Opportunity for a Fun Building Project right on the edge of fantastic Dartmoor National Park, UK


United Kingdom


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 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks

  • Description


    Hi everybody,

    Autumn on the edge of beautiful Dartmoor anyone? Suddenly I need a 'second pair of hands' for our project as we near the end of our summer building phase. I was expecting one of my current Volunteers to be staying on through the Winter but he's had a job offer back home in Spain and has to leave at the end of August. So a great opportunity for either a single person or perhaps a couple who want to spend time in this lovely part of England as we finish off the first stage of this year's building project. If we get on well and you wish to stay longer I'm quite happy to consider someone who wants to spend a longer time here, perhaps even the whole Winter if you are on a 'Gap' year and want to really immerse yourself in local life and develop your language skills. I will be combining the Social Work I do with continuing the build as the weather allows and much of the work will anyway be in the interior of the building from the end of September. On some days I'll only need you to love and look after the dog while I work . . . on others I might need you to help install windows, put in insulation, perhaps just do the vacuuming! You don't need to have skills already though and I love teaching people how to do things so you could finish your stay ready to build your own house! You do need to be fit enough to be able to lift and carry though . . . We treat our volunteers very well (see feedback!) and I promise you will have lots of fun with plenty of free time to explore the local area. I am also a qualified English and TEFL teacher with 30 years of experience so I'm very happy to build English study and practice into your stay as we work. You want to learn all the idioms, colloquial expression and grammar around Prepositions of Place? Great! Come and help build our house!

    The South Hams area of South Devon is truly exceptional, one of the most attractive areas in Europe and a big holiday destination for those seeking unspoiled, beautiful countryside and seaside locations. Every opportunity for water or land based leisure activity you can think of is right here on our doorstep. Here on the edge of Ivybridge we are a few minute's walk from a thriving small town with excellent transport links by train and bus to the rest of the UK and the South West air and sea ports. Exeter (30 minutes by road or rail) and Plymouth (20 minutes by road or rail.) London Heathrow 3.5 hours with direct bus. Direct train from London Paddington 3.00 hours. In Ivybridge we have all the necessary shops and supermarkets, lots of bars and cafes, and a cinema, library and two leisure centre and gym facilities only a few minutes walk away. So anyone who wants to keep up their fitness levels will have no problem finding cheap and available facilities. We are on the extreme margin of the town with nothing but open countryside beyond and from the back of the house we have magnificent views and riverside woodland and moorland walks literally from our back door. Superfast broadband and unlimited wifi access at the house will keep you in touch with home and the rest of the world . . . Plymouth is easy to get to and is a major waterfront historic city with every facility you would expect.

    I now work with challenging children, mostly on the Autistic spectrum, and have taught English and TEFL at school and University level. My university degrees are based around English and European literature and I have taught these subjects at school and higher levels. I am happy to help you study if you want and can help with advanced grammar instruction and exam preparation if you need.

    We are easy going and tolerant people but I am a member of the British Labour Party and our family political standpoint is centre left. You probably wouldn't enjoy our company much if you like the 'politics' of Le Pen, etc. We're disgusted by the idiotic Brexit vote. My kids see themselves as European and it really hurts that a small majority of the misled British have been so incredibly stupid and short-sighted as to wish to leave the EU. My middle son is married to a French/Italian citizen and they have a two year old child so this is a very serious family matter for us.

    *️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️PLEASE realise before volunteering that this house is not yet a palace! It is a very boring 30 year old four bedroom detached modern estate house which is in the process of being transformed into a modern ecologically sound house in a stunning location. It is partly a large new build extension and partly a renovation of the existing structure. Most of the interior will not be affected until the end of the coming summer but the rest of the house will be being torn to pieces and rebuilt around you! We are already at second floor level throughout so there won't be any more digging in mud this year! If you've never lived in a house while it's being renovated it might be a bit of a shock. The dirt and dust gets everywhere . . . But I promise your bedroom and the bathroom won't be touched while you are here. We are doubling the size of the house and doing some big structural steel work . . . so lots of fun and the occasional loud bang followed by terrible swearing! But never at you. Promise. Polite and respectful even under stress! This is stuff we've been doing in various property for the last forty years alongside our professional work (it's our 5th large scale project) . . . so don't worry, we know what we are doing. And anyway, the River Erme is only about 50 metres away, the countryside starts from the door and the dog will always take you for a fun wild swim and a good walk whenever you find the dust too much . . . Being honest though, a lot of it is noisy and dirty so the kind of person who is fit and active and wants to do a few hours work in the morning before walking with the dog by the river or on Dartmoor if you want, going for a swim or heading for Plymouth for some serious shopping and waterfront cafe culture will enjoy it more than someone who wants to sit around the house. We don't like Workaway hosts who run businesses and try to get their volunteers to work extra hours and will never do this. Start at 08.00, finish at 13.00 and the rest of the day and evening is yours to do absolutely as you wish.

