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A Walk from Helford to St Anthony-in-Meneage and Gillan Creek: Through the eyes of a Cornwall artist

  • 12 min read

Artist Joanne Short at St Anthony in Meneage on the Helford River

If you love the art of Cornwall, then you will definitely want to check out this amazing walk through the Cornish landscape and the eyes of Cornwall artists. It takes you from Helford to St Anthony-in-Meneage and Gillan Creek, through Manaccan and provides some of the most beautiful views in all of Cornwall. This is definitely a walk that you do not want to miss. Read on and we will introduce you to some of our best Cornish art along the way!

Helford Village is situated on the Helford River on the Lizard side of the valley, in southwest Cornwall.

Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'The Red Sail, Helford'

The Helford River is a beautiful place for a walk, no matter the time of year. But in spring, when the daffodils are blooming and the hedgerows are alive with colour, it's particularly special. This is probably why it is one of our favourite subjects to paint.

Helford Passage Art Prints of Cornwall by Cornish Artist Joanne Short.

While talking about our walk I would also like to talk a bit about us as artists and our craft. It is all part of our artistic journey.

Helford Passage

Just across the water from Helford Passage is the picturesque village of Helford. To avoid a long drive around the length of the river during the spring and summer months there is a small foot ferry that will transport you across to the other side.

Helford Passage itself lies on the Falmouth side of the Helford River and is reached by driving through the Village of Mawnan Smith. It is a lively place in the summer with many visitors enjoying the sailing and the famous local pub, The Ferryboat Inn, which serves a variety of good food and local ales.

Artists John Dyer and Joanne Short at Helford Passage, 1998

Artists John Dyer and Joanne Short at Helford Passage, 1998

John, Ted, and I have painted Helford Passage many times. Every time I paint it I spot and capture something new. We all have different things to hone in on in this particular scene. As Cornish artists, what better place to paint?

John is attracted to the busy hustle and bustle on the beach and in the water. His work often features human and animal figures, as well as seagulls flying and dogs running around.

Cornish artist John Dyer is best known for his vibrant acrylic paintings of boats on the river, people on the beach, and children playing. A busy scene like a summer's day at the Helford Passage is a perfect subject for him. His work is characterized by its strong use of colour and has its own unique style.

Signed Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist John Dyer. 'Moon Dance, Helford Passage'

In addition to his Cornish landscapes, John has also painted several cityscapes, including a series of paintings of both London and Paris. However, it is his paintings of Cornwall that have received the most attention from collectors and critics alike. His work has been described as "full of light and life", and it is this quality that has made him one of the most popular Cornish artists. John's work has been exhibited in galleries across Cornwall and the UK. His work is collected and sold internationally.

John's work is inspired by his Cornish heritage, his Cornish childhood as a boy on the beaches of North Cornwall and by the Cornish landscape.

Helford

Helford is the epitome of a creekside village with its famous boathouse, moorings and pretty riverside cottages. The houses are on both sides of the creek and there is a small footbridge that crosses the river at the top where it becomes narrower.

Artists John Dyer and Joanne Short in Helford Village

Above: Artists Joanne Short and John Dyer at Helford on The Lizard

Ted's impressionistic, Newlyn School style of painting lends itself to depicting such a picturesque village. He uses Cornish colours in his paintings, and his work is characterised by its use of light and shadow. Cornish landscapes are often associated with a feeling of nostalgia and romance, and Ted Dyer's paintings, as they capture the special Cornish light, reflect this perfectly.

Ted Dyer Fine Art Print. Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Springtime at Helford'

Ted Dyer's early painting years

As a self taught artist Ted's landscape painting of Cornwall began in the 1970s. At the time he lived and worked in Somerset with his wife and two young children. He would drive to Cornwall every week and bring his paintings to sell in a small gallery in Newquay 'The Treasure Trove'. In his day, people would queue every week to buy his latest art work as soon as it was delivered, even if the oil paintings were still wet! Many of his paintings were of yachts and ships moored on the creeks of the Helford River. He painted many paintings of Frenchman's Creek, Polweveral Creek and Port Navas. He excelled at capturing the light of the ever changing cornish landscape.

