All posts by Mr Davenport

A – Z of Religious Studies

Fancy a look through the A-Z of religious beliefs? The BBC has complied a journey through the alphabet to discover various topics covered in religious studies.

BBC: A-Z of Religious Beliefs

Faith Reclaimed

FaithReclaimed

Last week (12th-14th July), a group of Year 8 students attended the Faith Reclaimed Conference, a pilot initiative aimed at creating confident ambassadors who are able to represent and educate their peers and teachers about their faith. Led by local social activist Ruth Ibegbuna (Twitter), the Reclaim Charity’s aim is to develop youth leadership in the local community and to inspire grassroots social change.

With established initiatives in the Moss Side community, and schools local to Manchester, the charity is expanding following an awareness of the existence of a general misunderstanding and ignorance towards certain people of faith within our nation. Starting with Islam, the Muslim ambassadors from Altrincham Grammar School for Girls took part in activities that ranged from sing-a-longs, to exploring prejudices they have faced, to creating a range of Continuing Professional Development courses for students and teachers.

The immediate aim is for the students to create a range of resources and feel confident enough to deliver a lessonΒ to the school. The greater aim is to reduce ignorance towards Islam and other faith communities, and to inspire young people to tolerate, accept and promote the wide diversity of beliefs that exists in the United Kingdom and world today.

Speaking about the conference, Ruth stated in her email to Mr Davenport that:

“In short, it was wonderful.Β  The girls had an incredible time and contributed so well.Β  They are walking ten-foot-tall about all […]

Parents are very happy with the work the girls have done and in two weeks there will be a website, demonstrating all that they have learnt.

Thank you so much for supporting this initiative. it was powerful and, as the girls have said, extremely timely; as all expressed personal fears around Islamophobia and UK reactions to terror attacks.”

We look forward to working with the Reclaim charity in the future, and helping with more inspirational initiatives in the local area, and cannot wait to be educated by the students present at the conference.

Wednesday, adieu and welcome.Β 

What a great way to start the day. Hot breakfast and a leisurely lie-in, knowing you are going to spend a couple of hours in one of the most beautiful places in the British Isles. There was a second discovery of hash browns as the girls filled their cheeks like squirrels in anticipation of the winter frost before our final activity. We enjoyed a second hillwalk and learnt of the types of rock that make up the u-shape valley, plus the exciting news that part of the new Star Wars film was filmed over Derwentwater, the nearest body of water. Who knew!

  
   

   
With this, the first two groups departed as we welcomed 7-1 and 7-6. Slightly late but still willing to brave the damp forests, fields and climbing wall in Keswick. This is the first time the rain has stopped and it was great to hear, in isolation, the swaying of the trees and the autumnal wind persuade the bracken and branches to move in its own natural rhythm. What a great place to be!

  
A memory game followed dinner and the girls were quick to bed with the thought of tomorrow’s activities. Maybe there will be Ghyll scrambling after all…

Tuesday & the continuing storm

The morning began with a hearty breakfast of sausage, hash browns, egg, bacon, hash browns, scrambled egg, cereal, more hash browns, toast, juice and a side of hash browns. Everyone was filling up in anticipation of the activities ahead. 

Group 2 headed off to the Via Ferrata, which has been relocated inside a working mine, offering spectacular views of the steep valley as we entered the shaft. Our guide talked to us about the history of the mine shaft, ita many uses, particularly as roof slates, and also it’s recent appearance on ITV’s travel guides programme. 

Once in the heart of the mine, we were taught to attach out carabiners to the steel wire and walk across the suspended walkways above heaps of neglected state. It was a test for all but the girls overcame their initial lack of confidence to career the well-trodden tracks and avoid the infamous roll moles lurking in the depths

A short stop for dinner and then out into the afternoon activities which was a walk to Castle Rigg for a number of girls, where they were challenged by a riverside scramble and a journey to a fairly steep hill top to learn about a dilipadated Viking castle. 

Dinner was welcomed as the sun set behind the multiple peaks overlooking the centre, and toffee apple crumble was devoured by most before an evening quiz and a lazy hot chocolate. It is safe to say we are tired and depleted of energy but loving every second πŸŒ¦πŸƒπŸ‚πŸƒπŸ»πŸ€—πŸ˜€. 

7-5 and 7-2 have arrived!

Chasing the Altrincham downpour to higher climbs, we careered through many puddles and ponds to arrive at the Glaramara centre ready to eat our lunches. What a great site the centre is, nestled amongst the browning hills of the Lake District, particularly with the magical weather sweeping up the golden leaves. 

