Volunteers

Interested in a Working Holiday?

You are welcome to join me here in the south of France for a working holiday from July to November, especially if you are interested in finding out more about horses and mindfulness meditation. The principle is very simple: your accommodation and meals are free in return for 5-6 hours’ work daily (except Sundays) while you volunteer here.

All volunteers should read the information on the following page carefully: Safety Precautions around Horses.

My 200-year-old farmhouse. deep in the heart of rural Gascony, in the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains, is less than 2 hours from the Spanish border, from the ski slopes and from the Atlantic ocean. Also in residence are 4 cats and 3 horses (at last count).

Ours is a very lively region (probably due to the copious amounts of excellent wine produced here) especially in the summer. There is a vibrant small town less than 3 km from my house, with all amenities including several bars, restaurants, tabacs, pharmacies, a supermarket and a weekly fresh food market. 

Volunteers stay in single or double rooms (if there are retreat guests, then wherever I can fit in a mattress) and share a shower/bath room. Bedding and towels are provided. Meals – brunch and dinner – are taken with our retreat guests. I host a variety of retreats in the summer season.

There is always work to do on a farm like this, involving maintenance and renovation of the house and land and caring for the horses. Caring for the horses also means caring for their paddocks, ex removing poo and weeds on a daily basis, topping th grass, cutting back brambles, repairing fences, cleaning tack and grooming equipment etc. The work is physically demanding and requires the ability and energy to engage in manual activities for five – six hours (not necessarily continuously) each day.

More Information about Volunteering here

What do you eat?

 Gascony is renowned for its gastronomy and for the longevity of its inhabitants so we tend to stick to what has worked for them for the last 800 years.

Gascon fare has a distinct Spanish taste to it, probably due to the influence of our Spanish neighbours.

The dinnertime meal is the best part of the day for us when we have time to sit down with our visitors and talk about everything under the sun. Some meals are vegetarian, others are not. I do not cater for vegans. We mostly eat outside and on the rare occasion that the weather lets us down we eat in the kitchen or dining room. I do not require help with the cooking but appreciate help with laying the table, and washing and cleaning up afterwards.

I have shared some truly unforgettable meals with my visitors, I learn as much from them as they do from me – if not more! – a rare privilege that I do not intend to deprive myself of anytime soon.

What can you do during your free time?

Walking is the main activity here. Vineyards are not fenced, so guests can walk for miles. There are a couple of lakes within walking distance as well as the Camino de Santiago – it is accessible in Nogaro. The house is surrounded by meadows, vineyards and woods with boar and deer. Nature lovers will find a lot to delight them. 

What can you learn here?

We offer a variety of learning opportunities.

You can learn more about the care and handling of horses (based on natural horsemanship principles). Please note that I am the only one who rides the horses. You can learn some French or English or improve your ability to speak either language. Depending on the time and length of your stay, you will meet local people, other volunteers and guests from all over the world. I consider meeting people and exchanging views and ideas to be the most valuable learning opportunities.

How do you get here?

There are 2 international airports within 2 hours’ drive: Toulouse and Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, you take a train to Mont de Marsan and then a bus to Nogaro. From Toulouse, there is a train to Auch and then a bus to Nogaro. Buses only provide a limited service and generally do not operate on Sundays and public holidays. Coordinating arrival times at the airport with train and bus departure times can be a challenge, so it is best that you sort this out in advance. I will come and pick you up from Nogaro. Many of our guests have also used blablacar.fr successfully, at a fraction of the cost of buses and trains.

How can you contact us to get more info or make a booking?

To ask about availability, please send an e-mail to welcome2gascony@gmail.com with your e-mail address as well as a short description of yourself and your abilities and the reasons why you want to volunteer. A photo will be appreciated. If you have a horse, please send a picture of the horse too. If I have availability, I will send you a confirmation e-mail asap.

Anything else you need to know?

Terms & Conditions 

As I want to make sure you enjoy your time here and to make everything run smoothly I have a few T’s and C’s. Have a good read below and make sure that you understand and accept them. Booking a working holiday here means that you confirm that you will abide by them. Any questions, send me an e-mail.

General 

I accept volunteers from the age of 21 years and older – there is no upper age limit. A reasonable understanding of either English or French will be useful. The work is physically demanding, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it. Please note that I am not offering you a job, you will be staying and working here as a volunteer, which means I can not organise work permits or visas for my volunteers.

What is included in your Working Holiday? 

  • Accommodation, bedding and towels 
  • 5-6 hours’ work Monday to Saturday 
  • 2 full meals a day: brunch and dinner usually eaten al fresco 
  • Wifi internet access 
  • Pick-up  (and drop-off) from Nogaro

What should you bring on a Working Holiday? 

  • Suntan lotion, sun hat, sunglasses
  • Work clothes, sturdy footwear for walking while exploring the region and to protect your feet around the horses and a good pair of gardening gloves 
  • Casual clothes for meditation practice 
  • Water and windproof jacket – it does occasionally rain here, even in summer. If you are coming in winter, remember we are in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, it snows here in winter, so bring lots of warm stuff 
  • Wash kit 
  • Your computer/phone/i-pad to access the internet 
  • Pyjamas/dressing gown as the bathroom is shared 
  • Insect repellent, personal first aid kit and any medication you might need

(List not exclusive)

Cancellations

If you for some reason or other can’t make it to your working holiday, please let me know asap by e-mail. I reserve the right to cancel working holidays under seriously exceptional circumstances – I will let you know asap by e-mail.

I reserve the right to terminate any volunteer’s stay without explanation if their behaviour is causing offence or impairs the health and safety of others or of the animals, causes damage to the property, if the quality of their work does not meet requirements or if for some or other reason they are unable to work. 

If another lockdown is declared, volunteers will need to find alternative accommodation, under no circumstances will I be able to accommodate them here.

Insurance

I can not stress enough how absolutely essential it is to take out a suitable travel and medical insurance policy! especially one that covers working with horses. Medications and treatment can be very expensive in France and it is best to have full cover for accidents and illness. If you are from the EU, I recommend that you bring an EHIC card. Remember that your EHIC may not pay for all your treatment or medications; You may need to top it up with additional insurance. Also, my insurance policy does not cover the personal possessions of my volunteers against loss or damage.

Privacy

I do not post pictures of my volunteers on social media nor do I publish anything about them online without their express permission. Even with their permission, I withhold their personal details. I expect my volunteers to adhere to the same standards.

My Commitment

I try my best to provide you with a working holiday exactly as described here, but all sorts of circumstances out of my control may cause me to change the program and set-up. As most of the work happens outside, the main culprit is the weather. The information above was correct at the time of posting, please check with me for any recent changes.

If any of the above sounds appealing, please let me know. I would appreciate an e-mail telling me a bit more about yourself, what you expect from a working holiday and what you can contribute. I am looking forward to hearing from you!

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