Later on, in the 1970s Ted moved to the North Coast of Cornwall with his family, where John grew up in relative freedom, roaming the beaches, bird watching, cycling around and generally enjoying the outdoors. It is no wonder that he went on to become an 'en plein air' artist as he grew up. For an artist, Cornwall is the ideal place to spend one's childhood and be inspired to paint!

Gathering material to paint

Before continuing our walk up the valley into the woods, we sat and took in the view. I always like to sit and draw places as I absorb the atmosphere - I find that an ink illustration captures what a photograph can't.

Joanne Short drawing of the Helford River in Cornwall

Above: Joanne Short sketchbook drawing of Helford

I incorporate the things that I see around me and bring them into one composition, then take them back to the studio to create a canvas in oil paint. It is an intensely personal process - every artist works in a different way to create their own artistic vision. Different things inspire artists and John and I are no exception.

Initial training

Although we started our journey as art students on the foundation course at Falmouth School of art where we tried out all sorts of different disciplines - fine art, sculpture, design, expressionist landscape painting, life drawing, photography etc, we went our separate ways to further our art education. John went to London where he studied graphic design and photography and I was lucky enough to do my fine art degree at an art college in Italy. I learned an eclectic range of disciplines, including printmaking, mixed media art, restoration, design, and painting. It wasn't until I returned to the West Country that I started oil painting and became a working artist.

Both John and I feel that Falmouth School of Art set us on our way in the art world. At the time there were only 250 students at the school of art as it was then called. We were very lucky to have lived and been taught in such a unique and nurturing environment.

Early Influences

From an early age, John was inspired by his dad (Ted Dyer) to want to paint. Ted was a huge influence. As a child, he was actively involved in helping his father collect photographic material which Ted would later convert to his stunning oil paintings back at the studio.

"All my life I have been lucky enough to watch a professional artist at work. From a young age, my dad and I would get up early to capture the morning light. We would travel across Cornwall photographing the most beautiful places at the best time of day. We would see the mist rising from the rivers and the sun rising over the sea. I think that this is where my love of landscape painting began."

John Dyer.

As a Cornish contemporary artist, John has since made his stamp on the area with his paintings owned and displayed by many public spaces, such as The Falmouth Art Gallery, Glendurgan Gardens, The Gyllyngdune Gardens in Falmouth and the Eden Project. His work is also displayed in various departments of The Royal Cornwall Treliske Hospital in Truro too.

Helford woods

Walking up through Helford village we made our way through the woods. The woodland path was blanketed in a soft, green carpet of moss. The trees are alive with the sound of birdsong and the air was thick with the scent of wildflowers. Now and then, a ray of sunlight would break through the canopy, dappling the ground in golden light. Spring flowers were everywhere: primroses, wild violets, wild garlic, and bluebells. It was a feast to the eye.

Artist Joanne Short in the woods, Helford, Cornwall

Above: Artist Joanne Short in the woods above Helford village in Cornwall

It's impossible not to feel a sense of peace and wonder in a place like this. It's no wonder that so many Cornish artists have been inspired by Cornwall's natural beauty.

On a walk such as this, it isn't just about collecting inspiration from the views. I love to take note of the flowers which grow side by side in their natural habitat and the colours that live in harmony in the natural world.

Manaccan and Gillan Creek

Inland, between the Helford River and Gillan Creek, is Manaccan. The pretty church in the centre of the village is Norman; it is famous for a 200-year-old fig tree that grows out of its south wall. From here the walk takes us back down the other side of the peninsular to Gillan creek.

The footpath along the side of the creek was a mass of daffodils and the trees above full of nesting rooks.

The tide was rising quickly, filling the creek. The water was crystal clear, reflecting the sky and trees. Wildflowers lined the banks. It was a beautiful scene. Cornwall is truly a magical place.

I'm so lucky to live here and to be able to paint the landscapes that I love. Every day, I feel grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. If you're ever in Cornwall, make sure to take a walk from Helford to St Anthony-in-Meneage and Gillan Creek. It's an experience you won't forget.

