Our trip down South

Jessops has partnered with the RSPCA to become the headline sponsor for the RSPCA Young Photography Awards 2019. The competition uses Photography as a way to engage youngsters in the nature around them, feeding into the RSPCA prevention and education work. As part of the programme, the RSPCA invited us along to the RSPCA Mallydams Wood – here is what we got up to.

The Mallydams Woods centre and what RSPCA do

We always say how beautiful our country’s southeast coast is, still, every time we have a new adventure down South, we are again blown away by its beauty. This time we headed to Hastings, East Sussex, the gorgeous alternative seaside town that perfectly blends tradition and modern life. We spent a warm sunny day in the magical haven of Mallydams Woods in the precious company of the RSPCA centre staff and some very inspirational youngsters, passionate about nature and wildlife as much as they are about photography.

Mallydams Woods is a RSPCA nature reserve of 55 acre focused on preserving and protecting its surrounding wildlife. A well established wildlife rehabilitation centre, which also includes its own educational facility, deservingly becoming a nationally acclaimed example of excellence for animal welfare education. Through this centre, the RSPCA is able to carry out both vital rehabilitation work and crucial prevention and education work. The centre looks after nearly 3000 injured wild animals and regularly runs didactic events for families, children and teenagers every year.

RSPCA, as the largest animal welfare charity in the UK and world's first animal welfare charity, have tirelessly worked since 1824 to create a kinder world for all animals, rescuing, rehabilitating, re-homing and educating.

As part of the extraordinary Generation Kind campaign, the Mallydams Woods centre runs a wonderful project called Hastings Wild Things, whose goal is supporting young people who have experienced disadvantage access to nature, educating and helping them to develop a kind and positive approach to the environment and its animals. Started as a pilot project, Wild Things has reached more than 10,500 local children, young people and parents, as wells as influential adults like teachers and youth workers.    

From exploring the nature reserve and its local inhabitants to creative outdoor activities, the RSPCA Mallydams staff aims to inspire the younger generations by creating an authentic connection with nature: venturing out in the woods, planting trees, building birdfeeders and fires, along with learning about the importance of protecting our planet starting with the local natural habitat.

Jessops and RSPCA

At Jessops we have always admired the commitment of RSPCA and their mission. This year we are proud to be the headline sponsor of the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2019, which will give us the opportunity to play a part in spreading this important message of kindness, inspiring and educating the future generations.


[From the left: Patrick Aryee (TV Presenter and Wildlife Filmmaker), Owen Duda (Jessops Academy Regional Trainer), Chris Packham (Head Judge, Wildlife Expert, Photographer and Author), Andrew Forsyth (Wildlife Photographer)].

We joined the children of the Hastings Wild Things project during one of their special sessions this September, hoping to spot some badgers along the way. Owen, part of our Jessops Regional Academy Trainers team and RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2019 judge for Jessops, shared his wildlife photography tips whilst teaching the children about the camera equipment we brought along. We were also able to meet previous RSPCA Young Photographer Awards winners Thomas Easterbrook, 11, and Gideon Knight, 18, and get inspired by their fresh approach to wildlife photography. 

Our day started meeting the Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager, Richard Thompson, who introduced us to the behind the scene reality and showed us what a day at the centre looks like. We had the privilege to see the resident vet Amy in action treating a few baby hedgehogs recently brought in, and the seal pups in care until well enough to be released back into the wild.

The centre visit continued through the rehabilitation spaces dedicated to birds; the kind of wildlife frequently found and rescued consists mainly of gulls and pigeons, due to the centre proximity to the coast, although we did spot some house martins building up their strength for release.

After the insightful centre exploration, we headed to the enchanted woods of Mallydams with the Centre Manager, Simon Fathers, to know more about the current wildlife residents: fox cubs, badgers and a host of bird life. The walk finished with a very comforting campfire, where the Wild Things group had set up and kindly cooked jacket potatoes and veggies sausages, while waiting for the sun to come down and the badgers to pop out and explore. We sat silently and patiently, hoping to have a glimpse of the local badgers, alas, they did not show. However, not everyone missed out seeing the elusive badgers, as Thomas and his dad Stewart told us afterwards they have actually spotted one on their way back home.

Emily Hedley, Youth Engagement Officer, later told us how well the Wild Things children reacted to photography event. Despite not seeing any badgers, the group was really interested in everyone's camera equipment and impressed that photography winners were there too and see them in action. Emily told us that the children were fascinated by how the cameras were able to take such clear photos in low light situations, whilst enjoying learning more about the badgers’ habitat and routine. We could have not been happier to be able to help the Wild Thing children discovering a new way to get close to nature and animals.

The importance of the RSPCA mission

We had such a fantastic time with the Wild Things children, previous Young Photographers Awards winners and the RSPCA family. Everyone had deeply inspired us with their passion and commitment, showing us how every little action can contribute to the big cause: rehabilitating, re-homing, releasing back into the wild and educating to create world kinder to animals By spreading a message of love, compassion and education, RSPCA are working with the younger generations, the decision-makers of tomorrow, to create a world that is kinder to animals.

Photography is indeed a powerful tool to deliver the message and raise awareness through images. From the children we learned how Photography helped them to discover different species, finding themselves curious to know more about a specific bird or mammal and their habitat. We are extremely proud to support the RSPCA and promote animal welfare education through photography. In this way we hope to inspire other creatives to support their remarkable mission.

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