    We've found with previous volunteers that what makes people happy is lots of food and unrestricted access to the kitchen! The kitchen is stripped back ready for some big steel beams to go in so everything is a bit haphazard but all still perfectly usable. I'm a good cook but don't want to have to cook for volunteers all the time so I find it best to make sure there are plenty of ingredients available and cook with/for/share meals as we wish. I don't eat or buy meat except for the occasional chicken and would prefer non-red meat eating or pescatarian volunteers but am not paranoid about this. I also don't drink alcohol but don't have a problem with moderate drinkers. The kitchen is kind of interesting at the moment . . . spread out over two rooms in the process of being combined and a bit like a summer kitchen really . . . but all the equipment is there and working so it isn't really a problem.

    My ex-wife and myself are amicably divorced and living apart after a marriage lasting 35 years. We remain very good friends and often visit each other but do not live together. Our 21 year old daughter is doing a Law degree and often visits and we don't live very far from each other. My older children, a 32 year old Environmental Consultant and a 28 year old business IT consultant, have long since finished university and post-graduate study but regularly visit with my gorgeous two year old grand daughter. You will be occupying a living space with me and sometimes my adult kids and 21 year old daughter as they come and go. My middle son has just bought a beautiful old house in Plymouth to renovate so I'm expecting to see a lot more of that part of my family this year. You might get the opportunity to spend some time here too if you want. I'm expecting I'll need to help them with some basic renovation. They speak fluent English, French and Italian to a native speaker standard.

    So a very fit and active 60 year old man/ father/ grandfather to share your stay with. Sometimes it will be just us in the house together so a couple volunteering together can be good to keep each other company and explore the area together. But I have had some wonderful single volunteers in the past and have seen some great friendships develop when two strangers have met here. All three of my children are fluent in French/German and I speak moderate French so even if your English is not very strong at present we won't have a communication problem.

    I NEVER agree to accept a volunteer without speaking by phone or meeting through social media well in advance of your visit. We also regard the first week of a visit as an opportunity to get to know each other and give ourselves the option to end the agreement at that point if either of us feel it isn't working. I can consider friends volunteering together or single people. We are honestly properly motivated in the spirit of Workaway and are not just looking for cheap labour. You do need to have a mature adult approach though. If you're running away from anything at home or suffer from any psychological issue this won't work for you or for us. We don't need people to stay for the whole six weeks although a minimum of a week is sensible, short stays often work just as well and although you can learn skills as you wish we don't need you to become skilled to become effective. Just to have some muscle and stamina and a cheerful 'Can do' attitude!

    SO . . . if you are a young (or ageing like me!) adult(s) with a positive attitude, flexible approach and a desire to see one of the loveliest parts of the UK we'd love to hear from you. Please understand that we always get a lot of applications. I will send an immediate personal reply to any volunteers I feel meet our criteria and would benefit from living with us but the sheer volume of applications means I will send template replies to others. Sorry about this, it isn't meant to be disrespectful, it's just a time issue!

    Please think honestly about your strengths before applying. If you are not physically robust with a genuine love of animals (beautiful, sweet natured five year old Labrador and 11 year old part oriental cat with a serious attitude problem . . .), being outdoors and able to enjoy water, concrete, cement, mud, sand and sea this isn't for you. The volunteer work we are offering is simple but physical. Carrying building materials, helping to put steel beams in place, climbing on scaffolding, etc. This isn't code for 'males only please' though. We've had some brilliant female volunteers in the past and don't want to put anyone off. Girls can build! We know this!

    You must have travel and health insurance and PLEASE explain to your insurer that you are undertaking voluntary work and explain the nature of this work to make sure you have adequate cover. This is your responsibility and we cannot accept any liability while you are volunteering for us.

    NOTE!*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️ WE CAN ONLY CONSIDER APPLICATIONS FROM EU/EFTA NATIONALS.

    We have attracted interest from UK Border Control in the past and cannot compromise on this. We would happily take people from all other nations and know that there are many of you out there using Workaway who are perfect volunteers but we got a strong warning from Border Control four years ago after we accepted a Kiwi who only had a student visa and we were all threatened with prosecution before she was deported on the next available flight with her passport marked as 'No re-entry to the UK for five years'. UK Border Control DO see Workaway Volunteering as WORK in exchange for food and accommodation and WILL act accordingly. So Volunteers must either be an EU/EFTA Citizen or with an appropriate WORK visa to apply for these Volunteering opportunities.

    We look forward to meeting you!

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    General Maintenance
    Help in the house
    Animal care
    Language practice

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    That's largely up to you but all the opportunities are here. This is a mixed and vibrant community. Travel in the rest of the UK is possible and we can introduce you to as many people as you wish to meet. There are many, many cultural and leisure activities available in the immediate area and the family enjoy a busy social life with lots of friends and regular visits to walk with our dogs on Dartmoor and on local beaches. You will be welcome to accompany us if you wish.
    There is a large 18-30 population in Ivybridge and the surrounding area and free or very cheap activities locally where you can meet people. If you are a fun, easygoing and motivated person who gets on well with others you'll love it here.

