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Different Ways to Work Outside

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Career Change Career Thatching Career

Being stuck in an office in front of a computer all day is definitely not a healthy way to spend your working life – yet so many people do. Eyestrain from prolonged computer use, back problems and a lack of sunlight are all detrimental factors associated with working indoors in an office. So it’s not surprising that when many people consider a career change, they often opt for a complete lifestyle change. For some, this change will involve a completely new workplace – the great outdoors.

Jobs that involve working outside are not for the faint hearted. You may have to work in sizzling summer heatwaves, or during bitterly cold spells in winter. Your work may be at the mercy of the elements, particularly in windy and rainy weather. But if you find being outside refreshing and enjoy working with (or against!) the changing weather patterns, then perhaps you’re suitably matched to a career in working outside.

Heritage Skills

Heritage skills are basically a collection of traditional tradecrafts that utilise existing and historic methods. There is a range of outdoor and heritage skill job opportunities for all ages, experiences and fitness capabilities.


If you want a new career that involves working outside, then one of the most obvious solutions is to work as a gardener. Clearly, to work as a gardener you’ll need to have a passion for horticulture and nature, as well as some basic knowledge of certain aspects of botany (such as plant disease etc.). You will also need to be physically fit, as you may be undertaking strenuous work, such as digging and heavy lifting. You can choose whether you wish to work with electrical power tools as obviously there is a risk associated with using such equipment.

You could work in private gardens, or perhaps work as part of a gardening firm that works in more commercial environments. There are also opportunities to work as part of a much larger team in stately homes run by bodies such as the National Trust.

If you think you have what it takes to become a gardener, you’ll need to start Advertising and Marketing Your Business locally. Posters, leaflets and adverts in local publications will all help you to source work. Word of mouth is also an excellent way to drum up new business, so make sure you rope your friends and family in to help you out in this regard!

You can always attend short or part-time horticultural courses to help boost your career development prospects. If you’ve never worked as a gardener before, and are not sure that a career change to this job role is for you, you could always try taking part in some Voluntary Work for charities or community projects.

Hedge Layer

This heritage skill has acquired a new prominence, and is making a welcome return to the fields of Britain. Hedges are not just land boundaries – they are host to a plethora of wildlife, such as birds, insects and small mammals. The craft of hedge laying is a traditional, environmentally-friendly and economical alternative to standard fencing.

If you’d like to work as a hedge layer, then you will most likely need to grab an opportunity to become trained up in this unusual job role. Many agricultural colleges will run courses, as does the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. You should look out for National Hedge Laying Society (NHLS) accredited courses, as these will ensure that you receive quality tutorage.

The chances are that you’ll have to supplement a job as a hedge layer with other work, as the work can be sparse and seasonal.


Pretty picturesque chocolate-box thatched cottages are a staple of the rural England. Thatching is a trade that is crying out for new tradesmen, as surprisingly there are also new builds appearing that have been designed with thatched roofs. As a thatcher you would repair an existing thatched roof, or completely replace an old thatched roof.

You will be working with natural, raw materials such as water reed or longstraw, and implementing techniques that have been used for centuries. Again, work as a thatcher can be at the mercy of the weather, so any work may prove to be seasonal and intermittent. With a shortage of thatchers available, however, work may actually be more in demand that you might expect.

There are also a number of opportunities to train as a thatcher, from introductory courses to vocational qualifications, such as NVQs and apprenticeships. The National Society of Master Thatchers is now even beginning to produce it’s own training guidelines, and is keen to encourage younger candidates to this profession.

Dry Stone Walling

Dry stone walling is another specialised trade skill that has started to gain popularity once again. It is basically the art of working with local stones, fitting them together into a wall without the need for mortar or any other support.

As a dry stone waller you could work on dry stone walls in the depths of the countryside – they are commonplace in Cornwall, Devon, throughout the moors all the way up to the outer reaches of Scotland. Dry stone walling is also becoming more popular in gardens.

Dry stone wallers can work in many different weathers, so work may not be as intermittent as other traditional trade skills. The work will obviously be dependent upon location, with rural areas often providing more work opportunities.

If you think you’d like to try dry stone walling, there are opportunities to train as a volunteer or employee. The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain and Lantra have provided opportunities to take award certificates in dry stone walling, which can open up prospects for apprenticeship schemes. The Dry Stone Walling Association’s Craftsmen Certification Scheme has also been developed so suit younger and more mature applicants. As with hedge laying, there are also holidays that incorporate the acquisition of this traditional trade skill.

Other Manual Careers

For advice and guidance on other manual vocations, read our articles Jobs in the Electrical, Plumbing or Plastering Trades and Working in Construction & Engineering.

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