Helford Marine Conservation Group (HMCG) AGM

At the group’s AGM on Saturday 11 March, after 12 years as Chair, Dave Thompson announced he was stepping down. Dave’s huge contribution over the years was acknowledged by the meeting and the search started for a new Chair.

Dr Pamela Tompsett, a founding member of the HMCG, was recognised for her valuable contribution to the conservation of the Helford over 36 years. Pamela said: “I little thought when I started shore work in 1986 and then took over organisation of the new group from our marine guru Stella, that I would be involved so many years later. Pressures on the environment were not uppermost in people’s minds in the 1980s and public awareness and education were vital. It’s so encouraging to see that the Helford MCG is still going strong after so many years – long may it continue!”

Guest speaker Matt Slater, Marine Conservation Officer at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, showed the group members the amazing marine life of the Fal and Helford rivers and the changes that have occurred over the last decade. The members were also treated to a Gear Farm pasty. 

Helford Rockpooling


Shoresearch is a citizen science project run by Cornwall Wildlife Trust that aims to improve our understanding of marine life within and around Cornwall’s Marine Protected Areas. Volunteers are provided training on shore identification and are encouraged to take part in organised events and to run their own surveys.

See what we found in rook-pooling with Shoresearch on Helford Passage beach at Christmas:

Click thumbnails to enlarge images

Helford River Rockpooling

A hint of warm weather and we flock to the beach and where nicer than the little beaches around the Helford where the dog can come too and there is a wealth of fascinating wildlife to see in our rockpools. 

Spiny starfish. Image: Ruth Williams.
Spiny starfish. Image: Ruth Williams.

Don’t forget our Seashore code.

  • Please leave animals and seaweeds where you find them, only take photos home
  • Always gently replace overturned rocks as you found them
  • Make sure a shell is empty before taking it home
  • Be careful on the shore, as rocks can be very slippery
  • Check the tides and keep away from the cliffs
  • Take your litter home with you or bin it

Helford Display Board for Your House or Garden?

You can have your own display board for a small donation, contact coordinator for details. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seaweed Fun

Sunday 16th March saw a group of us down on the beach at Prisk, with scientific adviser Angie Gall to have our first ‘teach on the beach’ session to improve our identification skills ready for the summer season.  We concentrated on Seaweeds this time, gathering a good selection of species to take back with us to identify and press.  There will be more of these sessions to come so keep an eye on our Practical Volunteers tab under Events for more.

New Board Installed at Durgan!

David Thomson and Charles Richardson have installed one of the New Interpretation Boards at Durgan, immediately creating interest as you can see from the photo.

DSCN3644 DSCN3641

HVMCA Information Boards

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area in 2013 we are replacing the old HMVCA boards around the river.  There are currently 11 of these boards at key access points on both sides of the river.  This is the new style of board, designed by Sarah McCartney  at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and incorporates special features of the river-above the water, between the tides and below the water.  We are hoping to fund all the new boards from sponsorship and are most grateful to several local companies who have agreed to do this.  However, we do need more and would invite anyone who is interested in sponsoring one or more boards to contact us for details.  The name of the sponsor would appear on their board.

HVMCA board for web

Maerl discovery

Dragonet in Helford Maerl by Lin Baldock copy
Dragonet in Helford Maerl by Lin Baldock

Cornwall maerl 2012 report

Kayak Helford River Clean Up a Great Success

Fishing nets, fuel cans, plastic bags, sacking and even a garden fork were all dragged from the Helford River, along with other assorted rubbish, by volunteers from the Helford Marine Conservation Group on Saturday 10th November.

The kayak rubbish pick up was declared a brilliant success by organiser Jes Hirons, despite the showery conditions and cold wind. Using kayaks enabled the 16 volunteers to reach the more inaccessible inlets, pick up the rubbish, which was then taken on aboard by the Orca Sea Safaris rib, which also provided rescue cover.

“This was a very successful day”, said Jes. “Not only were we able to help clean up a very conservationally important area, but we also had a lot of fun in doing so!”

Jes is author of a report detailing the day’s findings, it is hoped that this litter pick is going to be repeated year on year to provide meaningful data on litter on the Helford.

Fabulous Autumn Sighting

Anita and Mike Langshaw were treated to a magnificent sighting of an Osprey whilst kayaking in Frenchman’s Creek on the 1st of October. They saw it fly from a tree being closely followed by crows. It landed again but flew off before Mike could get his camera out for a good shot, although he has managed some of rather poor quality. It had a fish in its talons. It must have been stopping off for a feed on its journey to West Africa. Every year in Spring and Autumn there is a slim chance of seeing one of these birds on their migration route from Scotland to Africa.

On the 19th of October they again were lucky (is it luck or persistence? The more time you spend on the river the more you see!) They saw a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins (approx 4) Mike says it is a number of years since he has seen them in the estuary. They were opposite Grebe Beach and seemed to be feeding but they were breaching as well.

Please send me any of your sightings from in and around the Helford via our contact page and I will put them up on the blog

Shore search reveals stunning marine wildlife around the Cornish coast!

Volunteers from Cornwall Wildlife Trust were recently treated to some incredible finds during a county-wide survey of life on some of our most important rocky shores. The ‘shore search’ survey was carried out at St Agnes, Polzeath, Looe, Fowey and Helford over four days, which saw some of the lowest spring tides of the year.

