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Working holidays

We run volunteer working holidays to help canal restoration, with the chance to learn traditional skills – such as bricklaying and stonework – and more modern techniques – such as piling, concreting or even how to operate machinery like excavators or dumpers.

Our Waterway Recovery Group has been supporting canal restoration across Britain for over 50 years, so you’re in safe hands.

Book a holiday with a difference

Our ‘canal camp’ working holidays attract a wide range of people: from young volunteers taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme; to waterway enthusiasts who want to help restore and preserve the system; to people who just want to get outdoors and dirty, have fun and learn new skills. Volunteers on our working holidays must be aged over 18 but, apart from that, age or previous experience don’t matter.

Find out the latest about Canal Camps re-starting in 2021

£70 for a week’s holiday includes

All meals

Cooked breakfast, lunch on site and a substantial home-cooked evening meal… along with plenty of tea breaks.


Accommodation is basic – volunteers sleep in a large communal space, usually in a village hall or scout hut.


We can pick you up from the nearest station. We also provide travel between the accommodation and site.

Good times

and lots of laughter, mud and fun!

Working Holidays in England and Wales

Working holiday FAQs

What will it cost? 

We only ask volunteers to cover the cost of food. For a weekend dig this can be between £8 – £20; for a week-long ‘canal camp’ it is £70 per week; and for a family camp it is just £15 per person.

What do I need to bring?

Essential kit:

  • tough outdoor clothes
  • steel toe capped boots or steel toe capped wellingtons
  • waterproofs (you never know with a British summer!)
  • sleeping bag & pillow
  • sleeping mat, airbed or camping bed
  • washing kit, towel & swimwear (some showers may be provided at local sport centres)
  • casual clothes for the evening

Optional kit:

  • driving licenses
  • camera
  • insect repellent
  • sun cream
  • torch
  • water bottle
  • rucksack
Do I need to bring tools or equipment? 

You will be sent a full list of what to bring and we will supply any other safety equipment required, including hard hats. All tools will be provided.

Do I need any experience? 

No previous experience is necessary; just a willingness to have fun and get involved. Our experienced leaders will explain to you everything you need to know once you’re there.

Will I fit in? 

Working Holidays attract people from all walks of life. But it’s easy to find common ground after a couple of days on site.

What if I have a medical condition? 

Please let us know if you have any medical conditions that may affect your time with us. We can then make sure that we organise suitable activities on site and during relaxation time.

Am I too old? 

No! Our working holidays are open to anyone aged 18 or over.

How much of the day is spent working?

The working day usually runs from 9am-5pm (depending on the weather) with plenty of tea-breaks and lunch on site. In the evening, a substantial, home-cooked meal will be provided by your canal camp cook. Evenings are free and some social activities (e.g. swimming, visits to local attractions, cinema) will be organised by the leaders for people who want to join in.

Can I do this for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award?

We welcome participants completing the residential aspect of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. All volunteers participating in the Award are asked to attend the camp for the full seven days. Please note we do not accept bookings from groups of more than two DofE volunteers who know each other.

Do you have insurance?

We have insurance policies to cover our legal liability to volunteers and also to protect us against legal liability claims made by members of the public arising out of our activities. Your personal possessions (including clothing, glasses, contact lenses, medical equipment, kit, equipment, tools and anything else) are not insured by us against accidental loss or damage. We recommend you don’t bring items of high or sentimental value.

How do I get there?

Travel instructions will be sent to you about ten days before your working holiday starts. They will include any last minute details, a map showing the location of the accommodation and directions of how to get there.

What is the food like?

All meals will be provided with volunteers helping with catering and domestic chores on a rota basis although some working holidays have full time cooks. If you have specified a vegetarian or special diet on your booking form, please confirm your exact requirements with the leader before you arrive to make sure that suitable provision has been made. If you anticipate any difficulties, please bring special ingredients with you.

How do I stay safe?

You will get a Health & Safety Guide which you will need to read before you arrive  and you must be ready to follow the directions of the leader at all times when on site. Working holidays, as with any professional site, have to comply with current safety regulations. Every volunteer must attend an induction an watch WRG’s Health & Safety video before going on site.

With the exception of safety boots, we will provide any safety equipment required to complete the job in a safe manner. 


Can I cancel or transfer my booking?

Please let us know at least 21 days before the start of your booking if you wish to transfer to a different working holiday (subject to space being available); there is no additional charge for this. 

If you have to cancel your booking, your payment less a £10 administration charge will be refunded if your written cancellation reaches the booking office at least 21 days before the start of the working holiday. Refunds cannot be made after this deadline, as provisions will have already been made for you. 

What happens if we change your booking?

We always aim to provide your working holiday as booked but occasionally we may have to cancel the camp due to unforeseen circumstances such as low bookings, problems with the accommodation or work. In this unlikely event, we will make every effort to find you a suitable alternative working holiday  to attend or give you a full refund. 

Is there a behaviour policy? 

Most canal campers are keen to get involved, have fun and complete the week’s tasks. We reserve the right to refuse bookings or terminate any participant’s holiday without compensation if their behaviour is likely to impair the enjoyment or health and safety of other volunteers.

If you feel unable to follow our Staying Safe rules, please do not book on a Canal Camp this summer.

Staying safe working holiday FAQs

What can I expect in terms of extra safety measures on my canal camp/working holiday?

