Wok on a farm or clean up a beach - top volunteering trips in the UK (dreamstime)
List Words : Rosie Driffill | 18 September

6 volunteering trips in the UK

Looking for something different on your next trip? Whether you're a UK resident or on a fleeting visit, volunteer and help out in the glorious British countryside

1. National Trust

The National Trust offers volunteering breaks as varied as the holidaymakers to whom they appeal. Whether you’re 16 or 75, you won’t miss out; from family conservation breaks with pond dipping and rock pooling, to two-night conservation holidays for busy bees, this long standing British institution has ensured that all can partake in its valuable work. Visitors can choose from a range of activities, including gardening, coastal conservation, construction and historic house maintenance.

Get to work! Prices start from £125 and will vary according to length of stay and number of residents in your party. Accommodation ranges from simple base camps to dormitories; catering is on a self or shared basis. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/ for more information.

2. The Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society (MSC) is always looking for individuals, families, couples and friend groups to help keep Britain’s beaches clean. Why not plan a seaside break around learning about wildlife protection and keeping the UK’s beaches pristine to boot? Beachwatch comprises all-year-round beach cleans and surveys, some of which volunteers have organised themselves from scratch.

Alternatively, Beachwatch Big Weekend is an annual beach clean and survey that takes place across the UK’s beaches, the results of which are used for MCS’s annual summary report. If making new friends, fresh sea air and clean beaches teeming with wildlife are your thing, MCS’s projects ought not to be passed over.

Get to work! Prospective volunteers are invited to find a beach near them, contact the organiser and go along. Families and groups strongly encouraged. Visit www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch/volunteers for more information.

3. WWOOF in the UK

Asking someone if they’ve ever been ‘WWOOFing’ often incurs risible perplexity the source of which constitutes thoughts of barking inanely with friends, just for fun. Yet the reality is somewhat more worthwhile, unsurprisingly. WWOOF UK is a membership charity that aims to teach holidaymakers about low-impact lifestyles and the benefits of organic growing, all through a variety of worldwide home-stay projects that offer sojourns of varying length and type.

Those interested can sign up as ‘WWOOFers’ and dig through a huge database of hosts. For projects within the UK, participants can help with anything and everything from woodland management to keeping chickens, conservation work to tractor maintenance. WWOOFers are required to carry out between four-six hours work per day, which may constitute upkeep, produce-gathering or possibly childcare, in exchange for free food and accommodation.

Get to work! Costs cover travel to a destination and leisure activities, plus a small membership fee. Visit www.wwoof.org.uk for more information. 

4. RSPB

Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity has been running volunteering holidays for years, and with over 200 UK nature reserves there’s plenty of scope for selecting a volunteering break that suits your interests. Driven by the conviction that we all have a vested interest in – and responsibility for – protecting birds and the environment, RSPB has ensured that prospective volunteers can volunteer both in the UK and abroad, for a minimum of one week to eight months, on projects that vary in scope and interest. From hide building in West Yorkshire to bird and wildlife monitoring in Kent, RSPB projects afford volunteers a huge skills profile and guarantee that all activity brings measurable and meaningful outcomes.

Get to work! Some projects require a basic knowledge of tool handling, computers and bird identification, as well as the ability to carry out strenuous physical labour; others simply require enthusiasm for the cause and some practical knowledge. Training is provided. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering for more information.

5. Waterways

For those looking to do something worthwhile with their weekend, Waterways has 100s of projects focused on helping restore derelict waterways throughout Britain. Completed projects include the rebuilding of the four Frankton Locks, the three Aston Locks on the Montgomery Canal and the restoration of Droitwich Barge Lock in the Midlands. As a result of volunteers’ time and commitment, many canals have been reopened for the public’s enjoyment, but there is still ample work to be done across the UK. Volunteers can search their nearest regional group, get in touch with the organiser and have a worthwhile weekend set up in a jiffy! Waterways can even pick you up from the nearest bus/railways station to spare you the drive.

Get to work! No prior knowledge of waterway restoration is required, and all training is provided on the weekends. Volunteers between the ages of 18-70 welcome to join any project, not just those in their area. Costs are between £8-15 (including food and accommodation, excluding travel); accommodation is basic – sleeping bags and karrimats required. Visit www.waterways.org.uk/wrg/regional_groups for more information.

6. The Conservation Volunteers

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) offer volunteering breaks all year round, each aimed at improving the environment and engaging people with the great outdoors. Over 200 different holidays are run every year; a list which comprises short term conservation projects in the UK, as well as international conservation breaks in Cameroon, Slovakia, Germany and Bulgaria, to name a few. Stays usually last just under two weeks, and are ideal for those seeking experience in working with an NGO, personal development and a better knowledge of environmental improvement, not to mention working closely with a small team towards the completion of a project that complements multi-agency development work.

Get to work! Prices start at £150 for UK breaks and cover the cost of running the programme, full insurance, local costs for having you there and a contribution to the partners to run the project. Visit www.tcv.org.uk/volunteering for more information.

Been on a really worthwhile volunteering holiday? Get in touch and share your experiences.