A day in the life of a working holiday group

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We catch up with a working holiday group as they install dragon’s teeth (spikes intended to stop 4x4s driving across the common) and clear invasive species from Hindhead Common in Surrey.

Words and pictures by Sean Malyon.

Food is always a vital part of these holidays and the first job is to organise the breakfast. We all take turns and breakfast is usually cereal, toast, yoghurt and fruit juice.

We leave Hunter basecamp in Haslemere, where we are staying, for the minibus drive to the work site.

On arrival at the work site the warden and team leaders describe the day’s task. This gives us the opportunity to hear how important the work is for the management of the property. The briefing also includes safety advice; very important as this type of activity is so different from our daily lives. In this group we have several teachers, an engineer, someone from IT and a HR specialist. On our first day we cleared birch, gorse and other invasive species on the heathland. This helps to preserve the fragile habitat and all the creatures that depend on it. On another day we cleared a bridleway of over-hanging branches and had a fun afternoon clearing out a cattle grid. We’re also installing dragon’s teeth, fearsome spikes to prevent 4x4 vehicles driving across the heath and causing damage.

Today we have lunch on Gibbet Hill near the Devil’s Punch Bowl. This is one of the highest points for miles around and a great place to have a sandwich. The views over the south of England are terrific. Lunch is also a good time to get to know everyone better. We all get on very well because we’ve found that we have a common bond, a passion for the environment. There are five people from overseas in this group and they have agreed to speak English at all times so we can share our differing experiences from home. Despite there being a big age range in the group, from 18 to 58, we all get on really well.

It’s more of the same work in the afternoon. Today we’ll probably finish a bit early because it’s our last day, but we usually keep going until 5pm. It’s not all work, though, we had a day off on Wednesday. In the morning we all had a walk around the Devil’s Punch Bowl to see the landscape from a different perspective. In the afternoon some of us went to nearby Petworth House. We spent the evening having a meal in a local restaurant.

We're all tired, thanks to good, hard, physical work so it’s a quiet ride back to the basecamp.

We take our turn cooking and this is a great opportunity to gain new skills. The holiday leaders suggest menus before the holiday and then we alter them to suit people’s likes and dislikes, trying to include everyone’s favourites.

Hunter basecamp has a lovely sitting room where we can relax and wind down after a hard day, stoking up the wood burner if it’s cold. Some people like to read or do jigsaws, others play cards but mostly we just chat. It’s great to hear other people’s stories.

If you're interested in booking yourself onto a working holiday, search for a holiday to suit you.