The new middle class holiday trend - paying to WORK: LIZ HOGGARD joins office workers yearning to 'de-stress' by shelling out £45 to spend two hours picking grapes alongside real low-paid labourers
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My name is Liz. I like shops, restaurants and taxis. The countryside makes me nervous — it’s too green and quiet. So the idea of spending a day off picking grapes in a West Sussex vineyard in October is my idea of hell.
But here I am, standing in a damp field near Chichester, clutching a pair of pruners on a ‘harvest experience’ day organised by the Tinwood Estate. Even more bizzare: I’m paying for the privilege. For £45, you can now toil all morning picking chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, with a break for a ‘three-course rustic harvest lunch’.
UK farms and vineyards are marketing these ‘working holidays’ as a chance for people to reconnect with the countryside and enjoy the camaraderie of farm life. An honest day’s work on the farm helps to recharge the batteries, apparently. People report that working in the fresh air all day helps them de-stress and sleep better. They learn new skills and make new friends.
Mark Driver, co-founder of Rathfinny, says the work is hard but fun and everyone has to spend all day in the fields come rain or shine.
‘If you work behind a desk, I think picking grapes is very therapeutic. People enjoy being outside and working.’ You’re treated well and given generous breaks, and carrying baskets of grapes all week means you get quite fit and sleep like a log. In the evenings, workers walk to the pub or play board games in the living room with its cosy woodburner and big sofas.
It reminds me of the classical children's book of "The adventures of Tom Sawyer":
"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. [...] There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign. "
(Chapter II, "Whitewashing the Fence"). Really, there's nothing new under the sun!