Play, make and do at the Leigh Woods Community Games

Children try archery (c) National Trust Images / John Millar

Children try archery (c) National Trust Images / John Millar

Leigh Woods’ first Community Games is being organised by the National Trust during half term with a host of sporting activities.

 During February half term the National Trust are organising all sorts of interactive activities for families – including the Community Games, which will run on Thursday 20 February between 10.00am and 2.00pm. Everybody is invited to go along and join in for free. Continue reading…

50. Canoe down a river

CanoedownariverSee the world from a duck’s point of view.

What you need:

  • A canoe
  • Paddles
  • A life jacket
  • A river
  • Expert advice and supervision


Going round and round in circles can get a bit boring. Paddle evenly on both sides to go in a straight line and actually get somewhere. This isn’t the kind of thing you can do every day – join a call or go to an event.

Canoeing, kayaking – however you like to paddle, we’ve got some amazing spots for you to enjoy. From sessions for beginners, wildlife tours on the water, to brilliant places for you to launch your own boat.

Spending time canoeing and kayaking is a great way to experience nature and enjoy time with friends and family. It can also be a dangerous journey if appropriate safety guidelines are overlooked.

You should be able to swim at least 50m. Ensure you are properly equipped and have the skills for the water and weather conditions you expect to encounter; canoeing alone is not recommended. Follow the navigation rules for the water you are on and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Wear appropriate clothing As well as your buoyancy aid, always wear shoes – slipways, rough terrain and river beds can be dangerous without good grip. Other canoe safe clothing includes hats, layered items that can easily be removed, spare dry clothing and a towel.

Know the weather forecast Find out the weather forecast before you set out on your paddle and assess whether the conditions are suitable. The Met Office, BBC weather and local harbour offices will have up to date forecasts.

Tide times, navigation and events For coastal canoe trails check the tide times and assess whether they are suitable for paddling the trail. Going up river with an incoming (flood) tide and returning with the outgoing (ebb) tide is usually easiest. Make sure you are not going to get caught on mud flats on a falling tide. Paddlers should be aware of the rules of the road at sea and be able to identify the main channel. Always observe the navigation rules for the waterway you are travelling on. Check if there are any events/restrictions on the waters when you wish to travel.

Local environment

Familiarise yourself with the local area, its sensitive places and protected areas. Be sure to:

  • Leave the environment as you find it
  • Take your litter home with you
  • Keep noise to a minimum
  • Do not damage bank side vegetation when launching or landing (no seal launching)
  • Where possible keep to any designated paths or launching points
  • Canoe a safe distance away from wildlife
  • Rinse your kit down to prevent the spread of non-native invasive species

Check your equipment

Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need, and check your kit is in good condition.

  1. Buoyancy aid
  2. Boat
  3. Paddle
  4. Spray deck (as required)
  5. Bailer/sponge
  6. Small first aid kit
  7. Penknife
  8. Mobile phone in waterproof bag (reception maybe limited in some areas)
  9. Drinking water
  10. Sun cream, hat and sunglasses
  11. Light waterproof jacket
  12. Footwear
  13. Licence (as required)

Many National Trust places in the South West have canoeing facilities where you can have a go at canoeing. These are either run by the Trust or one of our partner organisations. Here’s our suggestions for  top places to go:

  • Studland Beach, Dorset – Studland Sea School & Studland Watersports offer activities.
  • Salcombe Estuary, Devon – Download the free canoe guide to the estuary & find out about Singing Paddles Canoe Adventures.
  • Cotehele, Devon – Head out with Canoe Tamar for a trip on the river
  • Fowey, Cornwall –  Encounter Cornwall offer guided canoe trips to explore the creeks and backwaters of the Fowey estuary – a perfect way to get to know the area
  • Crantock, Cornwall – Crantock Bay Surf School offer guided kayak trips along the river
  • The Lizard, Cornwall – Lizard Adventure will get you out onto the water for an unforgettable day

Did you know?:

The National Trust has a Canoeing Development Manager – find out about the work Sal does across the trust here.

49. Find a geocache

FindageocacheWith over a million in the world, there must be one around here somewhere…

What you need:

  • A smartphone or handheld GPS


Get involved and join a geocache community online.

Looking to turn your walk into a real adventure? Try a high-tech treasure hunt.

We’ve teamed up with experts Garmin, to introduce more people to the fun of geocaching. Many of our places have Garmin GPS devices available for you to try geocaching for free.

What is geocaching? Geocaching is an exciting outdoor adventure for the whole family. It’s a treasure hunt for the digital generation, where you can enjoy the freedom of being outside and discovering new places. All you need is a handheld GPS and a sense of fun.

