Helford River

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The Helford River seen from Trebah gardens

The Helford River is a river estuary in western Cornwall, fed by a number of small streams into its many creeks.

There are seven creeks on the Helford; from west to east these are Ponsontuel Creek, Mawgan Creek, Polpenwith Creek, Polwheveral Creek, Frenchman's Creek, Port Navas Creek, and Gillan Creek, the best known of which is Frenchman's Creek, made famous by Daphne du Maurier in her novel of the same name. A little further up river is Tremayne Quay, built for a visit by Queen Victoria in the 1840s which she then declined to make.

In form, the Helford River is a ria; a flooded river valley formed in the Ice Age.

Industry and tourism

The river has long been an important industrial and agricultural marine highway serving local mines, farms and quarries as well as the local fishing industry. Most of this industry has now gone, although commercial fishermen still use the river to land their catch amounting to about 1 million pounds sterling a year and the oyster fishery is being revived. The industries have largely been replaced by tourist activities, in particular those relating to the sea, although at the head of the river the landscape is dominated by the extensive operations of Gweek Boatyard and the base of marine drilling and construction company Fugro Seacore, although the latter has moved its main base to Falmouth. These businesses now dominate the head of the river where once coal and timber were landed. On the opposite bank is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, where injured seals are nursed back to health before being released to the freedom of the Atlantic Ocean. The traditional 'heavy' industries have been replaced by 'lighter' businesses catering for the many tourists who visit the area.

The area falls into a Special Area of Conservation, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The growth of eco and sustainable tourism has seen the development of tourism by Helford River Expeditions focusing on the natural surroundings. The National Trust play an important role with their strategy. Natural England (formerly English Nature) play an important part in protecting and monitoring the area. The river is unique in that it is not wholly managed by a specific port or river authority but that it brings together major environmental groups and organisations interested in its, (the rivers) protection and development and introducing and recommending safe guards, such as Helford River Marine Conservation Group.[1]

Villages, ferries and harbours

The main areas of settlement that adjoin the river are Gweek, Port Navas, Helford village, Helford Passage and Durgan. Gweek is larger than the others and has a larger permanent population, with more businesses, shops and a pub, The Gweek Inn. Helford village, on the south bank, has a shop/Post Office, Helford River Sailing Club and pub, The Shipwrights. Helford Passage, on the North bank, has a pub, The Ferryboat. Helford and Helford Passage are linked by a passenger (and pedal cycle) ferry which has existed for over 300 years.

Port Navas is home to the Duchy Oyster Farm and has at its focal point the Grade II listed Port Navas Quay. The quay, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, has been allowed to become degraded and damaged. A campaign group has been set up to protect and preserve Port Navas Quay and to reverse associated environmental damage in the Helford River Area: this is Preserve Port Navas Quay.[2] Where once granite was loaded on to ships bound eastwards for building some of the country's major buildings and roads the oyster fishery is expanding and there are moorings for yachts.

Further reading

  • Reynolds, Ann (2000) Helford Estuary Historic Audit; for the Cornwall Archaeological Unit. Truro: Cornwall County Council ISBN 1-898166-54-4

Outside links

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about Helford River)