A Cornish SUP guide part 2: The River Fal
Previous guide: The Newquay Bay
The River Fal and Truro River
An awesome standup paddle journey into the heart of Cornwall. Meandering rivers, magnificent ships and secluded woods culminating in a spectacular urban landing.
Start: Loe Beach
Finish: Truro (one way), Loe Beach (return)
Distance: 6.5 miles or 13 miles
Best tide: pushing, aim to hit Truro on high water
Best wind: All winds pretty favourable, though a strong S will make the return to Loe a bit tougher
Highlights: Feeling wonderfully lost in the treelined meandering valley; King Harry Ferry; Malpas; sighting Turo Cathedral
This route is all about the tides – you need to hit Turo at high tide, preferably not a neap, as near the city the river becomes very tight as with horrible muddy banks as the water gets low. Dodging ferries gets quite perilous! With a decent depth of water though you have a really wide expanse to paddle around in. So give yourself plenty of time, be aware of the time of the high tide in Truro and be prepared to turn back with it if you haven’t made good progress.
Starting from Loe Beach, this is about as exposed as the paddling will be on this tour. Turn left, or NE, and follow the wide expanse of water up the river Fal, passing Channals Creek on the left. Before long you’ll see the mussel farm on your left, and ahead of that, the King Harry Ferry going from shore to shore. The ferry is big, and pretty swift so naturally you wouldn’t want to get too close (it runs on chains) but it stops for a good few minutes at either end so you’ve plenty of time to get past it. Enjoy the infamy as the passengers point their phones at you to take a picture.
Up and round the next bend to your right (east), you’ll see the huge light ship tucked up. Sometimes luxurious vessels will be rafted alongside. Things are starting to get pretty verdant now with Polgerran Wood and Borlase Wood looking rather dense. Follow the next bend around to your left, and the river now becomes the Truro River (the River Fal is the narrower tributary on the right of the fork).
Enjoy the beautiful run up to Malpas; drink in the quietness and the lush trees of Cove Wood on the east bank, ideal wild camping grounds I reckon. Almost regardless of the wind direction, you should be able to find some protected water in here. Approaching Malpas seems like a return to civilisation and you can pull up on the pontoon for a pit stop. You need to take the left fork as you’re facing Malpas to continue the journey to Truro.
Now you have a straight paddle up through some pretty clear water, note how shallow it is on the inside bank – just as well we got the tides right eh ? You will be able to see the recreation grounds ahead and the valley opens out a bit. Enjoy this tranquil, very English looking stretch of water before you get squeezed into the narrow entrance to Newham. Probably the most unnerving part of the whole trip is the narrow lock gate that guards the entrance to Truro, warning of ‘submerged mechanical workings’. Eerie stuff. What little tidal flow there is shoots through here so mercifully you’re swiftly carried through.
Things get wide again as you enter the Turo basin, follow the channel markers if the water’s a bit low or you’ll be grounded on the mud banks. Look out for the spire of Truro Cathedral ahead, and paddle past the office blocks and suited workers and the clamour and clatter of the city starts to fill the air around you. At this point, find a spot to climb out, or spin around and head back to Loe Beach with the tide.
Next time, we’re taking a good look at the River Gannel.