|Lynn (right) and Carla celebrate a job jolly well done.|
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Have Work? Will Travel...
Looking to get away? Enjoy getting your hands dirty? How about staying at some of the most beautiful locations in Great Britain for $150 per week, meals included? Try a British National Trust "Working Holiday."
Last fall, my friend Carla and I traveled to Britain to join a team of volunteer gardeners to work in the flower beds at the beautiful National Trust property, Waddesdon Manor. The Manor, a 19th century manor house formerly owned by the Rothschild family, hosts National Trust volunteers two times per year, in the spring and fall, to plant flower beds in their display gardens.
Carla and I worked with a team of volunteers who hailed mostly from the British Isles, but one volunteer, Tamaki, had come all the way from Japan. As Carla and I were the only two Americans in the group, we were known, appropriately enough, as "The Yanks."
Accommodations were simple, but comfortable. We bunked down in a 19th century converted barn; one side for men and one side for women. A separate barn housed our toilets, showers, kitchen and dining area.
Each morning we made our own breakfasts and prepared our lunches for the day. Dinner was a cooperative effort with rotating volunteers making set recipes from a volunteer cookbook. In reality some of us were better at following cooking instructions than others (so the "others" became the clean-up crew)!
We worked in the gardens for five days, with Wednesday as our "free" day off. All of us climbed into the van for a day trip, first stopping at the infamous Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Our afternoon was spent exploring the beautiful city of Oxford. Dinner out in a pub completed our day of exploring the area.
In the evenings we shared life experiences, world views, opinions, British beer, trivia games, and videos of our day on Tamaki's laptop computer. Since Professor Tamaki was a simian researcher back in Japan, he also "treated" us to films of his research on monkey behavior which we quickly dubbed, "Monkey Porn!"
At the end of our gardening week, we were treated to a full British cream tea at the Manor, and the head gardeners thanked us for a job well done. In our volunteer week, we had planted 12,000 white and yellow pansies and 5,000 tulip bulbs which will be enjoyed by visitors to Waddesdon Manor next spring.
A list of available National Trust Working Holidays can be obtained at www.nationaltrust.org.uk Click on "Volunteering," then "Working Holidays." Volunteer opportunities are normally posted on the website in January of each year and can include work that ranges from habitat and orchard management, scrub and invasive plant clearing to learning the ancient arts of hedge laying, coppicing and stone wall repair. Some projects are inside, but most involve some sort of outdoor work.
Work locations range from such beautiful estates as Sissinghurst Castle, Harwick Hall and Scotney Castle to ancient sites, such as Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall.
Holidays are broken down according to age and ability ranges. Volunteers stay in hostel-like accommodations, some of which are historic buildings themselves. For a slightly higher price, "Premium" holidays offer accommodations in bed and breakfasts.
Carla and I enjoyed our Working Holiday so much that we plan to volunteer for two more holidays next year, back to back!
— Lynn in Everett, WA
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