The girls brought their sense of fearlessness and curiosity to the afternoon’s activities. Accompanied by worsening weather, the groups were sent to explore the dark mines for the Via Ferrata, to orienteer around the surrounding valley and, for the lucky few, to enjoy climbing and abseiling indoors!

  
Climbing the mine. 

We have just had dinner and the girls are currently being whipped up into a frenzy by trying to create a newspaper tower from which they are to roll an orange and create the longest roll. Needless to say it is very tense. There may be fisticuffs during hot chocolate!

  
Rolling the orange. 

Sad Saturday

It’s been a long day… And it’s not over yet. But we have arrived at Heathrow safe and sound and now we begin the long coach journey back to Altrincham. Hopefully the girls will get some sleep on the coach. 

See you all soon! 

Final Friday

A 5am wake up call greeted the girls today – though some members of staff weren’t too impressed and one or two took a bit longer to get out of bed. *cough* Mr Davenport. 

But, after a quick cup of coffee and some water splashed on the face, we were ready to face the morning and alight the bus. Apart from the handful of girls who overslept and were late for the departure time. Despite numerous warnings. 

        
Still, we made our way through the now quiet streets of Varanasi towards the sacred Ganges. It was the first time we’d seen the streets devoid of cars, bikes and tucktucks. Though the cows still carved their way. As we walked down to the river we were joined by hundreds of people similarly wanting to experience the sunrise over the river. We were placed into two large boats and set off down the river just as the sun began to peek. 

   

  

   
As we travelled down the river we were able to witness the Hindu priests giving their blessings, people bathing, washing and even washing clothes and linen on the shores. As the sun grew higher, we began to feel the warmth of it on our backs and the glow on our faces. Some time for contemplation and relaxation allowed the girls to sit in silence and absorb the nature – the glow of the sun, the light breeze from the river, the sounds of birds, monkeys and chanting along the shores. It really was worth the early start. 

      
Departing from the boat we made our way back to the hotel for breakfast. After a quick shower and ensuring our cases were packed we headed back to the bus for our last site seeing excursions in Varanasi – a trip to a silk house, where we learned how the silk is collected and woven and then to a bead factory. Once again, both places provided ample opportunities for shopping and this time, even the teachers were tempted; Mr Copestake added to his wardrobe with a collection of scarves for the Manchester winter. 

After a quick lunch we were straight to the airport for the flight back to Delhi. After spending numerous hours travelling by bus and train, the 90 minute flight to Delhi flew by – though I think a number of girls slept for most of it. It’s straight to the final hotel of the trip for dinner and a relaxing evening. 

   
 
It’s going to be time to head home shortly, and although we’ve had an incredible week, I know the girls are looking forward to seeing family and friends. They’ve been a wonderful group to spend time with and all of the staff have commented how great it’s been to get to know them. They’ve been a credit to their parents, the school and themselves and we hope this trip has opened their eyes to the wider world. Hopefully it might encourage a few to travel again, visiting more foreign climes. It might even encourage a few to bring you to India. 

See you on the other side!

Ps we didn’t manage to trade Miss Turnbull in the end. We managed to raise the price to include a monkey, but no one was willing to take responsibility for it through customs. Mrs Cleary also had to call off her engagement to one of the Indian Maharajahs. She was disappointed to find he had 12 bathrooms in his palace and she wasn’t prepared to spend her weekends cleaning them all. 

Torrential Thursday

The day started in the early hours for many – constantly being awoken by the shaking of the train, the departing passengers singing as they left or the selling of chai tea up and down the aisles as people tried to sleep. Still, spirits were not dampened, and as we pulled into Varanasi at 10am, we were excited to see what the day ahead held.

And that was… rain. Rain and puddles. Rain, puddles and running streams in the road. No one came to India for rain. 

We were quickly on our way to the hotel however and after a quick opportunity to leave bags in rooms, we had an early lunch – with a strange Chinese style menu this time. Still, the chocolate brownies were a hit. 

After lunch, we had time to rest and relax – many went to have a proper sleep in a bed, whilst others took the time to have long showers. This was very much appreciated. 

The afternoon brought with it more rain, but nevertheless we were determined to head out and see the sites. We were first introduced to the Buddhist religion and given a brief history of the ideas and foundations, before we headed to Sarnath – the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon after achieving enlightenment. A calm and peaceful place, we were able to see many Indian and Tibetan Buddhists on pilgrimage to this very special site. 

