Working holidays and conservation volunteering in the UK.

Eco Trips For Tree Huggers

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Repairing an invisible wall called “ha ha” and helping to save Ashdown Forest, the home of Winnie the Pooh, are among the tasks allotted to volunteers on a British Trust for Conservation Volunteers natural break working holiday.

Food is provided, as is accommodation which often involves crashing on a village hall floor. Wimps can pay extra cash to stay in a catered hotel.

Weekend stays are possible and may consist of converting an air raid shelter into a bat flat. Week long breaks start from under £200, while weekends begin at around £100.


The National Trust for Scotland run Thistle Camps. They last for a week and typically cost from between £85 and £200, and are set in places such as Killiecrankie and Fair Isle, near the Shetlands.

Try the National Trust too. They have a variety of working holidays on their land, ranging from archaeology to working with the disabled.

More unusual is selling flowers or newspapers dressed in Victorian garb. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust requires demonstrators and street animators to dress up and be live exhibits.

In return for a free lunch volunteers are expected to display the lost social and industrial skills of the last century. Site maintenance and helping to make and repair the costumes are other tasks available.

Continuing the industrial theme, the Waterway Recovery Group needs assistance in restoring the fallen glory of Britain’s canals – once the arteries of commerce. £56 is expected for a week long stay on most camp and covers three meals a day.They also need to find over 50 volunteer Canal Camp leaders, assistant leaders & cooks each year..

The conservation holidays can teach basic skills such as bricklaying and the operation of simple plant and equipment. You may get to play around with a dumper truck too. Accommodation is in basic youth hostel style digs.

Religious people in a cathedral get down on their knees to pray. Working Travellers get down there to scrub the floor. Cathedral Camps oversee week long programmes set up to entice volunteers into the restoration and maintenance of cathedrals and large churches.

Tasks include sanding down woodwork, weeding the graveyard, window cleaning and the much wanted glamour job of escorting bin liners full of dead pigeons and their droppings off the premises.

Those interested in living birds may like to offer their time to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The oldest Railway Company in the world needs help to keep running. The Ffestiniog Railway, from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, requires its engines cleaned, trains guarded, tickets sold, the track maintained and the garden weeded.

Several visits to the railway are required until boyhood train driving dreams can be fulfilled.

Aspiring train drivers should also check out the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, an eight-mile tourist steam railway in rural mid Wales, or the Great Western Society at the Didcot Railway Centre.

Tree hugging is open to everybody; age is unimportant but volunteers should be fit and prepared to rough it. Overseas volunteers with a good grasp of English are accepted most places.

Please note that prices may have changed since this article was last updated

Image courtesy Ella’s Dad




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