Name: Harri Barnes
WRG Volunteers since: 1995

When did you first get involved with WRG?

My first WRG camp was for my DofE residential when I was 17. I had been on a couple of family boating holidays and canal restoration was something different to do for my Gold award from what most of my friends were doing,  generally involving working with small children which didn't appeal! I came on my own, spent most of the week laying bricks at Wildmoorway Lower Lock on the Thames and Severn and just thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The next year I brought along a friend from school who had also been on boating holidays, and from that point it just snowballed.

How did you get involved with cooking on Canal Camps?

My mum was a home economics teacher before she retired so cooking is something I've always done. On my first Easter camp on the Mont we didn't have a cook so those of us who were willing took turns to help out - I made a root vegetable stew I recall. This led to me being asked to cook on some of the summer camps, also on the Mont, so I quickly learned how to deal with eccentric village hall cookers, as for the one in West Felton you could use either the hob or the oven, but not both at once! As a student I had plenty of time to spare so for several years I tended to do at least one week cooking and one week on site each summer. I also went to the national  every year and found myself helping out in the kitchen , including cooking breakfast for 120 single-handed on occasion, getting up just as the last stragglers from the night before were heading for bed! Now, I like to cook on one canal camp a year, and I've also helped with some of the central weekends like the Bonfire Bash and Training Weekend.

What do you enjoy most about the experience?

I'm known for the fact that I'm not too bothered about what canal it is the camp is on as long as it's somewhere 'pretty'! Basically, I like getting to see bits of the country that you wouldn't usually visit, and that often means from a cook's point of view getting to visit interesting farm shops and the like. I'm not particularly interested in operating plant or the hugely technical tasks WRG takes on, though I do like a bit of bricklaying and pointing and scrub bashing in the winter, so I'm very happy to spend the week in the kitchen. I find it satisfying to try and produce a different range of meals (and cakes) for every camp, and for people to enjoy the food I make. For me, the peace and quiet during the day while I'm shopping and cooking is a nice balance to the social aspects of the camp in the evening. And I have a personal challenge to try and empty the beast of a food box during the week - not that I've managed it yet, but I do usually manage to make it emptier when I send it on than when I receive it!

What 1 piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved with cooking?

Think about what you've seen others do on canal camps and weekend - what do you want to copy about this, and what would you do differently? There's really no need to reinvent the wheel - if you enjoyed something you ate on a camp, contact the person who cooked it and ask for a recipe. Think about what you typically get to eat on a canal camp - generally, cooks use tried and tested combinations and menu plans which work; while that's not to say that you can't be inventive, but thinking about what's worked well in the past will give you a good idea about what to do. And read the cook's guidance notes, which try to capture all this distilled wisdom and experience!

Every year our Leaders and Assistants help over 1,000 volunteers enjoy a working holiday while gaining new skills and putting something back into our environment and heritage.

Want to learn more about being a Canal Camp cook? Visit out cooks pages to find out more!

Want to know more? Contact the WRG Leadership Team leaders@waterways.org.uk for details  on how to get involved ... Or call Jen or Amber at WRG Head Office for a chat – 01494 783 453 ext 604.

Click here to see where we need volunteers in 2015!

"I get so much satisfaction leading camps - seeing new volunteers start at the beginning of the week knowing no one and leaving with new friends and skills at the end! It's awesome" Becky Parr, Leader 2014