A geocache or ‘cache’ is a small waterproof treasure box hidden outdoors. Geocachers seek out these hidden goodies guided by a GPS enabled device which uses coordinates, or ‘waypoints’ downloaded from or

Or you can download a free geocaching app for Android  or iPhone.

So once you’ve found the treasure box – what will you discover inside? Most caches have a log book for you to leave a message in and the satisfaction of finding the box is a reward in itself. But often you will also find a strange array of trinkets that people have left to swap. If you take a treasure out of the box, you should leave another trinket in its place, so come prepared.

Whether on the side of a windswept mountain or on an expanse of beach, there are geocaches hidden across the UK including hundreds on our land. Here’s out suggestions for top National Trust places in the South West:

  • St Agnes to Chapel Porth, Cornwall – Explore the area and there are extra activities in the NT caches. You can even borrow a GPS from us at the car park!
  • Arlington Court, Devon – Borrow a Garmin GPS unit and head out hunting!
  • Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire – Within easy walking distance of Snowshill there are plenty of geocaches for you to discover
  • Castle Drogo, Devon – See if you can find the geocaches hidden around the Castle Drogo estate.

Win a Garmin Geocaching bundle



For a chance to win a Garmin Etrex 10 gps device plus everything you need to start your geocaching adventures, answer this question:

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel ‘Treasure Island’, what symbol did pirates used to mark buried treasure on a map?

A)    A black spot
B)    A cross
C)    A parrot

Email your entry to: before midnight on Monday 2nd September with a subject of ‘Garmin Competition’

Terms & Conditions: – Open to residents of the UK, aged 18 or over, excluding employees and associates of the National Trust. Entries close at midnight on Monday 2nd September 2013. There will be one winner drawn at random from all correct entries received. The winner will be notified by email by Friday 6th September 2013. There is 1 prize of a Garmin Etrex 10 Geocaching Bundle. No cash alternative





48. Learn to ride a horse

LearntorideahorseLearn to ride a horse like a proper cowboy

What you need:

  • An activity centre or stables where you can ride
  • A grown-up to instruct you
  • A riding hat, comfortable (but not baggy) clothes and suitable footwear.


Remember to listen very carefully to your instructor so that you can learn to ride your horse safely.

Bridleway signpost and horse riders at Danbury Common, Essex.If you love horses and are looking for a pastime that will keep you fit in the great outdoors, horse riding is for you. It’s a rewarding and exciting sport that can be enjoyed by all ages. The British Horse Society is a good first port-of-call for some help and advice about learning to ride, including contact details for riding schools and stables. They’ve also been in contact with some advice about suitable footwear for learning to ride:

Long riding boots or jodhpur boots, or a strong pair of boots that cover the ankle and have a smooth sole and heel should be worn. The ankles can become rubbed and sore if in contact with the stirrup and leathers. A small but defined heel on the boot is necessary to prevent the foot slipping through the stirrup iron. Trainers should not be worn as they offer little protection and can easily become stuck in the stirrup. Wellington boots are also discouraged.

There are stables situated near to Studland Beach in Dorset and Killerton House in Devon – although not run by the Trust they do use Trust land. See their websites for further details:


If you would like to ride your horse at Studland, daily and seasonal permits are available for beach riding between 1 October and 30 June.  Studland Stables can also arrange beach rides, as well as other routes in the surrounding countryside. Riders are asked to respect other beach users and the environment – stick to the tide line, no galloping and no riding in the dunes, please.  There’s also a network of bridleways across the heathland and chalk ridge, which you can enjoy all year round without a permit. Parking for horse boxes is in the left-hand pay and display car park at Knoll Beach, free for our members.

For more information, see the Studland Beach information for horse riders.

For the slightly less adventurous, the National Trust Collections website has over 110 Rocking Horses featured from around the UK, many of which can be seen at National Trust places in the South West including A la Ronde, Castle Drogo and Kingston Lacy.

47. Cook on a campfire

CookonacampfireThere’s no kitchen in the great outdoors but you don’t have to miss out on dinner.

What you need:

  • A campfire
  • Your chosen ingredients
  • Cooking equipment such as skewers for your marshmallows, a pot for your beans or a pan for your bangers
  • A grown-up to check you don’t spoil dinner


This is not the time for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. Keep it simple at first with food that cooks easily and quickly. Sausages, soups or beans all work well.

There’s nothing like the taste of food that’s been cooked over an open fire and one of the most popular campfire foods is toasted marshmallows. We asked our South West foodie guru Andy for some top tips on getting the perfect toasted marshmallows:

Roasting marshmallows is an excellent way to bring kids, family and friends together on an outdoor evening.