Coming around the bend the pretty hamlet of St Anthony-in-Meneage came into view. It is such a pretty sight, with the church standing behind the boathouse and moorings. It is a view that I and my fellow artists, love to paint.

Artist Joanne Short, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall, 1998

Artist Joanne Short, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall, 1998

Across the creek is the waterside hamlet of Gillan and the small cove and beach of Flushing. A collection of houses, ideally situated, sit on the water's edge, small yachts and dinghies are moored in the shelter of the cove. It is the perfect spot for kayaking in the summer, especially on a rising tide. We have canoed up the creek ourselves, a few years ago, in our Canadian style canoe which was ideally suited to a trip like this. It was so peaceful and magical. We saw egrets, a heron, and even a kingfisher.

Artist Joanne Short canoeing up Gillan Creek, 2014

Artist Joanne Short and Wilamena, Canoeing on Gillan Creek, 2014

St Anthony-in-Meneage

If you're looking for a small, safe and undiscovered location to moor your boat or yacht, St-Anthony-in-Meneage on Gillan Creek is the perfect spot. The sparkly water and old church on the shore make it a picturesque and peaceful place to anchor. There are also plenty of places to explore on foot, with several small beaches and coves to discover. Whether you're looking for a place to relax or a base for exploring the area, St-Anthony-in-Meneage is an ideal choice.

Artist John Dyer at St Anthony-in-Meneage, 1998

Above: John Dyer at St Anthony-in Meneage, 1998

Our walk took us up the side of the church and through some fields to meet the edge of the Helford River. At this point on the headland, we are where the river meets the sea. The water here is much more agitated and less calm than further up the river.

'High Tide, St Anthony-in-Meneage'. Helford River Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist Joanne Short

The Helford River

The Helford River is a popular destination for boaters and sailors. The wide mouth of the river where it meets the sea provides ample opportunity for large yachts and sailing vessels to pass by. The waves crashing against the shoreline create an ever-changing landscape that is both beautiful and dangerous. It is important to be aware of the potential hazards when visiting this area, as the strong currents and tides can quickly pull someone out to sea. However, as long as you take precautions and use common sense, the Helford river is an excellent place to enjoy the best of what nature has to offer.

The nearby coastline is also beautiful, with rocky cliffs and crashing waves. The large yachts sailing by, provide a stunning contrast to the natural scenery. Whether you're enjoying the views from the shore or out on the water, the Helford River is a truly idyllic place to spend a day.

Joanne Short looking out to sea, Helford River

Artist Joanne Short looking out to where the Helford River meets the sea

Our walk followed the banks of the river, amongst the trees, back to Helford Village, winding in and out of inlets and revealing tiny coves which would be a perfect spot for a quiet dip in the summer.

Ted Dyer: Fine art paintings of the Helford River

Across the water, we could see Porth Saxon, Grebe, Trebah and Durgan Beaches, places we have spent many hours over the years with our children and Digory Dog when he was still with us. They all loved to run around on the beaches and across the fields together.

One of our favourite paintings is one painted by Ted depicting our girls running through the grass upon the fields beside the Helford River. He captures the absolute joy of the moment as the children chase one another through the colourful grasses and wildflowers as the river glistens below and yachts sail quietly by. This is a perfect bedroom painting that we look at and enjoy looking at every day.

Ted Dyer painting of the Helford River in Cornwall

Many of Ted's oil paintings tell a story of happy times - families enjoying their holidays, playing on beaches, fishing, sailing dinghies, or simply running around. Many of these are images based around the creeks of the Helford River - Port Navas, Gillan Creek, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Frenchman's Creek and Helford Passage.

There are many private collections where families have collected Ted's original paintings or limited edition prints. We have recently released a whole collection of Ted Dyer open edition prints for your perusal, to make his impressionistic style images more attainable to all budgets and as a way to celebrate his amazing legacy of celebratory paintings of Cornwall. You can buy art by Ted Dyer on our online gallery.