Canal camps are going to look a little bit different this year (but hopefully they will still be as muddy and fun as always!). This year we are working to 4 key principles:

  • Increased personal space
  • Good hygiene facilities
  • Good ventilation of shared indoor spaces
  • Improved welfare facilities on site

These principles will be backed up with risk assessments including a project plan, risk assessment and method statements, along with camp specific COVID risk assessments. In some shared spaces – such as walking around the accommodation and in the minibuses – you will also be required to wear a mask. Our leadership teams will also undergo additional training to ensure we can deliver an enjoyable experience and that all volunteers observe safeguarding measures.

Will you be providing any additional safety equipment?

On top of the usual personal protective equipment we provide (hard hats, face masks, gloves ear defenders and safety glasses), volunteers will be given a pre-packed additional kit. This will include spare disposable surgical face masks, 2 x personal hand gel, a personal pack of anti-bacterial wipes and a COVID symptoms card.

Do I need to be vaccinated to come?

We will not be asking volunteers to declare if they have been vaccinated, we are instead we are asking volunteers to take the following steps:

  • Take a lateral flow test: On sign up, volunteers will be asked to agree to take a lateral flow test on the morning of departure to the Canal Camp. If the test is positive, you must not travel to the camp and instead inform the leader. Volunteers will also be required to undertake one further test during the camp (mid-week and prior to departure home).
  • Review your own personal situation: Every year we ask volunteers to take responsibility for their own safety, and the safety of others around them on site. This year we are also asking all volunteers to consider their own personal safety before signing up to attend the camp by undertaking a personal risk review. Understanding your own personal risk in relation to COVID-19 is important and helps you make decisions about returning to WRG activities and interacting with other volunteers in shared spaces.
  • Sign up to our Covid Code of Conduct: As a volunteer, you are an integral and valued part of WRG, and we will do our best to ensure your experience is safe, enjoyable and rewarding. In return we ask that all volunteers agree to appropriate standards of personal conduct in regards to Covid-19, as we do with site based health & safety. Everyone will be asked to sign up to our Covid Code of Conduct.
What changes have you made to the accommodation?

If you have been on a Canal Camp before you will know we use village halls or similar with volunteers sleeping in one large communal space. This has meant we have had to undertake a thorough review of each accommodation before agreeing to use it.

We have made the following changes:

  • We have reduced numbers on camp from 18 to a maximum of 12 volunteers.
  • Each volunteer will have a clearly marked out personal zone around their sleeping area with a 2 metre gap from the next volunteer.
  • We will operate separate eating and sleeping zones. Please note some halls will have meals in a marquee.
  • We will install hand cleaning stations at key areas (front doors/ toilets/showers).
  • All of our accommodation will have good ventilation – windows will be kept open to allow for the free flow of air. This means you may need to pack a few extra covers or a warm sleeping bag!
  • Some Canal Camps will be able to offer camping areas next to the main accommodation for volunteers who do not want to sleep in a shared space.

See an example layout (pdf, 453KB) of sleeping arrangements in a hall.

Are you still using the minibuses, and how will these be made safe?

Yes – we will be using our 9 seater minibuses but we will be limiting use to 6 volunteers – the driver plus 5 passengers to allow for social distancing. We also ask that volunteers wear masks or another form of face-covering whilst they are in the minibus with us. We will have spare masks with us, but please bring your own if you have one. The same group of volunteers will use the vans throughout the week and occupy the same seat on each journey.

Minibuses will be regularly cleaned and disinfected as part of our new hygiene regime – with hand gel stations at the doors.

Use of personal cars will depend on car parking space on site.

Will I still get meals on camp?

Yes you will still be provided with 3 meals and cake by our wonderful Canal Camp Cooks. WRG has reviewed its Food Safety Management System and has made the following adjustments:

  • The cooking team will serve food. There will be no self-service.
  • Volunteers will be required to wear masks when moving around the eating area, only removing them when seated. You will also be asked to wash your hands on arrival using the new sanitising stations. Tables will be set up to allow plenty of space between people.
Have you made any changes to working on site?

The risk of transmission in outdoor spaces is relatively low. Despite this, we must be confident the site is COVID secure to our standards, following our site specific risk assessment. Where possible work will also be planned to ensure volunteers do not work too closely together. Training and supervision will continue to be provided as usual, but may require additional risk assessments.

We will also be providing additional welfare areas for break times and extra hand cleaning stations

What social activities will be on offer during the camp?

Rules around social activities will be dependent on COVID restrictions at the time but we hope to run a programme of social events in the evenings.

What happens if some develops Covid on camp?

Any volunteer who develops Covid symptoms on camp must inform the camp leader and take a lateral flow test immediately. If the test is positive all volunteers on the camp will be asked to travel home and self-isolate. The accommodation will be deep cleaned before volunteers leave. The volunteer who tested positive should book a PCR test and inform the camp leader if that result is positive. All volunteers must self-isolate until they are contacted by WRG Head Office and advised on the next steps.

Can I book on multiple camps?

Due to the limited number of spaces this year volunteers will only be able to book onto one site.

What happens if I get Covid or restrictions prevent me from travelling?

If you are unable to proceed with your booking due to UK government restrictions related to Covid-19 which prevent you from travelling to one of our Canal Camps such as localised travel bans or the requirement to self-isolate you will be able to choose from one of the foolwing options:

  1. Transfer your booking to a later date: Subject to availability we will move your booking to a later date, with no admin fees.
  2. Carry across your booking to 2022.
  3. Request a full refund: We will refund you the full amount you have paid for your booking.
Do I need to wear a mask?

Masks must be worn when moving around communal areas and only taken off when seated in the eating and socialising zones or in bed. Masks must also be worn when travelling in the WRG minibuses. You will not be required to wear a mask when working on site unless for site safety reasons such as mixing lime mortar.

Working Holidays