Row, row, row your boat

Based in Cornwall and passionate about paddling, Sal Erskine is the National Trust’s Canoeing Development Manager. Howard Bristol asked Sal about her connection with the coast and what feeds her love of canoeing.

Kayaking at Mullion Cove, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images/Ben Selway.

Kayaking at Mullion Cove, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images/Ben Selway.

What is your favourite place on the coast?

It’s really hard to choose. Can I have the entire South West Coast Path? But then that leaves out mind-blowingly beautiful places in Northumberland, or Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. My favourite coastal weather is much easier to say – I love a storm. The raw interface of land and sea is incredibly invigorating (from land, not kayak obviously). Lashing rain, howling wind, resolved by that enveloping silence when you dash inside and shut the door.

What does the coast mean to you?

It’s a huge and significant part of my life. The coast has a magnetic draw, and I am fortunate to find myself there both for work and play. Paddling, sailing and walking the same section of coast is intriguing – you never stop making discoveries with different states of tide, weather and season. As a young child I went on holiday to the coast between Salcombe and Dartmouth in south Devon a lot. Again extremes, from loving the heady coconut-scented gorse on a sunny day, to the impossible task of getting socks and shoes back onto wet sandy feet. During one of these early holidays I realised that some people got to care and maintain the coast path, and a seed was sown for my future career.

Kayaking around Thurlestone Rock off South Milton Sands, Devon. ©National Trust Images/Ben Selway

Kayaking around Thurlestone Rock off South Milton Sands, Devon.
©National Trust Images/Ben Selway

Where are the main coastal places to go canoeing with the National Trust?

If you haven’t got your own kit or you want some coaching, local wildlife knowledge and a group activity, we work with some really great activity providers to get people out on the water around the coasts of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Wales – There are lots of options; estuary paddles in places like Helford or Fowey, or coastal excursions from Mullion Harbour, Studland or Stackpole. Depending on the location you could be in a Canadian canoe, kayak or sit on top.

If you are considering paddling on the coast with your own kit you need enough knowledge e.g. weather, tides, rules of the road at sea, correct kit, to risk assess the journey you are planning.

What’s the best thing about canoeing?

You get a different perspective of the landscape you are in, a huge dose of fresh air – and maybe a little wet. It’s a great opportunity to observe wildlife, learn about the history of an area, and get some exercise.

What do you enjoy in particular?

I enjoy being well away from a mobile phone or computer and completely in the moment.

  • What do you love about canoeing? Let us know in the comment box at the end of this post.

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