6 March 2015

100 working holidays and counting .....

Working holidays are a great way to get involved with the National Trust’s work and some people return many times to take part in them. Some go that extra mile though and Di Lang is a great example of this. A long standing working holiday leader (the leader is not staff but takes charge or housekeeping, shopping, menus etc), Di led her first holiday here at High Wray back in 2004 and recently returned here to lead her 100th!

Di (left) on the 100th holiday

Di has led holidays as diverse as Drystone walling and hedgelaying, woodland management and running events. We’re particularly thankful for her formidable organisational skills and boundless enthusiasm in leading our upland adventure holidays, where participants camp out on the high fells for three nights and work to reduce path erosion in the day.

‘I’m from a farming background’ Di says ‘I always used to be out with my Father when I was growing up. My career took me on a different path, running my own flooring business, but one day I noticed a hedge by the side of the road. ‘That’s a well laid hedge’ I thought, then thought ‘that’s my father talking’. So I went to agricultural college and did a few short courses, then looked into conservation holidays and found the National Trust’s Working Holidays and I’ve stuck with them ever since.’

So what is it about Working Holidays that keeps Di coming back for more? ‘The variety, the places you go to and the people you meet. I love the extra knowledge you learn as I think your brain is still a muscle that needs working. It keeps your body moving as well! I enjoy the social elements too, meeting new people and some of their experiences and backgrounds are amazing. No working holiday is exactly the same either, you may come back to the same Basecamp but the dynamics of the group are completely different.’

‘The High camp ones are really special to me and I love footpath laying too. I’m off to do scything this year, because we’ve got a grassland area close to where we live and we want to turn it into a wildflower meadow. It’s new skills again. I’ve discovered I’m not really a gardener though – it’s too tidy!’

On the fells on a camping holiday
To cap it all, to mark the 100th holiday Di stayed on a week at the end of it and with the help of ever supportive husband Max brought her flooring skills to bear by replacing our tatty old vinyl floors with a new hard wearing surface. This looks great and should last for years to come

‘I sort of think of High Wray as a second home now and when I was here another time I was looking at the floors and thinking I could put a new floor down to make it more attractive for people to come here. You get a pride in your work when you’re doing something like this and it’s nice to think that other working holidays and volunteer groups will get the benefit of this in the future.’

Di reclines on the newly fitted and very smart floor in the 'Acland' block, with 100th working Holiday presentation picture
We’re looking forward to many more years of working alongside Di, with another camping holiday scheduled for this May. It’s thanks to the dedication and hard work of leaders like Di (and there are plenty of others too) that the National Trust is able to offer such a varied and interesting working holiday programme, enabling many people to get involved with our work and help us look after our special places for everyone.

We’ll leave the last word to Di:

‘I’ll be carrying on with working holidays as long as I can, I’ve no intention of giving up. I still get excited every year when the new brochure comes out and I’m straight in there looking at where working holidays can take me this year.’

Rob Clarke, Basecamp Community Ranger

Find out more about National Trust working holidays here: