Permaculturish English canalside cottage looking for general help, party/festival planners and builders/labourers

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 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks

  • Description


    *️️️ We are currently looking for people from May onwards; we are hosting one person through May, but interested in hosting someone or a couple to help us bosh through lots of jobs before my birthday party on June 9th! Current/imminent special projects include tidying up the garden, helping prep for my party (see below), finishing off our improved duck area, AKA Duckingham Palace for our ducks, improving our rainwater collecting/heat retaining roof for our chickens and grapevine, setting up our greenhouse for summer, making some new veg beds, stacking some wood and possibly sprucing up our Shepherd's hut.*️️️

    in general, I'm particularly looking for creative Narnia fans/spring cleaners/declutterers ; also woodcutters/log splitters; potential party planners/cocktail creators/entertainers etc as it's a Big Birthday for me in June and i intend to celebrate a Narnia themed festival style party by the canal to celebrate. I have my stepson booked in (he conveniently happens to be a well known DJ and club promoter), now I just need the rest in place. So if you love to create great parties, fancy building a wardrobe entrance Into a winter wonderland, mixing some wicked cocktails, creating some crafty canapés and like the idea of doing so in a beautiful canal location in may/june, do let me know!

    Our other mission is building related, so we'd love to hear from builders, project managers and the like.

    I also have a smaller building project - I'd like to build a small wall (about 1.2m high x 2.5 m long and I'm looking for someone with experience of building blockwork walls (or even stone...that would be amazing!) Once it's built, I'd like to render it or face it with flint stone or even mirrored mosaic...but that's Step 2:-) the wall is to provide thermal mass for a Fig tree (step 3:-)

    We're also planning building a large summerhouse/shed in the summer so handy people would be...handy!

    We may also need help hacking off some render so would welcome anyone with building experience who's comfortable up scaffolding.

    I'd like to think that we're a friendly family of four and part of a rather special friendly canal community. We enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences and knowledge on both sides.

    As you can see, we live in a rather idyllic spot by the canal, 45 mins from London and surrounded by lovely walks and interesting places to visit.

    We have a very English cottage garden out the front and a large garden with vegetables, greenhouses and poultry out the back overlooking the countryside, with a new raised terrace with a beautiful view of the canal, lock and dry dock. The "cocktail terrace" as we have started calling it, is perfect for evening drinks in the sun, watching the world boat by and our cottage garden out the front is great for breakfast in the morning light by the canal (in fact I'm sitting there now ;-)

    Up and coming and ongoing specific projects, subject to skills/interests, include:

    Planning and delivering party in June 2018
    Taking the render off the house
    Help erecting shed
    Help building low wall (stone or breeze blocks)
    Help with improving our duck run
    Gardening/sowing seeds/planting etc
    Assisting with project managing our extension
    Making fruit leather and drying apples
    Helping with chickens
    spring cleaning the house
    painting a room
    Pruning trees
    Making a video about the permaculture ideas in action here
    Making revision cards for 13 year old (because then at least he'll have something to revise from in the summer;-)
    Mending some broken solar fairy lights
    Decluttering & organising
    Installing guttering on chicken run roof
    Securing the duck pen
    Helping with kids' reading and homework
    Improving current chicken run roof for grapevine
    Planting and protecting perennials in chicken run
    Geneology: help me find a missing great grandparent and my African 4xgreat grandparent using online geneology resources and DNA (I'm happy to teach you how to do this, you'll learn some interesting social history and you're welcome to use my resources to do your own research in your free time)

    We generally only host people over 21 simply because we've found that they usually have more life skills than younger people and are therefore more suited to our more independent work pattern. In our experience of hosting younger people, they generally find it difficult to be on their own during the day whilst we are at work and/or have less experience so struggle with the fact that we do not have a lot of time to explain the details of every task. Our age criterion is therefore not just about our needs – but also about yours because it is important for us that you have a good time and feel happy here.

    Experience in things like cleaning, decluttering, ( I'm not a tidy person, which is why I need help tidying so you need to be able to tolerate untidiness;-), general DIY, plumbing, electrical, teaching (especially maths, but general patience is good :-) and gardening is always welcome, as are more arcane skills such as mosaicing, massage and permaculture :-) Our cottage isn't huge, so you'd have to be happy being part of the family during your stay and happy to muck in with day to day housework.

