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A walk around Helford and Frenchman's Creek

Updated: May 23, 2023

Last week we took advantage of a glorious autumn day to do one of our favourite walks around Helford and Frenchman’s Creek. It's a relatively short walk of around three miles but takes you through woodland, farmland and some beautiful riverside scenery. The area is also known for its wildlife and is home to a wide variety of birds and fish.

The Helford River

We began at the main car park in Helford and walked down the hill into the village. The settlement dates back to the medieval period and it was a thriving port until the river silted up and trade moved elsewhere. These days, with its thatched cottages and quirky boathouses, it's easily one of the prettiest village in Cornwall. Helford, on the other side, is an excellent spot for water sports and there's a little ferry that takes passengers between the two.

We crossed the footbridge which affords an excellent view towards the mouth of the river and Carrick Roads beyond. We then made our way towards the Shipwrights Arms - an excellent spot for a bite to eat in case you were wondering - and then out of the village and down to Penarvon Cove. It's a small, shingle beach which overlooked by an impossibly pretty whitewashed cottage and is usually quiet even in the summer.

From here you can carry on or take a little detour through the woods at Pengwedhen. They’re particularly lovely at this time of year with their carpet of fallen leaves but in spring they put on a wonderful display of bluebells. The woods are also home to a tiny chapel built in 1933 and dedicated to St Francis.

Beautiful and tranquil Frenchman's Creek

From here it's on to Frenchman’s Creek. Even if you haven’t visited Frenchman’s Creek you probably know of it from Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. The beautiful and spirited Lady Dona St Colomb flees the boredom of Restoration London and her doltish husband for his country estate near Helford. There she meets the dashing French pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubery, who’s been secretly mooring his ship in Frenchman’s Creek and raiding the Cornish coast. It's not my favourite du Maurier novel but, as usual, she's masterful at evoking atmosphere and a sense of place.

The last time we were here it was the height of summer and we were on our paddleboards but even then there was a beautiful stillness in the creek. Last week we saw no fellow walkers, only a few waterbirds.

The path skirts the edge of the water and there's a crossing at the head of the creek where you can walk down the other side to Within Quay. We then doubled back on ourselves to continue the walk back across farmland via Kestle Barton - an ancient farmstead and now an art gallery and garden. The gardens are planted with Piet Rudolf-inspired swathes of verbena and rudbeckia in the summer and there's always an interesting exhibition.

On the way back we stopped at Holy Mackerel, the cafe next to the car park, for an excellent crab sandwich. It's closed during the winter months but if you’re here during the season it's well worth a visit.

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