Since 2010 we started to have volunteers in to help us out, which has absolutely transformed Cotna. In our first 3 years we’d made progress with the kind help of friends, but then Sara broke her ankle badly! We realised it was too much for the two of us to fully develop our vision for Cotna Eco Retreat, but through having volunteers here, mainly WWOOFers, we have made great progress and at the same time met some amazing people whose presence has really enhanced our lives. We’ve had volunteers from Italy, Spain, France, Chile, Galicia, South Africa and Latvia. Closer to home we’ve had people from Cornwall, Wales and England. We are hospitable, open-minded and friendly hosts who provide good support and tuition both on the gardening and culinary side. To see our areas of expertise you can click here
Work Hours and Tasks
We ask that you maintain a fairly quiet and calm atmosphere while working and relaxing, as we do have people on retreat here, sometimes in silence. But we do have a laugh too! Work opportunities at Cotna vary, but will always include all kinds of gardening, composting, carpentry, cooking and food preparation. Each season brings its own unique tasks.
Spring involves a lot of weeding, sowing, bed preparation and willow work. Summer is all hands to the deck with picking, weeding, bagging up salad and … more weeding. Autumn involves harvesting, taking cuttings, cutting back hedges, beginning structural and woodland work and processing food (including juice, cider and chutney making).
Although during Winter there are shorter days and longer evenings by the fire, there is still a lot of structural building and preparation work to be done. These include strimming, hedge-trimming, hedge-laying, pruning, composting, veg-bed preparation for next growing season and work in the woodland.
We ask that you commit to a minimum of 2 weeks, though we do also have a week’s trial. If things are not working out we reserve the right to ask people to move on as soon as possible. Many WWOOFers stay with us for a few months, and we are happy with long stays. We expect about 6 hours of work each day, with Saturdays and Sundays off. Depending what needs doing and the season some days may be busier and longer than others. During busy months we may stagger weekends, but you will always have 2 days off each week.
We appreciate your hard work, flexibility and willingness to do what is needed. We trust that you find your own niche. We do our best to play to your strengths and if there is something that inspires you and is helpful to us, then go for it! If you are artistic we encourage you to come and help develop the beauty of Cotna through willow work, wooden sculptures, sign making and whatever else that might inspire you.
The accommodation will be generally be in one of two caravans, though we always welcome volunteers with their own vans. Our caravans are in good condition, though quite simple; they each have a double or king-size bed and they serve as a bedroom / private space. There is a larger communal area in the straw-bale barn which you share with other volunteers as well as longer term residents Simon & Kay. Here you can cook & eat, relax on the sofas by the woodturner, use the wifi, carve wooden spoons etc. We have compost loos (quite posh ones) and a shower shed with warm shower. Generally we have between 1-4 WWOOFers on site, according to seasonal needs and accommodation availability. We can make advance bookings, but always with the proviso that plans may change on either side.
Our food is renowned for being delicious, fresh, abundant and international. Sometimes we eat together but mostly you can prepare your own food. We have great cooking facilities—with food of course provided by us. We can cater for vegans and ask that you please maintain a vegetarian diet while working here.
Where Our WWOOFers Come From
The international element permeates the atmosphere here – the fantastic food, the sharing of ideas and experience, the whole culture of the place. Several people from overseas have commented, “This is not typical England,” in a good way, we hope!
Projects our volunteers have helped with, or even initiated and run, include the barn decking (thanks Tom), the round-oak railings around the barn and various handrails, beautiful gates, Woodhenge (thanks Rees, Graham, Max & Matthieu), the Shower Cabin & compost Loo (thanks Dave & Iona), the Chilean pond of curses! (thanks Jesu, Carlos – and Veronica for the calmer phase 2!), the compost bins (thanks Julia & Neil) & preparing beds (gracias Sergio & Marta), woodland work and hedgelaying (thanks Dom, Dave, Steve, Pete Rowe at al) the strimming & scything (cheers Toby!), Dave’s new workshop ( thanks to the multi-talented Jaryd) – and the endless planting, weeding, picking, bagging, labelling, cooking and bottling (thanks to all especially Iona, Helen, Verena, Doug, Charlotte et al).
Thank you Bronwyn for reminding us to talk to the trees, thank Cotna’s amazing water & listen to the earth more deeply. And finally, WWOOFER of the year (and possibly lifetime) prize must go to the wonderful Matteo who has immersed himself into Cotna Eco Retreat and family life for a whole year, with unfailing positivity, humour, kindness and endless hard work in the veg gardens – thank you so much!