Children love sitting around the campfire and roasting marshmallows.

In company or not, make sure they know these basics so they can safely and successfully roast their marshmallows.

  1. Choose the right type of roasting stick. The best roasting sticks are from trees, they offer a rustic and authentic method, tree sticks are the way to go!
  2. Length of stick. The length of the roasting stick should be determined by the size of the roaster and the roasters sense of fire safety. A long stick or a wooden skewer is necessary whilst being accompanied by an adult!
  3. After spiking the marshmallow on the end of your stick – turn continuously before it falls from the stick – about two to three minutes should do it!
  4. Serve when the marshmallow starts to brown on the outside – being careful to blow first – no blistered tongues please – this should be fun! J
  5. You could also melt some cooking chocolate in a pan on the campfire to dip your marshmallows in – scrummy!

Serve with a few good camp fire songs, a guitar and some hot chocolate! As a matter of hygiene, wooden skewers are available at supermarkets and can be an easy substitute for the rustic sticks!

If you feel like you want  little bit of help with cooking on a campfire you could head along to the ‘Bushcraft and survival: wild food and fire’ event at Rodborough Common tomorrow (29th August):

  • Come along and join our expert bushcraft and survival instructor Simon Fowler to learn to safely forage for wild foods, light a fire in different ways and then cook up a tasty snacks over the campfire
  • Booking Essential – telephone 01452 814213, Adult £15, Child £10 (must be accompanied by an adult)

… or why not head to the Bath Skyline on Sunday 15th September for a ‘Family campfire cookery’ day?:

  • Give your family a different type of Sunday lunch ‘ cooking their own alfresco meal in a beautiful National Trust woodland setting. Supervised campfires will already be in place by the time you arrive at 11am, ready to start cooking your pre-arranged alternative Sunday lunch. Once you’ve finished cooking, enjoy the fun of eating it out in the woods! All ingredients and cooking utensils will be provided. Well-known local chefs will be choosing their favourite interpretation of the ‘Dish of the Day’ so you’ll have a chance to prove your cooking prowess! With no washing up to do, just family fun right through to 1pm!
  • Booking Essential – telephone 07977925361 This is a limited availability event, and pre-booking is essential. Family £35




46. Try rock climbing

TryrockclimbingKeep your eyes peeled for some big cracks and places to get a good grip.

What you’ll need:

  • A rock that’s stable and isn’t wet or too steep
  • Trainers for good grip
  • An expert to help you, event professionals never climb alone.


Rocks can be slippery, especially if wet. Build up slowly before venturing too high and soon you’ll be climbing Bond-style. This isn’t the kind of thing you do everyday, so join a class or go to an event.

A child with an instructor abseiling at Stackpole for Outdoor Learning, Pembrokeshire

Our Outdoors guru, Jim tells us a little about rock climbing in the South West and his favourite places:

The SW boasts some of the finest sea cliff climbing locations in the World, clearly this kind of activity needs to be undertaken carefully and with a qualified instructor, until you know what you are doing.  for information on instructors and centres check out the British Mountaineering Council’s website at

Climbing provides one of the greatest senses of achievement, since the dawn of time man has been trying to get to the highest point, it’s in our nature.  Nothing quite gets the heart racing like clinging on above the crashing waves, the feeling of exposure is quite unique and certainly doesn’t leave room for worrying about homework.

One of my favourite spots is Sennen Cove, the views back over your shoulder into the clear sea often allow you to spot basking sharks and seals. There are few better spots to watch the sunset, than sat on the ledge at the top of Africa Route looking out towards Land’s End.

Other top South West hotspots include:

  • Dancing Ledge near Swanage provides a great spot for some deep water soloing.
  • Sennen and Bosigran are still the home of the Royal Marines Mountain Leader course, you can struggle your way up routes that Commandos first led in the 40’s – remembering of course they were doing it in hobnail boots and using hemp ropes.
    Commando Ridge provides a classic scramble looking back at the sheer face of Bosigran across the Zawn.
  • Sharpnose Point provides an amazingly vivid backdrop for a climb.  The stone, which appears almost blue in the evening sun, is intersected by glistening white basalt seems.
  • The Dewerstone is a great spot to experience Dartmoor climbing, without the lengthier walk ins which most Tors require.
  • The Avon Gorge may not be the most tranquil place to climb, the main road sees to that, but it’s a cracking spot to be alongside Peregrine Falcons as they plummet down onto their prey.

