Canoeing to Cotehele

While working as an intern on the National Trust’s Natural Childhood Project and with Project Wild Thing, you spend the majority of your time encouraging children to go outdoors whilst yourself sitting inside at a desk. As both projects aim to reconnect children with nature, spreading awareness of the benefits of spending quality time playing and exploring outdoors, I decided to head outside and gain some practical experience.

Borrowing canoes and lifejackets, a group of friends and I set off down the Tamar with a handful of adopted nautical terms and rudimentary knowledge of how tides worked. Much like learning on the job as an intern, we figured we’d pick it up as we went along.

Rowing in time with each other takes a while to get the hang of, and with the mid-September winds working against us, it was hard and tiring work. This felt a small price to pay, however, for the experience of being totally immersed in nature. The childish joys we’d forgotten came back with a rush of laughter as we ended up soaked from splashing each other’s boats. We ruined our shoes by trudging through a muddy riverbank purely for the sake of it. Even though our arms were aching, we savoured every minute of cruising alongside the green riverbank, dodging gaggles of Canadian geese and a foolhardy paddleboarder dressed only in his underwear.

Muddy Feet

Getting stuck in: muddy feet along the banks of the Tamar © Julia Bush

By mid-afternoon, the tide was turning and our energy was quickly draining. We even considered stopping our journey short and pulling up to a grassy bank to rest. However, as we followed a bend in the river we caught sight of the Cotehele estate. The final twenty minutes were our toughest yet, but we were spurred on by the thought of ice creams and the leftover pizza that we’d brought with us and dutifully kept dry.

We pulled our boats up onto the bank and collapsed in front of the tea shop, giddy with endorphins, fresh air and pride in our achievement. Before long, we’d forgotten our calloused hands and aching shoulders, and were eager to be back on the water.

With the wind and tide in our favour, we breezed back. 

Julia Bush is a Campaigns, Research and Policy Intern at the National Trust, working on the Natural Childhood Project and with the Wild Network. You can follow Julia on twitter: @JuliaBush.

Project Wild Thing is an ambitious, feature-length documentary that takes a funny and revealing look at the increasingly disparate connection between children and nature. For more information visit

For more information on visiting Cotehele, visit


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