    *️️️*️️️This really won't suit someone who spends all their spare time in front of a TV or other media screen though . . . we need people who want to swim in the river or sea, walk on Dartmoor, take a bike and go cycling, go to the gym or leisure centre, visit all the other local towns and cities and basically do anything but sit in the middle of the family space in the living room all the time. We've only had one volunteer from the very many we have hosted who did this but it ruined our summer and we don't want to repeat the experience. I'm always happy to spend time helping with study or conversation but we all need our own space and volunteers need to be mature enough to realise this and able to motivate themselves to seek out opportunities to entertain themselves. We will of course help with local guidance and even transport where possible to achieve this.

  • Help


    Help with the building, labouring, lifting and carrying.

    Help to build the house. Help with basic housework to keep it as clean and comfortable as possible for us all to live in. Chat to me in French if you can, improve your English with tuition help if you need. Love and exercise the dog and make sure you spend your leisure time exploring the area and finding your UK niche.

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English, moderate conversational French.

  • Accommodation


    We can usually offer your own bedroom although these might have to be shared with another same sex volunteer at various stages of the project. This house is a plain, detached and ugly four bedroom box which would have been described as 'executive' when it was built 30 years ago. It is in the process of being renovated and transformed to create a large design with lots of glass which takes advantage of its position next to the river, forest and moor. All the present furnishing is IKEA and antique stuff so it's comfortable although not exactly luxurious with old worn out carpets which are going to be torn out this year and some floors which are already bare. The building work is (mostly!) outside for the present. We will need to connect with the main house later in the summer though . . . The bedrooms are OK with good beds and basic comforts and the bathroom is always clean but very out of date. The shower, bath, etc are all OK with unlimited hot water. It's all going to be taken out by about September when the new bathrooms are finished so it isn't worth doing anything to improve it at present.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    This area is truly a paradise for those who appreciate beautiful countryside, beaches and the sea and moor. We have bikes and all the other stuff you need to get the most out of spending time here. I'm into cycling, riding, walking and wild swimming and know all the best beach and river locations. Nothing is more than 20 minutes drive away and most of the really good things can be reached in minutes on foot from the house. We've been here for over 30 years and know the area very well so can guide you to the best places to see and spend time. We are only 12 miles from the historic city of Plymouth with lots to see and do and vibrant nightlife if you like that sort of thing. Buses and trains serve the town and city all day and into the late evening and it is only 20 minutes away by car or taxi. London is 3 1/2 hours by rail from Ivybridge and about the same when we do the journey by car. We are on the edge of Dartmoor National Park and know this area very well. We can take you to all the best historic sites and views and know where to go for riding, canoeing, climbing, surfing or any of the other outdoor activities which are at the heart of this area. Cornwall is half an hour away and can be reached by very cheap ferry from Plymouth or by road or rail from Ivybridge. Brittany Ferries sail from Roscoff/Santander to Plymouth. This is very close to where we live and we can collect you from the here if you want. We always offer to collect our volunteers from the local station, bus station or port and do not expect you to complete the last part of the journey alone or find your way back to the port by yourself at the end of your stay. We will give you as much help as you need in planning your journey in both directions.
    Ivybridge is a very 'safe and respectable' little town with a younger than average demographic profile. It is occupied by working and professional people in a slightly higher socio-economic bracket than the UK average. It does not suffer from any of the challenging social issues you may find in larger towns or cities and is genuinely a very nice place to stay.

    Take a look at the area on Google Satellite. You'll see what I mean!

  • 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?


  • ...

    Hours expected

    5 hours a day worked flexibly during the week

All three kids, Tom, Ollie and Ellie.
The whole family at Ollie's Graduation from Uni . . . except Tom who was working somewhere else in the world as usual!
And here I am at work. I'm the exhausted looking one. NOT the big chicken!
This is the last house we built. It's only twenty minutes away from our new project.
This ISN'T the UK. We were being snow hounds in France last winter! Rosie came too!
Cool kids huh? Yes . . . they're wonderful and we're proud of them!
Rosie sleeping in my arms as a puppy
Posing in the buttercups
One of our most beautiful local beaches at sunset
Volunteers on one of our local beaches in Summer.
Volunteers on Dartmoor in early Summer
Rosie in mud and HAPPY!
Volunteer on Dartmoor in Summer . . . scary bit of free climbing Lulu!
These are extra optional ratings when members leave feedback. The average rating left for each option is displayed.

Accuracy of profile: (5.0)

Cultural exchange: (5.0)

Communication: (5.0)

Host ref number: 479521314416