Durgan Village

Durgan village and beach are situated at the bottom of the National Trust owned gardens. Durgan Beach is a small, south-facing, sand and shingle beach with excellent views across the Helford estuary.

Vintage Style Travel Art Poster Print by Cornish Artist Joanne Short of Durgan, Cornwall

With the distinct feel of a 'Famous Five' trek just around the corner, Durgan on the Helford River is like stepping back in time. There are many lovely walks in this region, as well as stunning gardens. Glendurgan Gardens and Trebah Gardens immediately above the hamlet attract many people. The latter was designed by James Fox over 170 years ago.

Glendurgan Gardens

The National Trust's Glendurgan is a beautiful garden that is well worth seeing. Around 1826, Albert Fox built it in a 30-acre wooded valley with excellent shelter and wonderful views of the Helford Estuary.

Limited Edition Print. 'Amazing Mayhem in the Maze in May, Glendurgan Garden' by Cornish Artist John Dyer

Many strange and unusual trees and shrubs have been gathered and cultivated here throughout the years. Camellias, azaleas, magnolias, and wildflowers bloom in the Spring, followed by foxgloves in early Summer. In the Summer, Hydrangeas put on a spectacular display.

Trebah Gardens

In the next valley is another stunning garden, Trebah Gardens. We often visited here when our children were younger and still enjoy a regular visit. You will not be disappointed if you visit while on holiday in the area. 

Trebah Gardens, a tourist attraction in Cornwall, is one of our favourite places to visit. It's a subtropical paradise that was begun in the 1840s by the Fox family, who were Quakers. They also created Glendurgan Gardens, which is operated by the National Trust just down the road. Trebah Gardens grew neglected and overgrown from 1931 until 1981.

Through the Hibberts, who set about the enormous job of restoration, it was saved. There are 25 acres in all, including little ponds and waterfalls that lead down to a tiny secluded beach.

Signed Limited Edition Print. 'Fun and Games in the Garden, Trebah' by Cornish artist John Dyer

This is a lovely spot for picnics, with excellent views of the river mouth. Sub-tropical flora in the upper section blends into 'rainforest' type planting lower down in the garden. There are 3 acres of hydrangeas, which provide spectacular late summer and fall interest. In the late 1990s Ted painted a splendid painting of the gardens, with the hydrangeas in full flower, which was released as a limited edition print at the time and proved extremely popular.

Ted exhibits regularly with The John Dyer Gallery, although given that he is now in his 80s his work is becoming less available. Over the span of his career as a Cornwall-based artist Ted has worked in many styles; as well as using oil paint in the style of an impressionist painter he has done watercolour paintings and pen and ink drawings. He has painted beach scenes, landscapes, seascapes, still lifes and many more subjects. Ted is an incredibly talented self-taught artist. Over the years his original artworks have been collected internationally and he has had many prints and art cards produced.

Helford Village

The final part of our walk lead us through riverside woodland that was covered with flowering daffodils. What better way to end a spring walk than being able to admire such a sight!

Artist Joanne Short, HelfordJoanne Short surrounded by spring daffodils

As a local artist, I feel extremely lucky to be able to visit these beautiful locations and gather material to paint from. Having discovered how much we love to walk and explore new places, John and I will certainly be doing plenty more!

Cornwall is a county in England with a rich history and culture. The area is known for its art, and the artists that have come from or worked in Cornwall are many. I hope this blog post showcases some of our work well, and provides insights into an artist's process and motivation. If you're interested in purchasing any of our paintings, please visit our online gallery where you will find a large selection of Ted Dyer, John Dyer and Joanne Short original paintings alongside prints, posters and other merchandise such as artist books, art mugs and art t-shirts that make the most amazing gifts from Cornwall.

Joanne Short art mug featuring paintings of the Helford river in Cornwall

Joanne Short Ceramic Cornish Art Mug featuring Helford, Helford Passage and St Anthony in Meneage

If there is a particular location you would really like to see original paintings of, do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to talk to you about potentially creating a bespoke commission for you.

Thanks for reading and enjoy Cornwall!

Joanne Short