A day in the life of a working holiday group

olunteer taking photographs on a National Trust Working Holiday, during a guided walk around the landscape of Bosigran Farm, Cornwall
Be part of our working holidays National Trust Images/John Millar

We catch up Sean Malyon, who is part of a working holiday group, and hear what it's like installing 'dragon’s teeth' (spikes intended to stop 4x4s driving across the common) and clearing invasive species from Hindhead Common in Surrey.

7.30am Food is always a vital part of these holidays and the first job is to organise breakfast. We all take turns and breakfast is usually cereal, toast, yoghurt and fruit juice.

9.00am We leave Hunter basecamp in Haslemere, where we are staying, for the minibus drive to the work site.

9.30am On arrival at the work site the warden and team leaders describe the day’s task. 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 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.

1:00pm Today we have lunch on Gibbet Hill near the Devil’s Punch Bowl. This is one of the highest points for miles around and the views over the south of England are terrific.

Lunch is 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 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.

2:00pm It’s more of the same work in the afternoon. 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 had a meal in a local restaurant in the evening.

5:00pm We're all tired, thanks to good, hard, physical work so it’s a quiet ride back to the basecamp.

7:00pm We take turns 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.

10:00pm 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.

Volunteer clearing bracken on a National Trust working holiday
Bosigran Farm, Cornwall National Trust Images / John Millar

Working Holidays 

Our working holidays are an exciting and interesting way to make a difference in conserving the environment and the UK's heritage