If you would like a bit of help getting to grips with rock climbing, why not head along to Tyntesfield on Saturday 31st August and have a go at a climbing wall?:

Vertical Extreme will be at Tyntesfield today with their mobile wall. Although not on real rock this wall will give you a good  taster of what climbing is all about, and with a range of grades there will be something to challenge everyone, adults too! You’ll get a great view when you are at the top. Open to all aged 2 and above. £4 per person, payable at the wall.

45. Find your way with a map and compass

FindyourwayYou’ll never get lost if you can use these trusty tools.

What you need:

  • A map
  • A compass
  • A destination
  • A whistle to let people know where you are


Always work out where you are on the map before you even set off so you know you’re starting in the right place/ It also helps if you hold the map the right way round!

Here in the UK we’re very lucky to have the Ordnance Survey – an organisation that produces accurate maps that can be used for navigation. If you want some advice on how to read an Ordnance Survey map, or how to use your compass, see their excellent video tutorials.

Lots of our places in the South West have organised map-reading activities. Use the event search facility on the National Trust website to find an activity near you.

Here’s our list of top places in the South West where you can find your way with a map and compass:

  • Baggy Point, Devon – Borrow a tracker pack to help children to learn how to use a compass and have fun with it.
  • Fontmell and Melbury Downs, Wiltshire – a downloadable walk is available for guidance.
  • Killerton House, Devon – Explore the vast parkland, forest and countryside.
  • Boscastle, Cornwall – There are some ideal places to plan your own trail using a map and compass. The starting point could be the National Trust visitor centre in Boscastle harbour.
  • Holnicote, Somerset – With over 2500acres of woodland, 250km of rights of way and a number of orienteering trails, there are plenty of opportunities to navigate your way round the estate.


43. Build a raft

BuildaraftIt’s a pirate’s life for me, just watch out for the ducks!

What you need:

  • Sticks and string to tie them all together
  • A pond or small stream to test your raft
  • Shoes that don’t matter if they get wet
  • A grown-up to help you near the water


When launching your raft look for a calm piece of water which is not too deep to give it the best chance of launching, and not sinking! For the more adventurous, join a class or an event where you can build a raft big enough for you to race.


Messing about on the water is great fun and building a raft can be a great team exercise too. If you decide to head to a river or lake with your raft, make sure you have enough life jackets for everyone and stay out of deep water if you’re not a strong swimmer.

The great thing about building your own raft is that there are no rules about what materials you need. Most rafts, like the one pictured above, being built at Cotehele in Cornwall, have a basic wooden frame, often supported by empty barrels. This gives them a lot of buoyancy in the water.

Not all rafts have to carry people. If you don’t fancy taking a dip, you could make a miniature raft. You’ll need:

  • 8 twigs roughly the same length
  • Some straw or long grass
  • Some large leaves

Using the straw or grass, tie the 6 of the twigs together, next to each other as if they were logs. Use the remaining 2 twigs at the top and bottom (exactly like in the photograph of the full-size raft above. Weave the large leaves into the twigs to create a waterproof ‘hull’. If you wanted to, you could a more twig as a mast.

Some of our places run organised activities where you can build a raft – check the Events search facility on the National Trust website for more details.


42. Go swimming in the sea

GoswimmingintheseaIt’s much more fun than swimming in a pool

What you need:

  • Choose a warm, sunny day
  • Goggles
  • An adults to swim with you
  • A towel to dry-off after your swim


The sea can be powerful. With a grown-up, look for an area where the water is calm and not too deep.

Little girl on the shoreline, getting her feet wet, in White Park Bay, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

The South West is great for outdoor swimming – glorious sandy beaches and rocky coves as well as lakes, streams, rivers and waterfalls. There is nothing like the exhilaration of a refreshing dip in natural water. So grab your swimmers and a towel and seek out a special swimming spot of your own.

The Outdoors Swimming Society have a Wild Swim Map where you can find the perfect swimming spot, including sea swimming. Here’s our top places in the South West:

  • Roseland, Cornwall – There are loads of beaches to choose from – why not pick a different one each day of the week?
  • Studland, Dorset – Studland beach has miles of gently shelving sandy beaches which are great for children to swim at, and the relatively mild climate of Dorset
  • Sennen to Penberth, Cornwall – The popular sandy beach at Porthcurno enjoys warm(ish!) blue waters to enjoy
  • South Devon Countryside – a coastal property with hidden coves and busier beaches, all offer a chance for a safe refreshing dip in the clear waters of our sheltered coves.

There’s lots of beach safetly and wild-swimming help & advice on the Wild Swimming blog. If you need any more help, tweet our NT Sport guru Rob: @NTSport