  
We also had the opportunity to view some of the early Buddhist art and stone work – many pieces dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. 

As the sun set we headed down to the river Ganges via rickshaw. Luckily the rain had stopped so we were able to travel with the roof down. It’s great to see the sights of Varanasi at street level – the colours of the shops, the smells of incense and food filling the air and the vitality of the people around you. Although a little perilous being on the roads with bikes, buses, trucks and the odd cow or two, it certainly allows you to feel as though you’re experiencing the ‘real’ India. 

  
Down by the river, we were observing the nightly arti ceremony – offerings will be made to Shiva and the holy Ganges. It’s difficult to put into words how overwhelming this was to watch – the colours, vibrancy, contemplation and meditation as well as the light and the sounds. The girls were able to reflect on their own journey and experience in India this week. 

  
  
Back to the rickshaws for the journey to the hotel, we once again got to experience India at street level. It’s going to be an early night as we’ve got to be up at 5am to head to the Ganges for an early morning boat trip. 

Night!

Ps we weren’t as successful with the haggling for Miss Turnbull as we’d hoped. So far we’ve been offered eight goats from one guy, and two camels and two goats from another. We’re going to go back down to the Ganges tomorrow and try and find a better price. We’re won’t go for anything less than two elephants. 

Wet Wednesday

The sky was lit up last night as we experienced the first thunder storm of the week. Though many slept through, a few were woken by the tumultuous sounds of thunder and the rain hammering at the Windows. By morning time however, the rain had disappeared and the sun was shining. And so, we faced the first activity of the day – yoga. Stretching and sitting aplenty, the girls participated in some traditional yoga, limbering up and preparing for the day ahead. 

After a hearty breakfast, and time to get ready for the day, we headed to the Taj Mahal. One of the most magnificent and beautiful buildings in the world, the Taj is a tomb for one of the ancient Moguls of India. Crafted in marble the monument took 22 years to complete and is a stunning work of beauty. 
    
   

  
Following the visit to the Taj Mahal, we had a quick stop for lunch and then headed to Agra Fort – a huge red stoned building that was the palace of the Mogul of Agra. Time was allowed for walking around and contemplation – including great opportunities for selfies. 

      
The final activities of the day involved more shopping – I didn’t ever think I’d get to the point where you could be fed up of shopping. But the girls enjoyed the opportunities to buy mementos and presents and spend more of their money. They are becoming very accomplished at bartaring and negotiating – haggling prices down by pounds at a time. 

Dinner was an early event this evening, and once more the rain came pouring down. At least it managed to hold off during the day and we had our glorious sunshine. It was then straight to the station to board the overnight train to Varanasi. Perhaps not quite what the girls were expecting, it was still a new experience for them – once which many don’t do until their mid twenties. Still, some team spirit and encouragement helped the girls settle into their beds and attempt to get some sleep. 

  
We’re due to arrive in Varanasi at 10am local time, so a long night of sleeping in a rocking bunk awaits. 

Travelling Tuesday

Today has mostly been a day of travelling. After a bit of a lie in the morning we boarded the coaches to begin the long journey to Agra. Now, I’m not sure what the boring lot in coach two were doing, but we in coach one had our very own AGGS radio station courtesy of Mr Davenport and Mr Copestake. Bringing the coach up to date news, travel information, music and even adverts for Nandos, they kept the students entertained for part of the journey. 

After a quick lunch stop – and even more curry – we were back in the coach and heading to Fatehpur Sikri, with a short RS lesson interlude courtesy of Mr Davenport. We learned about the Hindu religion and beliefs whilst Mr Copestake tried to recall the story of Rama and Sita from his primary school days. It’s fair to say it wasn’t particularly a good recollection. 

The city itself was a stunning work of architecture – palaces, temples, corridors – all of a rather Tibetan inspired design. As the sun began to fade we headed back to the coach to make our way to the hotel for the evening. After dinner entertainment this time courtesy of a magician – no Indian dancing for the students and teachers tonight. 

  
The girls have also been excited to find yet more shopping opportunities in the hotel – I have a feeling that their suitcases might be much heavier returning than they were coming out. I’m not yet sure how one student is going to attempt to get her new goat through customs – I’m not sure the British transport police will be as open to haggling as the locals in India. Still, it’ll make a decent curry for one family if we make it through. 

  
It’s an early night for us here in Agra – we’re up early for a yoga session. 

NamastΓ© 

Ps we were offered 2 camels and an elephant for Miss Turnbull but we politely declined the offer. We reckon we could get much more for her in Varanasi.