Newest Review: ... website ( http://www.sourcingfocus.com/site/newsit em/752/ dated Friday, June 20, 2008 ) one reads: "Andy Copestake, Finance Directo... more
Get Away From It All!
Member Name: daseaford
Date: 25/02/02, updated on 26/04/05 (301 review reads)
Advantages: Refreshing., Enjoyable., Relaxing.
Working in a college computer centre all day, every day, is not the most healthy of environments, with the constant hum of cooling fans and the heat from the monitors. So I decided that I needed to do something contrasting as a means of relaxation and enjoyment, preferably with some fresh air.
Last year I built a patio in our back garden, which took a few months to complete, but this year I thought I would try something more organised. During a visit to a National Trust country park (Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire) I saw a leaflet giving details of working holidays on National Trust properties.
These holidays sounded quite interesting so I logged onto their web site to get some more details. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteers) There is a whole collection of different holidays all around the country (not Scotland) to suit people of different abilities and with different interests. The activities vary from maintaining coastal paths in Devon, dry stone walling in North Wales, clearing scrub land in the Midlands, taking part in an archaeological dig in the Lake District and many more conservation and construction projects all around the country. There are working holidays at 140 National Trust locations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The holidays are either for a week or a weekend. Each of the full week holidays is coded to give an indication of the type of work undertaken on the holiday (i.e. Conservation, Archaeological, Construction etc.), and also for the age group that the holiday would be most suitable for. The weekend holidays are a mixture of activities and generally suit all adult age groups.
All this information can be read on the web site, or you can send for a free glossy brochure from the National Trust, giving all of the details.
For each of the holidays there is then a more detailed description of the work to be undertaken during your stay, and the dates of each holiday. There is also a descript
ion of the accommodation that you will be staying in. Most of the accommodation is farmhouse type buildings that have been converted specifically for these type holidays and have single sex bedrooms. For each holiday they attempt to get a good mix of people from different backgrounds and experience. Normally about a dozen people on each holiday. You are not allowed to book more than two places, so that it will be a mixture of individuals and couples, not groups.
My wife decided that this was not really for her, but encouraged me to go on one if I wanted to. Perhaps she just wanted a break from hearing the tap, tap, tap of a computer keyboard.
After a long study of the available holidays I decided to try a weekend first, just in case I didn’t like it and so I made a note of a few that appealed to me. I then telephoned the National Trust booking service where a very polite gentleman dealt with my enquiry. After checking that a place was available I was booked onto my first choice holiday. The procedure was very easy and the staff were very efficient. I paid by credit card and the cost of the weekend (Friday to Sunday) was £27, which includes all of the food and accommodation. (The cost for a full week is usually about £54).
My choice of weekend was at the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate, near Ripon in Yorkshire. I was given a booking reference number and told that a confirmation pack would be sent to me within 7 - 10 days, containing all of the details of the holiday including arrival times, travel instructions and an essential kit list.
After two weeks I telephoned the National Trust and was told that there had been a general problem with sending out confirmation letters and that they were now clearing the backlog and I should receive mine within the next 3 – 4 days. The next day I did receive a letter confirming my booking, which stated that the joining instructions etc. would be sent to me shortly. Whether th
is was as a result of my telephone call, or just a coincidence I am not sure.
A couple of weeks later my information pack arrived which gave a lot more details of the weekend, a glossy booklet (Essential Information) and a safety leaflet.
The booklet gives all the information you require for the holiday including a kit list. Amongst the other information is a request form if you require picking up from the nearest train station. There is also a contact name, phone number and address if you require any further information. In all, this pack contained everything I needed to know for the weekend.
Two weeks before the working weekend a lady called Karen telephoned me to make sure I had received all the information and if I had any questions. This lady was to be the team leader for the weekend. The team leaders are also volunteers, but have the additional role of looking after the welfare of the other volunteers. A full time member of staff from The National Trust would look after the work task for the weekend. This personal approach was appreciated and after a chat about the weekend I told her that I had all the information I needed and looked forward to meeting her and the others for the weekend.
On the Friday of my chosen weekend I was wondering what I had let myself in for. The wind was a howling gale and snow was forecast for Yorkshire. However, I set off up the A1 towards Ripon. After a stop at the town of Ripon I went on to Fountains Abbey to find the cottage where we would be staying.
The directions I had been sent were very accurate and took me through the dear park of the estate to the cottage. It seemed strange driving around the estate going along roads marked strictly for “Estate Vehicles Only” and passing the herds of dear only a few yards from the road side.
I was one of the first volunteers to arrive and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cottage. It was a large two store
y stone cottage, which was very spacious and spotlessly clean.
Karen, the group leader introduced herself and showed me to the men’s dormitory to choose my bunk. The beds were bunk beds, but full adult size, with plenty of storage space and central heating.
A number of the volunteers were late arriving due to the atrocious weather conditions and a lot of problems for those travelling by train. However, when everybody was together there was a terrific atmosphere and it was obvious that everybody was going to get on.
During the weekend everybody joined in with the cooking, washing up etc. and because everybody was keen to help with all of these jobs they were quickly undertaken, with the work being spread between the whole group.
John was the organiser from the National Trust who was in charge of our work for the weekend. Our main tasks all weekend were related to Woodland Management. We were clearing fallen trees, thinning undergrowth and building huge bonfires to get rid of the unwanted wood and foliage.
There was a fantastic atmosphere all weekend and the whole group got on really well. The work was fairly hard, but we had regular breaks and if anybody wanted a rest, there was no pressure on them to work on. The banter and laughter within the group made it so enjoyable. It did seem strange how we all became such great friends in such a short space of time, but the common goals we had and the type of work very quickly produced some very good bonding.
Most of the group members had full time jobs that were totally different from anything we did during the weekend and this obviously was one of the great attractions for everybody. It certainly was for me and was a very refreshing change.
The ages of the group varied from 21 to 64 (six men and six ladies) and most of the group had not been on one of these holidays before.
The weather on the Saturday was very cold and it did snow, but none of th
is seemed to matter. Everybody had waterproofs (either their own or provided by the National Trust) and the physical work ensured that nobody felt the cold. At the end of the day the return to our homely cottage and hot showers began an evening of laughter and frivolity that carried on to the early hours of the morning.
At the end of our work on the Sunday, John was kind enough to give a full guided tour of Fountains Abbey and his extensive knowledge and the Abbey and the Estate rounded off a very enjoyable weekend.
I am sure that I will be going on another one of these weekends and choosing another one of the National Trust properties, probably in a different part of the country.
I suppose that the weekend does very much depend on the make-up of the group and the leaders, but in our case it was a fantastic group and two very good leaders (Karen and John).
I can highly recommend these weekends to anyone who enjoys getting out in the fresh air and doesn’t mind a bit of physical work. It is a totally stress-free refreshing break.
More reviews in the field of Other Service
- The McMillan Nurse Made Me Angry
- Just Walk In
- Weight Watchers Works!
- Improved beyond recognition
- GOB BLESS THE NHS and all who work in her!
- Eat lots, lose weight
- NUS Card - not just for the youngsters at Uni - us Oldies at Open Uni can have o ...
- Good, but watch which package you opt for
- Eternal student
- Wouldn't Recommend Them