The secluded Helford River estuary in Cornwall offers
47 kilometres of unspoilt shoreline.
sea levels created by melt waters during the Ice Age 10,000 years ago resulted
in the beautiful Helford landscape which visitors enjoy today.
Estuary. Image - Pamela Tompsett and Helford VMCA|
Helford area is less rugged and gentler in topography than other parts of Cornish
Helford boasts a variety of wildlife habitats from rocky shores
and reefs to sandbars and mud flats.
species of fish and shellfish have been recorded in the estuary including Sea
Bass, Cuttlefish' Lobsters and Crabs.
The mouth of the estuary is also
home to Sea Anemones, Star-Fish, Sponges Sea Urchins, and Sea Squirts.
is world famous for its oysters - in fact the history of oyster fishing in the
area dates back to Roman times.
Traditionally the wild oysters are harvested
from November 1, having bred and propagated naturally over the summer in the estuary's
relatively warm water.
Oysters have an interesting sex life - they can change
gender or become hermaphrodites for a period of time!
They are farmed at
about three or four years old.
These shellfish are an indication that
the estuary is rich in marine life, something that makes it an ideal place for
a spot of rock pooling.
Rock pooling and birding
is perhaps the last chance to go rock pooling during the year - and Helford is
one of the best places in the country to do this.
When the tides are out
at Helford, the mud flats and rock pools are exposed - a good time to get out
and about looking for interesting marine life.
Look out for crabs, lumpsuckers
(a greyish blue fish with a large sucker on its underbelly), and different varieties
of sea-weed including red, green and brown.
The sands and mud of the
estuary boast huge numbers of invertebrates, and make rich feeding grounds for
estuarine birds especially at low tide, including the Little Egret.
bird is most commonly associated with a tropical climate, and some naturalists
believe that global warming could be helping them to flourish in parts of the
Prior to 1957 there had been just 23 recorded sightings
ever of this bird in Britain.
Today there are thought to be over 1,000
Little Egrets around Britain and Ireland at any one time.
During the autumn
their numbers swell along the coast with the arrival of birds from the continent
- so a visit at this time of year is highly recommended.
Some birds stay
all year whilst others are purely autumn and winter migrants.
Estuary is also great for an encounter with seals, which can be seen throughout
the year at the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek.
Created in 1958 the sanctuary
deals with sick and abandoned seals and pups as well as injured birds.
of the seals are released back into their natural environment, but some remain
at the sanctuary to be cared for long term.
It's a great place to get an
introduction to some of our larger marine creatures.
There's also a chance
to see other creatures such as Sea Lions and Otters.
images courtesy and copyright of Pamela Tompsett and Helford VMCA.
images copyright of the National Seal Sanctuary.