Help with our DIY barn build & woodland restoration project in Totnes, England


United Kingdom

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 Min stay requested: 1 month or more

  • Description


    Barn Building & Woodland Help.
    Hands on Journey into barn-building and woodland skills.

    Some experience / enthusiasm & practical skill is necessary.

    This is 46 acres of ancient woodland and organic pasture on Dartmoor National Park, South Devon. We like to engage the community in caring for the land and host occasional events and activities (Covid has limited this).

    This is a unique opportunity to join the team (ideally for longer than 1 month - with Covid we are suggesting 2months minimum) to be part of our amazing team. We’ve been building 3 barns in a (long) year & now completing them - still loads to get done as well as woodland work including coppicing and felling & extracting diseased larch trees.

    This is a magical hidden valley on the southern edge of Dartmoor. Ecologically diverse, beautiful, and close to South Brent & Totnes. On site are 3 barns, a small workshop, sawmill, a willow osier and produce for weaving willow, a sauna, lakes, and plenty of land to connect with.

    The host family (me, my wife, 2 young boys & baby girl) live a few miles away in a house, whilst volunteers stay out on the land in caravans (or tents when a big team) and look after the place day-to-day.

    Volunteers need to be responsible and willing to undertake agreed tasks safely and sensibly without supervision. We have a morning meeting each week to check in & get things started where your input is highly valued.

    Although we have connected to the grid with power in the barns, we are still a fairly low-impact set-up so you will need to be happy living in a simple way using solar power & spring water. It's not for the faint hearted and very close to nature.

    I provide simple food which together the team cooks in the kitchen - you let me know what you need for the weekly shop. This will be a mix of organic and non organic things.
    This autumn we will be finishing the 3rd barn - a big timber-framed straw bale insulated machinery store as well as other bits and bobs.

    As well as helping finish the work on our forestry barns you will help splitting and stacking firewood, and undertaking occasional other projects including gardening as we have started growing a lot of veg & salad.

    Every day we need to care for the chickens and ducks, and care for the veg patch & poly tunnel.

    Depending how long you stay you will probably experience everything it takes to fell and extract a tree, and help throughout the process. It is demanding and you will need to be fit, enthusiastic and responsible. If you can drive or use a chainsaw this is very helpful (you need a valid licence to be insured). Interest in eco-building and woodwork is very important during this time of barn-building.

    There are two lakes, a river, and beautiful organic pasture. Wood-fired sauna next to the lake, and a wood-workshop where you can take on some creative projects. Also a green wood space with pole-lathes etc.

    Look forward to hearing from you.
    All the best

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Help with Eco Projects
    DIY and building projects
    Animal Care
    Farmstay help
    Babysitting and creative play
    General Maintenance

  • UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN goals
    No poverty
    Zero hunger
    Good health and well-being
    Quality education
    Gender equality
    Clean water and sanitation
    Affordable and clean energy
    Decent work and economic growth
    Industries, innovation and infrastructure
    Reduce inequality
    Sustainable cities and communities
    Responsible consumption and production
    Climate action
    Life below water
    Life on land
    Peace, justice and strong institutions
    Partnerships for the goals
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    This is up to you - some visitors get out and about and meet people - others get more from the woodland experience and immersion in nature.
    You will learn a lot from nature whilst working and living in the woods and be part of a close living / working team. You will be sent our welcome pack and agreements which give your more details on how we live and work together.
    Totnes is a cultural hub of the Transition movement - there is a LOT going on there, also lots of events in South Brent, Buckfastleigh and Ashburton. If you are happy to hitch or jump on a bus then you will find lots of 'culture' just on the doorstep.
    We have a young family so much time is spent with kids especially since Covid and taking them out of school!

  • Projects involving children

    Projects involving children

    This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.

  • Help


    Woodland help in ancient woodland... caring for chickens & all sorts of other tasks, varied and engaging including helping to mill timber on the sawmill, prepare firewood, and general land-management as well as a bit of veg growing for our own use.

    BARN BUILDING through 2021. If you have experience with tool use / carpentry then this will be very useful. If not then you need to be very keen to learn this and be involved in green build.

    Ideal for hard-working people with a love for the land and special places. It's extra-helpful if you have a driving licence and experience with practical work. The most important things is common sense and enthusiasm.

    We've been hosting volunteers for over 8 years through workaway and other hosting platforms. We try to have between 2 & 5 volunteers at a time although 2020 / 2021 we aim to host a bigger volunteer camp for people helping in the build process.

    You will be staying out on the land and cooking yourself (together with the team) so need to be self-reliant, responsible and have good common sense.

    Volunteering works out at about 4 days a week - unless you want to contribute more which during the barn-build we are likely to be wanting to do.

    We host volunteer weekends once a month... & occasional events like our easter egg hunt or friends weekend.

    Close to Dartmoor, the sea, and Totnes in South Devon - our woodland is a 35minute walk from the nearest town. We lie on cycle path number 2 & there's a bus to Plymouth / Totnes called Stagecoach Gold.

    Accommodation is in one of 2 caravans or a tent. There is 3g / 4g phone signal so you can get fast internet access through tethering with your phone.

    Clearing timber from hillside, carpentry, and timber production using mobile sawmill (Woodmizer LT15 & firewood processor).
    & LOTS of barn-building activity to be carried out.

    Get in touch if you want to get involved and help out in the woods.

  • Languages spoken

    English: Fluent
    Spanish: Intermediate
    French: Intermediate

  • Accommodation


    Caravans with wood burning stoves. Shared cooking space in our newly built barn.
    Washing is a solar shower when the sun shines, a bucket shower & outdoor bath, or best of all the wood-fired sauna and a dip in the spring-fed lake. Whatever you fancy.
    Closest laundry is in Totne or when we are home we can wash clothes.. We are mostly willing to help & are friendly :)

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    The woods are a powerful place to stay, and although close to 2 small towns, cycle path & bus route, you get the feeling of being deeply immersed in nature.

    There is a workshop and an abundance of timber to create things from so you could polish up on some carving or making skills. Also loads of rusty tools to handle, sharpen etc etc. There is no shortage of things to do in your spare time, swimming, wandering, stalking, hunting, exploring Dartmoor, a nearby climbing wall, the sea... however if you don't like your own company and working as part of a team, then the woods probably are not the place for you.

    You need to be responsible and keen to live simply in an outdoor off-grid setting.

    A 35 minute walk to the nearest small town with 2 pubs and occasional music nights etc. and well connected on cycle paths. 20 minute walk to bus stop which connects well with Transition Town Totnes a vibrant market town and Plymouth city.

    If a keen cyclist you can get to the sea, or much easier up onto the Moor. However be warned, the hills in Devon are steep!

    A car does help with getting out and about but most visitors cycle.

    Sometimes we organise trips out with the host family or organize a gathering of friends on the land.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Can host digital nomads

    Can host digital nomads

    We have no Internet out in the woods. Only 3G / 4g connection via dongle on phone. However this has worked for some people to be able to carry out their own online or design work when not actively working on the project :)

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    Has to be discussed. Usually Fine.

  • Can possibly accept pets

    Can possibly accept pets

    We have done but often choose not to because of livestock.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 5 hours a day, 5 days a week

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Host ref number: 912659156591