10 Reasons to Go on a WRG Canal Camp

Created on 10/04/2014

A Canal Camp is an enjoyable week's outdoor volunteer holiday spent working on the canals with IWA's Waterway Recovery Group (WRG). Find out why taking part in a Canal Camp is such a great experience!

1. Eat four custard creams before 11am and think nothing of it!

Each Canal Camp costs £70 which includes all your food and accommodation for the week. Every day volunteers will be provided with a cooked breakfast, lunch and a substantial freshly cooked evening meal by the designated Camp Cook... plus lots of tea and biscuits!

Don’t worry you’ll burn off all those calories in WRG's exclusive ‘outdoor gym’ which could involve bricklaying, clearing vegetation, driving dumpers or creating towpaths! For those with 'desk jobs' or IT heavy occupations, it's all about doing something physical.

2. Meet new people

There’s nothing like a week of working, playing and living together to bring a group together! You’ll arrive knowing no-one and come away with 17 new friends. Our Camps are a great experience for anyone who enjoys meeting new people from different backgrounds and of different ages. WRG volunteers come from all over the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and occasionally as far afield as Australia! Our camps are open to anyone aged 18-70. In the evenings volunteers usually head to the pub for a pint or organise other outings such as bowling, swimming or a visit to the cinema.

3. Help bring derelict canals back to life for everyone to enjoy

In the 19th century, 'railway mania' replaced the 'canal mania' years and investment in canals reduced. By World War II, freight carrying on all but a few waterways was ending and many waterways were abandoned or filled in. Luckily, by the 1940s a few visionaries realised that canals had a future for pleasure boating, recreation, and industrial archaeology and The Inland Waterways Association was founded. Since then, hundreds of miles of canal and river navigations have been saved from dereliction.

Today, Britain's network of canals and inland waterways are a huge linear national park - a leisure park, a vital wildlife sanctuary, an important industrial heritage site and an environment-friendly transport system all rolled into one. Despite this there are still over 2500 miles of derelict waterways and that's where we need your help.
Photo: The recently restored Droitwich Barge Canal

4. Drive a digger

Many people still call what we do ‘canal digging’, but nowadays when we need to dig out the channel, we rarely do it by hand with picks and shovels - we use excavators and dumper-trucks instead. We don’t just let anyone start driving a JCB - we run our own training and Driver Authorisation scheme. But there’s no reason why a new volunteer shouldn’t learn to use machinery on their first camp!

5. Explore hidden gems of the British countryside

WRG Canal Camps are held all over England and Wales – from the beautiful setting of the Lancaster Canal to the industrial heartlands of Derbyshire on the Chesterfield and Cromford Canals. Arrangements can be made to pick you up from the nearest train station to the Camp if you don’t have a car.
Photo: Cromford Canal Camp

6. Add something unique and interesting to your CV

These unique working holidays provide a great opportunity to gain some practical experience as well as boosting the CV. From an employer perspective, the Camps demonstrate important skills such as teamwork, leadership and negotiation skills. Spending a week with a group of muddy volunteers can also be a real conversation opener in interviews too.

7. Learn new skills

Whether you have recently retired; are looking for something different to do for the summer; or just doing it for your Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Canal Camps offer everyone the chance to try their hand at something completely different. Canal Camps involve a wide variety of activities, from building new bridges and restoring lock chambers to excavation and bank protection. Whether you are a complete beginner or have tried your hand at restoration before, you will be guided through every task by the Canal Camp Leader and their Assistant.

8. A cheap summer holiday

A popular time to sign up for a working holiday is that break between school and university, or in the summer holidays. Where else can you have wonderful scenery, learn new skills, be out in the fresh air, have wonderful food cooked for you, and met new people, all for a mere £70. Cheaper than you can live at home for a week.
Photo: Block-laying on the Chesterfield Canal

9. Complete your Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Residential

WRG is an Approved Activity Provider through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and welcomes participants completing the residential aspect of it. To complete the residential, participants need to spend at least four nights away from home taking part in an activity with people they’ve never met, and WRG offers the perfect opportunity to do this.

10. Sense of pride that what you have achieved during the week will be there for years to come

It’s amazing how much volunteers can achieve in a week, from clearing miles of vegetation from the line of the canal, repairing a length of towpath or rebuilding part of a lock chamber. It's great for your self-esteem to feel you've achieved something in such a brief window of time.

WRG has helped restore many derelict waterways throughout Britain. One of WRG's largest projects has been the complete rebuilding of the four Frankton Locks and the three Aston Locks on the Montgomery Canal, which passes through the spectacular Welsh Borders.  Other projects include the construction of Over Basin on the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal and more recently the restoration of Droitwich Barge Lock in the Midlands.
Photo: Over Basin on the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal

WRG offers a unique volunteering experience, a week of mud, sweat & beers! You will make life-long friends, have great laughs and learn new skills along the way. Just think one day you might be able to walk, boat or cycle down a canal that you have helped restore.

Find out more about Canal Camps or request a 2019 Canal Camps Brochure

For more information, contact us

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Tags: Things to Do, Restoration