Cornish oysters from the Helford

Oysters from Cornwall's Helford River
Oysters from Cornwall’s Helford River

As ancient woodlands bordering the Helford River in Cornwall, England turn red, so oyster enthusiasts can take a fun seasonal river trip to discover a two thousand year history of their favourite mollusc.

Kyaking on the Helford River
Kyaking on the Helford River

The Romans famously shucked oysters at Port Navas on the site where the Duchy Oyster Farm harvests and supplies demand from oyster bars across Cornwall and in London.

Tours begin around a bend of the river on the private foreshore of the family-owned Budock Vean Hotel – where the guides from Koru Kayaking share their knowledge and enthusiasm from kayaks or aboard the river boat Hannah Molly.

The trips take visitors along the northern bank of the Helford to the mouth of the river – past the world-famous gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan from where thousands of US troops embarked for Normandy and the D-Day landings in May 1944.

Cornwall's Budock Vean hotel
Cornwall’s Budock Vean hotel

The story of the humble oyster and its production continues along the south bank, dipping into Frenchman’s Creek (of Daphne du Maurier fame), while always on the lookout for kingfishers, egrets, even seals and dolphins.

“Autumn is a wonderfully quiet time on the Helford and our colleagues at Koru provide the most atmospheric and vibrant tours – especially by kayak where there is no noise apart from the voice of your guide and the dipping of paddles in the water,” says the Budock Vean’s Martin Barlow. “But we cover a great deal of the river aboard the Hannah Molly – where we also have a lot of fun and you don’t need a wetsuit!”

Koru’s Hetty Wildblood adds, “Oyster farming is fascinating to see as you can literally follow the life cycle of the oyster farming on a Helford River Cruise and paddle up to the oyster cages and station on a Koru Kayak Adventure. This in addition the abundance of birdlife seen including, of course, Oyster Catchers!”

Following their river tour guests can wander back through the Budock Vean’s organically managed ravine gardens to shuck their own plate of oysters looking out over the hotel’s 65 acres of grounds and fairways in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


In the Shell

Take 12 oysters, place them shell side down with top shell removed. Pour melted butter over the oysters before covering them with a go0d covering of grated parmesan cheese. Grill for around 3-5 minutes before serving with a squeeze of leomon juice and serve alone as an appetiser.

Out of the Shell

Stir fry
Like many oyster recipes this is a simple, quick fire recipe but with added flavours of south-east Asia. The amount of ingredients will depend on the number of oysters you’re making. Finely chop ginger and combine with and thinly sliced spring onions and fry together in sesame or perhaps olive oil for some three minutes. Gently add the oysters and cook for a few seconds before adding the cream and allowing to bubble. Season to taste before serving immediately with red rice and a green salad.


A crisp, acidy white wine goes well with oysters, perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc. suggests a spicy Zweigelt from Austria or ‘Txakoli from Basque country. It is a fun option that is spritzy with effervescence and quite refreshing. It is very affordable and brings fruit and a nice clean finish’. Reds from the Loire also pair well with oysters, as do wines from the Poulsard grape from the Jura for a more obscure choice.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.