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No. 20 Go paddling

Children paddling in Lake Windermere at Wray Castle, Cumbria, in autumn
Children paddling in Lake Windermere at Wray Castle, Cumbria, in autumn | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Whether you're by the sea or at a stream, lake or river, there are a number of ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities you can enjoy, but paddling is one of the most fun. Have a go and see what you think.


Paddling might be one of the easiest challenges on the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ list, but it's also one of the most satisfying. It’s so refreshing to cool down on a hot summer’s day by dipping your hands and feet into refreshing, cool water.

Choose your spot

It’s a good idea to find an area that looks as though it’s not too difficult to walk in. If the sea or stream where you’re paddling has stones or slippery sections, you may prefer to wear jelly shoes. However, paddling barefoot is a far more enjoyable experience, and it has the added benefit of helping you to complete no. 24 of our ’50 things’ - go barefoot.

How does it feel?

Once you’ve found a good spot, take a few minutes to enjoy the sensation of the water running over your feet and legs. What can you feel? Perhaps there are fine grains of sand slipping between your toes and gently cleaning your feet. Wriggle your toes in and out of the sand, what does it feel like? Is it a satisfying sensation?

Or maybe you’ve chosen an area that has lots of small pebbles underfoot. Can you dig your feet into the pebbles? Are they smooth or rough in texture? Are they slippery or covered in lichen?

And don’t forget that paddling includes your hands too. Your fingertips are sensitive to feeling far more things than other parts of your body. Swish your hands through the water and see how it feels. Rub your finger and thumb tips together under the water and on the sand and stones beneath your feet - do you like this feeling?

Girl paddling on the beach at Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset
Girl paddling on the beach at Brownsea Island | © National Trust Images/John Millar

What can you see?

Are there fish nearby? Can you keep as still as a stone and see if they will come to investigate your feet or hands? Are there any other creatures around? Maybe you can spot a crab? In some places you might even see birds diving for their lunch.

Top tips

  • If you’re in the sea, pay attention to tide times even when you're an expert paddler.
  • It also helps if you know how deep the water is - don't go too deep.
  • Watch out for rocks or creatures like crabs that might be in the sand when you're paddling. And look out for slippery seaweed too.
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