Working Holiday at Longshaw

Clearing Longshaw pond on a working holiday © National Trust / Peak District

Clearing Longshaw pond on a working holiday

We run around 4 working holidays every year in the Peak District, each one is full of fun and hard work. The holidays cover a variety of outdoor conservation work and have a variety of people joining in. Read on for an account given by one of Longshaw's working holiday participants.

Preparation & arrival

A working holiday always starts with the packing. There are lots of things to remember; work clothes, gloves, boots, sleeping bag, pillow, waterproofs and a tea towel. I forgot the last item! Anyhow, I arrived at Dalehead Bunkhouse an hour early. I like to be there so I can wait for the other volunteers. We were a mixed bag; the youngest 18 and the oldest 60. Two of the volunteers came from France, two were completing their Duke of Edinburgh award and naturally there were four teachers. Well it was August!! The Bunkhouse had 3 bedrooms; an 8-bed, and 2 6-beds. There was a large kitchen, an even larger dining room and a very cosy living room. The bunk beds were very comfortable but it is always odd sharing a room at the beginning and I kept banging my head on the top bunk. Ouch!

Eating

The rota for cooking and cleaning was circulated. We were in teams of two and we had to do one duty a day with two days off. I was teamed with one of the French volunteers which gave me a chance to practise my GCSE French. Cooking for a hungry twelve volunteers is very daunting, particularly when you have to cook a vegetarian and gluten-free option as well. However, all the meals were delicious with very few leftovers. The evening meal is an important part of the volunteer day as it is the time when everyone gets together.

Daytime

Work was varied. We left the Bunkhouse every morning at 9 and were driven to the Estate. The wardens explained the work we would be doing and the reason why. On this holiday we began by coppicing beech trees to open up the woodland. It was a great introduction to loppers and bow saws. The following two days were spent digging holes! In fact, we were putting up fence posts, which is a tough job but ultimately satisfying. However, I did spend most of the time on my front digging with my hands! On the last day we were taken to the pond on the estate to clear away the rushes, which were encroaching on the pond. Lots of fun but very smelly and dirty! Fortunately we were thanked for our efforts with a National Trust cream tea.

As ever, the last morning is spent cleaning the Bunkhouse, swapping email addresses and saying ‘au revoir’ to the new friends we have just made, and by 10 o’clock it was check-out time.