This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of working holidays. As we mark this special date, we caught up with volunteer leader, Bob Mclaurin, who has been leading working holidays for nearly 25 years.

When did you join the team?

My first ever working holiday was in April 1993, staying at the Exmoor Basecamp in a little hamlet called Countisbury, near Lynmouth on the North Devon coast. I remember the date distinctly as it was during the time of the Waco siege (anyone else remember that?). 

I went as a paying volunteer, but on arrival it transpired that the assistant leader would not be coming along. I said that I would help out for the week and I haven’t regretted a moment since.

Since then, I have averaged 6 or 7 holidays a year – about 150 in total! I’ve worked from Cragside in Northumberland to Zennor in Cornwall and quite a few places in-between.

Cragside Estate - one of the many places Bob has led a working holiday
Nelly's Moss Lake, Cragside in Northumberland

Do you have a favourite National Trust place?

That’s a really tricky question as it’s so hard to compare all these special places. From the peace of the countryside estates, the history-rich manor houses, to the forests and lakes of Cumbria – they all offer something different.  

I really like staying at the old radar station near Charmouth in Dorset. In the summer, you can sit outside after a hard day clearing ragwort with the team, cook a BBQ dinner and wash it down with a glass of local cider.

" You can sit outside at 6 in the morning with a cuppa and have fallow and roe deer grazing barely 10 feet away from you. "
- Bob Mclaurin, Working Holiday Leader

I also love the Ashridge Basecamp on the join of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It may be a bit rustic (two converted barns) but there aren’t many other places where you can sit outside at 6 in the morning with a cuppa and have fallow and roe deer grazing barely 10 feet away from you. 

What’s the best thing about being a working holiday leader?

Mostly, the other people make the holidays what they are. I get to meet people from all walks of life and from all over the world. 

From teachers, lawyers, bankers and retirees, to visitors from France, Germany, Canada, Belgium, and Japan, they have all made my time as a working holiday leader a crazy, fun and at times bizarre experience. 

As I lead the holidays, I sometimes ask myself what particular hat I am wearing at any given time. This varies from mate, mentor, chef, driver, facilitator, accountant, friend, delegator and medic. I’ve even been called an icon on more than one occasion. 

Thank you

I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside - from the National Trust rangers and wardens to the volunteers and holiday participants I have met over the years.

And many, many thanks to the National Trust for doing what you do. Let’s see where the next 50 years of working holidays takes us.