The survey uses a new method that allows data to be inputted into a national marine recorders database. Each year it will be repeated and the information gathered will provide a really useful tool for monitoring the health of our shores.

The Trust’s Matt Slater and Lisa Rennocks carried out this important work with the help of dedicated volunteers from all five of Cornwall’s Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs).

Matt Slater, Your Shore Project Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“As well as enjoying spectacularly low tides we also had beautiful weather every day for the entire four days of surveying. It was a great opportunity to look closely at life on the shore and everyone involved enjoyed identifying a wealth of species, including many species they had never seen before”

The volunteers were fortunate to have been joined by marine experts from the Porcupine Marine Natural History Society who were in Cornwall on a field trip.

Help was also provided by staff from Natural England and by marine biology staff from Cornwall College, Newquay. Their expertise added to the survey’s success and an incredible diversity of marine life was catalogued.

Matt continues,

“Highlights of the surveys included the exciting discovery at Polzeath of a rare species of mollusc, potentially an ‘egg cowrie’. We also found tiny species of cushion star with beautiful orange markings amongst corraline algae, together with huge red dahlia and strawberry anemones”

Dahlia anemone at Polzeath VMCA. Image: Matt Slater

During the survey at Trevaunance cove, St Agnes, two specimens of a tiny spiny crab known as ‘toothed crab’ were found and at both St Agnes and Polzeath. Also discovered was a very rarely recorded bizarre trumpet-like stalked jellyfish (Trust).

Continuing the survey at Fowey and the Helford, a startling diversity of species were found including many species of delicate red seaweeds with exotic names such as beautiful eyelash weed, bunnies ears, and winged weed.

At Prisk cove, part of the Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, the team found a tiny sea slug called Berthella plumata and gaudily marked shrimps.

While on the shore at Readymoney Cove, Fowey, highlights included tiny seahorse-like worm pipefish, giant volcano barnacles and a tiny, rarely seen sea cucumber.

Matt says,

“I was impressed with the health of the shores surveyed; all five of the shores are home to immense diversity and are incredibly valuable to the health of our marine ecosystems. Beneath every rock lives a multitude of fascinating and astonishing marine creatures – with bizarre alien body forms and lifestyles.”

An important part of the survey work was to look for invasive species that are not native to Cornish shores but that have become established over the last few decades.

Lisa Rennocks, Investigate Invasives Project Officer, Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“Fortunately, to date the shores we surveyed do not seem to be adversely affected by invasive species. However, there is concern that there are increasing numbers of species arriving in the UK and at the Trust we feel that the situation definitely needs to be monitored. Japanese seaweed is now common on all Cornish shores, having been introduced in the 1950s it has spread rapidly. While another species, harpoon weed, has reached many shores and was present in large numbers at Prisk Cove, Helford”

The Your Shore Project has been set up by Cornwall Wildlife Trust to work with Voluntary Marine conservation Areas (VMCAs) in Cornwall, to allow access to its rich and diverse marine environment. The project is being funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with a grant of £103,000 with match funding from South West Water. The aim is for the volunteer conservation groups to either strengthened or re-established in each of the target areas. Their task will be to focus on Cornwall’s diverse natural marine heritage, which is recognised as being of both regional and international importance. It contributes to the county’s appeal as a tourist destination, attracting more than five million visitors each year, but also requires protection for the same reason.

All five of the VMCAs have independent marine conservation groups working hard to protect and educate people about their valuable marine life. If you are interested in more information about your local VMCA, please visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/yourshore or contact Matt Slater on matt.slater@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk or (01872) 273939 ext 214.

Blue rayed limpet. Image: Matt Slater

Helford VMCA at the Falmouth Marine School Fresher’s Fair

Helford VMCA’s Elizabeth West was at the Falmouth Marine School’s Fresher’s Fair on Friday 28th September armed with banners, leaflets and lots of enthusiasm! Elizabeth was representing the Helford VMCA and ensuring new students at Cornwall’s ‘College of the Ocean’ were informed about the work of the VMCG, our events program, marine surveys and volunteering opportunities. The fair was a resounding success with lots of new students interested in contributing volunteering hours to the VMCA and several involved in research projects with potentially beneficial outputs for Helford. The fair also offered a chance to network with other local conservation organisations including FALPIP (Falmouth Seal Photo Identification Project), the Marine Conservation Society, Kennack Diving and researchers from the Marine School itself. Hopefully all of this will culminate in some new faces at events over the next few months and some stronger ties between local conservation groups!

Plymouth University ROV surveys the Helford

An underwater survey of the Helford in mid April was made possible thanks to the use of Plymouth University’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and a small team of enthusiastic volunteers. Coordinated by Angie Gall, Richard Ticehurst from Plymouth University brought the ROV down for the day to survey some of the fascinating underwater habitats along the River. Combined with Chris Bean’s generous offer of his boat and role as skipper and Tony Sutton’s extensive knowledge of the underwater world of the Helford, the team of four had a very successful survey.

Excellent footage of eelgrass beds, thornback rays, crabs and lots more was taken although the highlight was recording a live and healthy maerl bed (we are currently awaiting confirmation of the species but are fairly confident that it is Lithothamnion corallioides).

The next step is to get a dive survey team to map the maerl bed and to start building an up to date habitat map of the Helford.

Photos and video clips from the survey will be posted in our gallery shortly!

Our thanks go to Angie, Chris, Richard and Tony for volunteering their time to orchestrate such a successful survey.

© Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area