In the heart of England's smallest county lies a massive nature reserve, Rutland Water. Whether you're keen on cycling round it, watching the birds surrounding it, or paddling on it, its a fabulous place to escape to in the English countryside. Getting on the water is particularly wonderful, be it by motorboat, sailing boat or something smaller and self-propelled. If you want to get outside, enjoy the scenery and splash around, then paddlesports are the way to go, and Rutland Watersports provide a great base.
With a circumference of 23 miles in total, the reservoir is more than big enough to provide a good challenge for a day's paddling. You're sharing the water with sailing boats and craft with engines, so do have to be a bit sensible in a small canoe / kayak, but it's not hard to keep your eyes open.
Over at the Watersports centre there are many options. They run lessons, giving you the chance to take to the waters as a novice and learn your bow from your stern rudder (or simply how not to capsize!). If you are a bit more confident, you can hire a canoe or kayak for reasonable prices, and take them out for good long spells. They have a good range of craft available, as well as the kit to go with them. They also provide a launching site if you have your own boat, but do still charge for this.
Being out on the water is fabulous. The reservoir has two main wings, so if you do go out of the safe 'pen' area, you'll find yourself with different areas to explore and a lot of shoreline to cover. It is much windier in the centre, so on a blustery day you should be careful.
Paddleboarding is one newer sport which is taking off in the area. You're on what looks like a giant surfboard, with what resembles a punt pole in your hand, balancing ferociously with your thighs as your try to steer.
The reservoir attracts plenty of wildlife. Over the West side is an official bird-watching site and centre, for anyone particularly interested in this part of nature. If you paddle gently then you might encounter many of the birds in and around the water itself.
If you have hired a boat from Rutland Watersports, then you are limited to a reasonably small part of the waterspace. They gaily tell you it's the size of five football pitches, but 20 minutes is more than enough to loop the space. In a reasonable wind it will take longer one way round than the other, and can be quite tricky further out in the middle, but it's certainly not likely to be problematic. There are buoys and a pontoon to mark the theoretic boundary, but a bit further out is the actual sign.
Parking is through a ticketed gate, but hiring a boat will refund the cost of the ticket. The centre has its own changing facilities, and even includes a hose in the changing room for spraying down wetsuits and the like after use.
You probably need a car to get there, but you can go to oakham, the closest town (just a couple of miles away), where there are reasonable rail connections.