Ridiarne, a detached waterside house on the bank of the Helford River
by Claire Corbett inOwner's Tales

Owner’s Tales: Ridifarne

Romantic Ridifarne has been in the Cornish Holiday Cottages portfolio since 1985. We know from nearly four decades of returning guests that this house presents a glorious space for families to come together and soak up the magic of the Helford; taking dips in the river, paddling about in kayaks, and picnicking on the beach below the house.

This large waterside house undoubtedly occupies one of the finest south-facing sites on the Helford River.⁠ We were delighted to be able to sit with owners, Mike and Joan McLeod, and listen to their tales of Ridifarne and the time they have spent here with their family and friends. 

Dear Mr and Mrs Mcleod, many thanks for finding a moment to tell us more about the story behind glorious Ridifarne. Ridifarne will have been in the Cornish Holiday Cottages portfolio for over 35 years in 2023, which makes you our longest-standing client. Thank you so much for your loyalty and all the care you have taken to maintain the house, grounds and guest experience, during the last four decades. 

To begin, we are keen to know what was it that really made you fall in love with the property first of all?

That’s easy, its exceptional position. The Helford River has always been a special place for us.

I wonder, can you remember why you chose Cornish Holiday Cottages as your agent?

We were introduced to Ruth Austen by Anne Peck, a friend of ours who lived near Ruth, in January 1985

Please can you tell our guests a bit more about the history of the house?

Ridifarne was built in 1925 by the Bickford-Smith family as a holiday house. They were living at the time in Trevarno, their large family house near Helston.

In 1940 Ridifarne was identified by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), one of the secret operations set up by Churchill to liaise with the French resistance and harass the Germans, as an ideal base for their headquarters on the Helford River. 

The Bickford-Smiths immediately handed over the house for the duration of the war.  Agents were taken across the channel to mix with the French fishing fleets and work with the French resistance. The head gardener at Ridifarne, Howard Rendle, who lived in Port Navas and came to work most days by boat, became a naval officer and was involved in many cross-channel operations. After the war, he just came back to Ridifarne to resume his work as a gardener.

There are more details in a note hung on the wall in the Hall!

We bought Ridifarne from the Bickford-Smiths in 1983

What makes Ridifarne such an idyllic holiday house in your opinion? We have our own ideas on this of course!    

Its exceptional location right on the edge of the Helford River is its key feature. We hope that the fact that it is very much our home means that it is equipped and furnished to a slightly higher standard than most and gives it a special feeling. Everyone thinks their own place is special but we feel that Ridifarne really does come into that category.

We own the beach down to low water level which means that, although it is accessible to the public, it is only used by those who like somewhere less crowded and not commercialised in any way. 

What do you enjoy most about the Helford River and the surrounding area?

We were both born in Falmouth and grew up here so this is home for us. The Helford is rightly recognised as particularly lovely and for us is just one of the best places in Cornwall. It is a very safe place for swimming and boating, and the sunsets can be spectacular.

What long-lasting memories do you have from your time spent at the property?

The excitement of first buying it (we were looking for a cottage), family holidays, finding our childhood friends again and a real feeling of coming home each time we arrive.  It has become a mecca for the whole family.

What is your favourite way to spend time at Ridifarne?

Seeing local friends; having friends to stay; taking our boat on the river; walking on our beach when the tide is out, especially early evening; coastal walking; and above all, if the weather is right just sitting on the terrace soaking up the wonderful view of the river. 

What are your favourite places to visit in the local area that should not be missed by guests?

Very locally, our beach and the head of the river. Farther afield, Castle point at Falmouth with its views across the bay; St Mawes (lunch at Tresanton Hotel) and the Roseland Peninsula via the King Harry ferry; St Ives and Gwithian on the north coast but only out of season; St Michael’s Mount; and of course Trebah, Glendurgan and all the other wonderful gardens open to the public.

And finally, what is your favourite time of year and/or day to be in the house and why?

Spring when the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons are out is our favourite season followed by winter when everywhere is clear of people and we can tuck ourselves away in the house when the gales roar down the river. 

The evening is the best time of day when the sunsets can be glorious. Morning at high tide in sunshine comes a close second.

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