Brimscombe is a rather unique place, dear readers, which is a converted factory in Stroud that used to be Damien Hirst’s workshop.
It’s now used both as accom for WRG which is ‘waterway recovery group’ which is quietly and rather ‘under the radar’ restoring the nation’s canals and a 2nd hand book shop raising money for same.
Have you seen the red vans with WRG on the sides? Were you aware, when walking towpaths, cycling or boating on canals, that WRG did its first shovelling in the 1970s? Motto: we didn’t know it was impossible so we did it anyway.
Photos exist of scantily clad muddy foolhardy enthusiasts with no H&S to be seen.
It is in fact quite risky work, what with working at heights, canals being deep, slippery, possible purveyors of Weil’s disease, and injuries with huge tools. Yes. And PLANT. Which is big Tonka machines, diggers and dumpers.
But nowadays we have personal protection gear to the max, including high vis to the point of radiance and hard hats and steel toe caps and plastic goggles and gloves. Sometimes all this schtuff feels a bit like overkill (!) but due to lime mortar it is needed. And as I got told, if we fall in, the high vis would help us be seen so we can get fished out, but please don’t as it makes a mountain of paperwork.
So I started with WRG in 2010 after being a NT volunteer before that, since the mid 80s.
These are called working holidays and I liked the idea of a *cheap* holiday and WRG is cheaper than NT, by almost half the price now.
People say, so you’re *paying* to do all that brick laying and wheelbarrowing?
Well technically I am learning skills from brick cleaning to wall preparation, dry stone walling, wacker plates, arbotechs, brick laying, mortar mixing..and the money pays for my food ( lots of it, and not cooked by me personally on a WRG camp, which is a big plus) and cake. And the accom. Which differs from NT accom in that you don’t get a bunk bed in a shared dorm (except for the Haybay on the Chelmer which must qualify as best place to sleep on a WRG camp?)
Other drawbacks on a NT working week : you have to take your turn cooking on at least one meal, usually more. Plus the rota (same as on a WRG camp), so washing up, etc. And NO BURCO on site on a NT camp which is a HUGE wahhhhh for me, tea being vital.
I would say that the BIG plus for me on a WRG is meeting people like dear Rob, brick whisperer, time and again, but there again you have David, Margot and other adorable folk on a NT camp.
The basic standard of accom on both is not dissimilar , really, so think of a much used rather casually maintained but interesting historically ‘base camp’ so we’re not talking 4 stars. They used to be – and sometimes still are-village halls, so that will tell you.
Two showers at the most between 10 people? Often more than 10. NT tends to have more showers.
I actually prefer NOT sleeping in a dorm tbh as there’s always at least ONE mega snorer, one cougher, one getting up frequently bod, ( and it might be my own self doing all those!) one early riser and zipping and unzipping and lights going on and reading with torches that lights up too much, so it’s me outside in the van. Bliss.
So readers I hope you will consider the laying on of bricks for a week as a new experience- have I sold it to you?