The Helford Estuary

South of the Helford Walk

Escape the crowds on this walk along wooded creeks

This walk starts in the carpark situated just above the village of Helford (NOT Helford Passage) on the south side of the Helford River, or you could catch the ferry across from the aforementioned Helford Passage.

Descend the lane towards the village looking out for a footpath on the left signed to Halvose. The path follows a stream through woodland, climbing to a junction of paths where you need to go right, ignoring a footpath on the left shortly after. You will come out on to a minor road, which needs to be crossed before heading across a field into the village of Manaccan.

Hidden away from the main tourist routes around Cornwall, this pretty little village is home to Cornwall first community owned pub, and very good it is to! Like several of the buildings in the village, it has a thatched roof, rare in Cornwall where local slate is predominant. Our walk takes us through the churchyard passing the fig tree growing out of the tower, it is said to be at least 250 years old. Exit through a gate on the far side and cross onto a bridleway. A short way along which I footpath goes off to the right.

The path descends and enters woodland above the Durra stream. Cross the stream to reach a road. Turn left here and then left again at the head of the creek. The road clings to the side of Gillan Creek, with a short diversion passing through a short stretch of National Trust woodland, a pleasant place to rest under the arching trees.

You will soon reach the waterside hamlet of St Anthony in Menage, consisting of a few buildings and a fine church. Legend tells of the church being built by a group of shipwrecked Norman sailors, driven ashore in the creek, and experts have stated that the tower is not built from Cornish granite, but from stone that might have come from across the channel. The name Menage is supposed to mean ‘land of monks’ and coincidently, Manaccan is said to mean ‘church of the monks’, which would suggest at some time there was a monastery of some sort in the area.

Follow the South West Coast Path from the village as it heads out onto Dennis Head. Dinas is the Cornish name for a fort and it is believed that both an Iron Age fort and a Civil War fort have stood on the headland, and keen eyes might spot the remains of gun emplacements. Soon you will leave the views to the south behind and your eye will be drawn to the mouth of the Helford. Keep an eye out for Morgwar, Cornwall’s very own Nessie!, said to frequent these waters, but don’t mistake him for divers who enjoy exploring the wrecks that lie across the mouth of the river.

The Helford River is not only part of Cornwall's National Landscape, but it is also a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. There are 25 miles of shoreline with a wide range of habitats from the rocky cliffs at Dennis Head to the muddy creeks such as Frenchman’s and Gweek, where the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is situated. Underwater there are important maerl beds (a small calcified seaweed that looks a bit like coral) and meadows of eelgrass, a flowering plant that can be a habitat for seahorses.

The path hugs the coastline reaching the Bosahan estate at its eponymous cove. The estates gardens are open to the public in the summer months but are not accessible from the coast path. Across the water you should be able to spot both Trebah and Glendurgan, two other gardens you can visit while in the area. Continue through woodland until you come to Kennel Cottages, built to house customs men in the early 1800s when creeks like those on the Helford would be ideal places to bring smuggled goods ashore. There’s also the remains of a limekiln here, a wonderful example with a castellated top and ‘eyes’ either side of the main arch.

From here follow the lane up to a junction and continue right through the old fishing settlement of Treath and back to the carpark. If you fancy exploring Helford, or grab a drink or something to eat, continue on the same way you started the walk, crossing the stream and heading back down the other side of the creek.

From Helford, you could if you wished, also explore Frenchman’s Creek, a little further upstream. Made famous by the author Daphne Du Maurier, it had previously featured as a short story by her friend Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, who retold the true story of Capt Bligh (of Bounty fame) being arrested as a spy while surveying the area. If you don’t fancy walking any further, the creek can be explored on the water with Koru Kayak, or explore the whole Helford by boat.

Walk length approx. 5 miles (8km)

OS Explorer Map 103

Public Toilets at carpark in Helford

Walk created by Walkaboutwest August 2020

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