Walk - Frenchman's Creek

3.0 miles (4.8 km)

Helford village car park - TR12 6JX Helford car park

Easy - Paths and tracks through woodland and farmland, and quiet roads. There are some short stretches of ascent and descent.

A short walk through woodland and farmland above a remote, romantic creek on the southern side of the Helford River. Beside Frenchman's Creek it is easy to imagine that the call of a waterbird is really the whistle of Daphne du Maurier's French hero, summoning his English mistress to his Breton pirate ship, and that the lapping of the waves is the sound of his first mate rowing in to fetch her. At Kestle Barton, an ancient Cornish farmstead above the creek, there is an art gallery that is open to the public in the summer months. The Riverside Cafe at the start of the walk serves homemade cakes in a Victorian tearoom.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Trevarn B&B

Comfortable B/B. Convenient to coastal path and excellent village amenities. A warm welcome awaits.

The Sail Loft B&B at Point, Helford

Wonderful river views from the old Sail Loft in picturesque Helford. On the South West Coast Path, close to the foot ferry and the thatched, waterside Shipwright Arms. Delightful accommodation for 2.

St Anthony Holiday Cottages Ltd, St. Anthony-in-Meneage

Self Catering accommodationo available for short breaks or by the week at St. Anthony-in-Meneage, by the Gillan Creek ferry landing. On the South West Coast Path.

The Five Pilchards Inn, Porthallow

Situated at the halfway point of the Coast Path making it a great place to stop for a bite to eat whilst enjoying the picturesque village.  Delicious home cooked food as well as B&B, with a great pub atmosphere.  

The Westcott, Falmouth

We are a friendly, family-run guest house offering good-quality, comfortable accommodation a few minutes from the South West Coast Path. Free wi-fi, AA 4* and a great breakfast to start the day.

Falmouth Lodge Backpackers, Falmouth

Convenient, comfortable and friendly – Falmouth Lodge is only 2 mins from the SWCP – as well as only 5 mins from town for supper, and the train station for starts and finishes.

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Trebah Gardens

Sub-tropical garden leading to its own private beach. Adventure Play area & Children's Trails.1st class, award winning destination Cafe.

Telstar Taxi & Private Hire, Goonhilly Downs

The Lizard peninsula is a remote part of Cornwall, public transport can be sparse. We are ideally located to assist with one way South West Coast Path walkers.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park at Helford walk down the road to the river, carrying on ahead past the bridge and taking the public byway signed up a lane on the left.

The pretty waterside village at Helford consists of a handful of thatched whitewashed cottages clustered around a ferry crossing beneath wooded slopes. There was a settlement here in medieval times, first recorded in 1230, and the ferry and ford are thought to date from around then. There are also records of medieval oyster beds in the river. Later there was a lively fishing trade, and the boathouses and fish cellars still stand beside the creek today.

  1. Follow the footpath through the woods, following the KB waymarkers towards Kestle Barton, and carry on uphill along the hedge through the field beyond.
  2. At the top right-hand corner fork take the track ahead between the buildings, crossing the road at Kestle Barton to follow the footpath ahead through more woodland, down to the creek.

Kestle Barton was built in the seventeenth century on a medieval site first documented around 1300. The organic farm preserves precious habitats for a wide range of wildlife, and the barns have been converted into an arts centre. The exhibitions in the gallery are changed every month, and there is a lively programme of workshops and other arts events. For more information see www.kestlebarton.co.uk

  1. Reaching the river, turn right to carry on along the permissive path above it.

Daphne du Maurier wrote her novel 'Frenchman's Creek' in 1941, setting it during the reign of Charles II. It tells the story of a high society wife, Dona St Columb, who finds her London life hideously shallow and her loving husband unbearably dull. After a childish escapade in the city almost goes wrong, she takes her children and flees to her husband's Cornish estate, above the creek.

Jean-Benoit Aubéry is a fellow rebel, equally jaded by the empty lifestyle of the courtiers across the Channel in France, and he is making his own entertainment through capturing the cargoes of English merchant ships as they bring home their lavish booty from foreign ports. St Columb's manservant is one of Aubéry's own men, and the pirate has been using the empty house as his base. Wandering through the woods soon after her arrival, Dona stumbles upon the pirate ship anchored in the creek. Before she can decide what to do about it, a member of Aubéry's crew captures her and brings her aboard for his master to deal with.

Recognising that they are two of a kind, Dona and Aubéry set up a secret liaison. The Frenchman teaches Dona to fish and to cook her catch over a fire. She later disguises herself as a ship's lad and joins him on one of his pirate missions, plundering a ship belonging to one of her own neighbours. Things go badly wrong, and it looks as though Dona's lover will hang for his sins unless she can do something to stop it.

Du Maurier fell in love with Cornwall after holidaying in the county as a child, and during the war she and her children moved to Fowey (see the Lankelly & Menabilly Walk). Many of her novels were set in Cornwall, including her most well-known book, 'Rebecca', which featured Menabilly as the famous Manderley. She also wrote the non-fiction book, 'Vanishing Cornwall', in which she and her photographer son set about capturing the spirit of a county that she knew was about to change forever.

  1. When the path forks, ignore the creekside path to take the right-hand one above it, travelling uphill beside the hedge. Turn right on the track at the top of the field.
  2. Turn left on the lane at the end of the field and then right along the permissive path signed to Helford via Penarvon Cove, taking the lane downhill to the secluded sandy cove. Turn right to follow the path behind the beach, bearing left on the far side to head towards the point.

Above Penarvon Cove are the wooded slopes of Pengwedhen ('head of the fair stream' in Cornish). This was donated to the National Trust by the daughters of Col C F Jerram. Sailing down the Helford River, the Colonel had spotted a 'For Sale' sign. Horrified at the idea that a post-war housing estate might be built in this tranquil haven, he bought the 34-acre piece of land, building himself a small and private bungalow here in 1926.

At the bottom of the path is a small stone building, trimmed with Constantine granite and Delabole slate, known as St Francis's Chapel. It was built in 1930 and dedicated to the memory of Dr Leo O'Neill, brother to Sybil Jerram. O'Neill, too, was a yachtsman who had loved to sail on the Helford River.

  1. Follow the footpath signs between houses to return to Helford village, detouring left to visit Helford Point, where there is a ferry landing.
  2. In Helford village walk past the pub and the village stores, alongside the river, turning left after the bridge to take the road back up to the car park.

Public transport

The OTS 323 bus travels between Helston and Mullion, stopping at the Helford car park. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

In the Helford car park at the start of the walk

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