Pathways and waterways: my holiday diary

Volunteers repair a canal towpath on a National Trust working holiday

To celebrate 50 years of our working holidays programme we ran a special holiday this summer at Stratford Canal in Warwickshire – the site of the first ever working holiday.

Riaz Rashid, working holiday assistant leader, gives us an insight into what the group got up to over the four days.

The exterior of Big Mose Bunkhouse, Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Day one

The warm and sunny weather couldn’t have been any better to kick-start this special holiday. As a first time leader, I was assisting long-term volunteer leader, Greg Slay. Our home for the holiday was Big Mose Bunkhouse, near Bridgnorth in Shropshire and this was where we met our group of 16 participants. Once the group had all arrived at the bunkhouse, we picked our bunks then got to know each other over dinner.

A National Trust working holiday group repair a canal towpath

Day two

After breakfast, we packed a lunchbox and headed off in the minibus to Dudmaston. On arrival at the canal site, we were greeted by Steve and Tom, who work as part of the team at the Canal and River Trust. They talked us through the key elements of our task which was to repair a stretch of towpath along the canal. With shovels and rakes to hand, we set about clearing the edges of the vegetation and loose stone. Once the pathway was cleared and the debris disposed of, it was time to relay the surface with gravel using our shovels, wheelbarrows and plenty of hard work!

Volunteers on a National Trust working holiday

Day three

On Saturday, our task was to stamp down the gravel we'd laid the day before and make the pathway as smooth as possible. To do this we employed the use of a heavy Whacker Plate machine. The machine was great fun and some of us even thought about buying our own, just for the sheer pleasure of smoothing things down!

A group of volunteers on a National Trust working holiday

Day four

Once the gravel was laid, our final task was to cover it with a finer top layer of stone, which would be stamped down to make a sturdy path for people to enjoy the canal walk. As a special treat, we rounded off the holiday with a 50th ‘birthday party’ to celebrate 50 years of working holidays. The job done with huge satisfaction and many smiles, we bid farewell to the path and our new friends.