    Accommodation is as stated below - in our clean and tidy four berth caravan with facilities in the main house. This is essentially a spacious bedroom, with a double bed one side and and sofa and mini library the other
    We also occasionally host people in our shepherds hut or the house - but whatever it is, we agree it all beforehand so that you know where your staying.

    There's lots of lovely walks outside the front door along the canal towpath, including around the nearby reservoirs ( a haven for water birds, complete with bird hide) and the local wildlife lake and cafe is just around the corner. Bikes, including a tricycle, are also available for longer journeys and we also have a kayak you can borrow if you fancy going along the canal.

    We're 10 minutes cycle down the towpath from the pretty market town of Tring, with a regular farmers' market and other events. We're also 10 minutes cycle from Tring train station, with regular trains taking 45 minutes to London, making a day trips to the Big Smoke easy.

    For fun at home, in the summer we have a kayak and volunteers are welcome to take it out for a spin. We also have a wood fired hot tub, made from recycled materials and this has proved to be a big hit with both family and volunteers, with many happy evenings spent in it in the summer months, chatting under the stars, to the sound of nearby owls. The latter is currently out of action, but if you came and were keen to use it, you could help us set it going again!

    Although I am an experienced organic gardener, with a city & guilds in organic gardening, as I work full time, with two kids I rarely have the time to bring all my plans to fruition...which is where workawayers can help.

    I always have various projects afoot as well as routine day to day tasks like poultry and garden care and I negotiate involvement of helpers, depending on skills and interests.  

    Everyday domestic tasks include cleaning and cooking etc. My partner normally does most of the cooking and as he is (a rather good!) vegetarian cook we usually eat vegetarian. at the moment, we could do with help cooking as noted because he is often visiting his mum in hospital.

    If you're interested in sustainability, we have an extensive library of organic, permaculture and green building books and DVDs, which resides in my guest bedroom and you are welcome to access. I'm involved in my local Transition town movement and I'm a Food Champion, which involves teaching others how to reduce food waste, both by storing and using food better, and composting.

    I've also done my PDC in permaculture and a course in peoplecare, if that's something you're interested in thinking about. I tend to describe our place as permaculturish because I wouldn't want to claim that it's all the epitome of permaculture yet. In many ways I think permaculture is a journey, not an end point anyway...and we're on that journey.

    I'm a keen wine, jam and chutney maker, as well as drying food, making fruit leathers, apple vinegar, fruit wine and all the rest. I'm also a good forager for wild foods and the odd bit of roadkill and yes, I can butcher. If any of these things are things that you would like to learn - or maybe things that you have expertise in yourself - let and know and they may well be available, depending on the time of year.

    I also have a passion, and some expertise in, energy retrofit. I'm a member of the Association of Environmentally Conscious Building and a local Energy Champion volunteer. My house, like many in the UK, is poor in terms of it's energy consumption, but I am gradually upgrading it with better insulation, draught proofing, photovoltaic panels and greater passive solar gain. I'm involved in our local Transition Town energy project, educating others about retrofit, and I'm happy to share this knowledge if you're interested - and I promise not to preach if you're not ;-)

    I used to be a liveaboard boater, based in London and then on the Grand Union Canal. I have liveaboard mates, so I still feel l'm part of that world (especially as it glides past my windows).I'm reasonably knowledgeable about narrowboats and canal history and have a particular interest in canal archeology and restoration. If you're interested in learning more about a liveaboard lifestyle or canal history, I'd love to fill you in. I also have a lot of books on the topic, which you are again, welcome to read.

    If you're interested in staying with us, please give us an idea in your email of what particularly attracts you to our place, what relevant skills/experiences you have to offer and what skills/experiences you are looking to gain. It gives us a better sense of whether we can both have a really positive experience and seems to have worked well as a strategy thus far :-).

    Sustainable travel
    I am conscious that encouraging people to travel in an unsustainable fashion is inconsistent with my attempts to lower my own carbon footprint. As you may be aware, flying generates a lot of CO2; I therefore prioritise potential helpers who are travelling by other means - both to my home and afterwards. There are a lot of options out there and useful resources for researching alternatives include:

    The Man in Seat 61: (Train travel and connections around Europe)
    Megabus: (cheap bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe)Transport Direct: (train and bus planner for the UK)
    Liftshare: (car sharing for the UK)
    National Express: (bus travel around the UK & mainland Europe

    If you are travelling from outside Europe, I do appreciate that the alternatives are a lot more limited and would still consider hosting you.

