reveals children losing their imaginations

90% of parents think children are losing their imaginations by age ten, a new study reveals.

Researchers found lack of outdoor play and too much time spent on computers and games consoles are being blamed for making today’s children less imaginative.

The results come as the Forestry Commission launches a programme of enchanting activities inviting parents and their children to enjoy the magic of the forest throughout 2013.

The Forest Fairy Tales campaign will see events take place across the country and includes fairy trails, sculpture making, picnics, crafts and story walks across various Forestry Commission sites.

This winter will see the launch of the Stick Man Trails, which will encourage children to learn more about the natural world in forests and also online. The trails will take place in 12 forests across the country throughout between October 2013 and January 2014.

The campaign aims to engage a whole generation of youngsters in imaginative outdoor play and reverse perceptions many parents have about their child’s interest in the world of pretend.

Of the 2,000 parents of school-age children surveyed by Forestry Commission England, nearly three quarters think that today’s children play outdoors less than they did as children and half (51%) believe this directly influences how much imagination they have.

The survey also found that three quarters of adults think children spend too much time on computers and games consoles and over half (55%) think the rise in technology use is also responsible for children’s lack of imagination.

Indulging in a little make believe has long been thought to have far-reaching developmental benefits for children: Albert Einstein wrote about the importance of fairy tales in boosting children’s intelligence and the child psychotherapist Bruno Bettelheim believed fairy tales helped children develop independence and key social skills such as empathy[1].

As well as providing important moral lessons, fairy tales create a space where children can vent complicated feelings, explore their wildest dreams and confront their fears about the big bad monster, finding a way to decipher good from evil and resolve conflicts[2].

Rachel Giles of the Forestry Commission said:

“Forests are the perfect backdrop to inspire children’s imaginations as many of the most exciting fairy tales are set in the woods, and Forest Fairy Tales will encourage children to explore new worlds using their imaginations, becoming Little Red Riding Hood, a brave knight or a wicked witch.

“Our research shows that many children aren’t engaging in outdoor play to the same extent as their parents did, and we must work harder to encourage those young people to go outside and use their imaginations before the joy of make-believe and pretend is lost forever.

“We hope our Forest Fairy Tales activities will inspire them to use the forest as their playground, a place to create their own fairy tales, confront their fears about good and evil and enjoy less structured play, while learning vital skills that will aid them in their development.”

The survey follows a 2011 Government consultation to which 42,000 people responded which revealed the special place the nation’s forests hold in our hearts.

Many of those who answered said they valued woodlands and forests as places for personal enjoyment and appreciation of the natural world.[3]

And more than four-fifths of respondents to a Forestry Commission survey in 2011 agreed that woods are “good places for children to learn about the outdoors”, while three quarters thought “playing in woods is good for children’s health”.[4]

Activities will be taking place throughout the year at a number of Forestry Commission sites. To find out more and download free online activity sheets visit

The results have been generated in a survey commissioned by the Forestry Commission of 2,000 parents of school-aged children.

Click here to view the full survey.