What is it about The Helford River that I love so much?

I found out why I always feel like I’m ‘somewhere completely different’ when I go to The Lizard.  It’s because it used to be a part of Africa!  Think I’m bonkers now don’t you?

Our guide for the day, Tim, from Kurokayaking told us that this far tip of West Cornwall, which sticks out into the Atlantic, had once, like hundreds of millions years, been a part of Africa and when African and European plates shifted, this whole bit butted up against Cornwall.  At one time there would have been mountains too, which have now eroded.  The thing is, it looks different, feels different and everything growing there seems a bit different too!  Anyone who has been to Kynance Cove will understand what I mean, even if I’m giving my own version of Tim’s facts here. 

It was so blissfully quiet going down Port Navas Creek, onto the Helford Passage and turning onto Frenchmans Creek.  The paddling was easy and the October weather was warm.  As we glided along, Tim told us stories about the people, birds, art and geography.

The birdlife was phenomenal.  I didn’t before realise my love or knowledge of birds and I was reminded of my Dad, sharing his knowledge with me, and how I have treasured this.  Close up we saw egrets, herons flying like something prehistoric, ducks with their smiling faces, oyster catchers with their little red legs and kingfishers being all small and flashy with their iridescence giving away their hiding places.

We saw small, ancient, twisted oaks, packed along the banks of the river, with their roots growing down through the rock and feeding on salt water.  That and the wind making them twisted.  Good for boat building according to Tim.

On the corner to Frenchman’s Creek we got a sneaky peak at an eye catching cabin, perched right up on the cliff.  Small and quaint, surrounded by whispering pine trees, I could imagine being snuggled up in front of a fire.  Equally I could imagine being completed spooked in the dark with creaking trees and wondering if eyes were watching me.

The cabin was built by someone I had not heard about before and felt excited to find out all I could.  Just bobbing about in our kayak we listened to his story of running away from school at Eton, gun running, war, art and women.  Fascinating.  I was so in the moment, I could  absolutely picture this adventurous soul building his cabin and hiding out there while he waited for his smuggling ways to catch up with him. 

His name was ‘Powders’, Percy ‘Powders’ Thurban and his cabin, built in the 1930’s is named after him.  It’s National Trust now and a holiday let. 

Powders discovered a talent for painting later in his life.  He painted mostly for his friends apparently and has left quite a legacy.  He built a boat called the Iron Duke, which is rusting away in the river, beneath his cabin at the bottom of the cliffs.  It’s got a powerful vibe and tells it’s own story.

Further down the Creek where the sun shone, sheltered from the wind and the sounds were clear and crisp we spotted a dreamy little cove with a flat grassy bank.  This is the place that Daphne DuMaurier’s husband brought her after their wedding and they moored in complete bliss, peace and solitude and where she fell in love with the river, inspiring her well known book ‘Frenchman’s Creek’.  Tim started to tell us the story, and we were captivated.  Cleverly he told us just enough to know we just HAVE to read the book.  Du Maurier later lived across the river so she had a constant view of Frenchman’s Creek.

All along the river banks there are fallen trees, which are good fun to paddle under.  Some of them really are natures architectural treasures.  Tim told us that Kylie Minogue had been staying at the Trelowarren Estate in the summer of 2012 and made the video for ‘Flower’ in the woods, on the river banks and fell in love with one of these fallen trees, which is clearly seen in the video with Kylie, elegantly, lying on it.  Do you like the picture of Rachel and I doing our own ‘elegant’ sprawl KylieStylie?  Here is a link to Kylie’s video on Youtube  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et-RT1INf7c

This is the arty bit, with a bit of geology, there’s a whole lot of science to come in my next blog!

Does it make you fancy booking a trip?  If so, we can highly recommend http://korukayaking.co.uk/ – booking a guide is a must.

Love Janie x

P.S. Our Easy Breezy Days and Stays offer means you can stay in Nook or Cranny (both with their own private courtyard gardens and hot tubs) for 2 nights bed and breakfast for £270.  Book by calling 01726 844881 or emailing janie@lowerbarns.co.uk.

Ben and Mike discovering Percy "Powders" Thurbans boat 'The Iron Duke' rusting away over many years on the Helford River

Ben and Mike discovering Percy “Powders” Thurbans boat ‘The Iron Duke’ rusting away over many years on the Helford River

Janie and Rachel pretending to be Kylie Minogue while still on their kayak on the Helford River

Janie and Rachel pretending to be Kylie Minogue while still on their kayak on the Helford River

Janie and Rachel learning about the salt water twisted oaks on the Helford River banks

Janie and Rachel learning about the salt water twisted oaks on the Helford River banks