    You should also note that volunteering is treated as work for visa purposes so anyone coming into the EU from outside it to Workaway needs a working visa to get in if they tell Immigration that they are volunteering

    Past experience has led us to require copies of photo I.D. (Passport, driving licence) prior to accepting guests. We will also check originals on arrival. We realise that not everyone may be comfortable with this; if you are one of these people, please do not apply as we do not make exceptions to this rule. Thanks for your understanding.

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    Babysitting / child care
    Cooking / shopping
    General Maintenance
    Help with Eco project
    Help in the house
    Animal care
    Art project

  • Help


    As noted help in the house is always necessary. We ask all helpers to carry out a daily routine, consisting of things like looking after the chickens/chicks, when we have them, collecting eggs, making bread, vacuuming, cleaning, emptying the dishwasher and cooking. In addition, we have a variety of other tasks, ranging from DIY and gardening to odd projects such as kids party bags, racking off home made wine, harvesting produce from the garden and foraging in the local hedgerows.

    In terms of the garden, we could do with a hand restoring our kitchen garden, to include more perennial veg along permaculture lines. I also need help with day to day tasks such as woodcutting and weeding nettles, as well as specific future projects such as planting fruit trees, laying paths and edging and creating more water storage. I've recently realised that flattening the garden (its currently rather undulating) will require me to have a strategy of terracing or the like and I could do with some advice about where/how to do this.

    Winemaking,Plumbing, DIY and woodcutting skills are always appreciated.

    I love learning languages and would appreciate the opportunity to practice my terrible Greek and very limited French (you may feel differently as a native speaker though ;-)

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    The canals are a special side of the UK that visitors rarely experience. Living in our canal side cottage you can learn about and enjoy the navigation heritage of England. My partner and I used to liveaboard narrowboats so we're both knowledgeable and passionate about the inland waterways and the history of the same - if you're interested, we have books and DVDs that you are welcome to borrow.
    Tring, our nearby town is a very typical English country town, with two small markets a week, two museums and a lovely old church. We are also at the centre of a number of small villages, all of whom have fetes and fayres throughout the summer, many of which we attend and would be happy to give you lifts to.
    It's hard to say exactly what might benefit you though - it really depends on what you looking for. I do try to find out what it is that you want to get out of your stay with us before you come - because then it's easier to ensure that you get it!

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English, French, ungrammatical bad Greek,

  • Accommodation


    Accommodation is usually in a nice caravan in the garden - all facilities are nearby inside. We have occasionally hosted people in summer in our huge (12 person, 3 rooms, standing height) glamping, but only by negotiation in advance - although it has to be said that this has always been a very popular option with our guests.

    Sometimes when we host in winter, we host people on a sofa bed in a self contained room downstairs (so nobody will be walking through at night :-); the room has a cosy wood stove.

    We also have a shepherds hut in the garden and a smaller caravan currently in the car park adjacent to our house, that we use occasionally when we have more than one couple or person.

    Again, we always talk to you about your preferences and are clear beforehand about what accomodation available.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    It is a non smoking household and we have a very friendly cat, an equally friendly dog and a flock of chickens (in the garden) As noted, we are largely, but not exclusively or politically vegetarian. We are LGBT friendly (I'd hope that everyone is, but just in case you wondered, we definitely are :-).

    I'd like to think that we're a friendly family and part of a friendly local community. We enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences and knowledge on both sides. I'm afraid that I am not a tidy person - although my partner is - so my house is a bit cluttered and not as tidy as I would like. However, I would very much like to be less cluttered and tidier so welcome any help on that front. As I'm currently really busy, I prefer to host people who are reasonably independent, don't mind a certain amount of chaos and have a good sense of humour!

    I have no problem hosting non-native English speakers, but I should warn you that, despite my best efforts, I do tend to talk fast and I have limited time to practice English with you, so I'm probably a better host for intermediate speakers of English (unless you speak French or possibly Greek; in which case we'll probably get by).

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    5 inc help with household tasks 5 days a week

My Photo Album

Some of the greenhouse house harvest from 2017
Springtime in our front garden...and a lovely place to sit and watch the boats go by....
Summer view from the front garden across the canal
Rainbow eggs from our flock of chickens.
Veg patch in high summer.
Rainbow over the reservoir around the corner.
Autumn on our towpath.
Salad from the garden - edible flowers a speciality.
Roses from the garden - the scent of summer :-)
One of our flock of chickens with her brood
Our cat perching on our Waterbutt by the roses.
Traditional narrowboats seen from the garden.
The reservoirs around the corner in winter

Host ref number: 278698456385