Helston is a small town located in the South West of England. This town lies on the South coast of the county of Cornwall. This town is thought to be over eight hundred years old and has a rich history and culture. Helston is the most southerly town on the English mainland, the town has a population of around ten thousand people but it does often get very busy in the summer months as this is a very popular area for tourists to come and visit.
Even though Helston gets a lot of visitors each year surprisingly there are no major hotels in the town. You may stumble across a small bed and breakfast but that is about all there is in the town. If you do want to stay in the area your best option is probably a holiday home. There are plenty of these both in the town itself and in the surrounding area, most are set in lovely countryside and provide excellent self catering facilities. There are also quite a few nice little camp sites and caravan sites in the area, these are perfect if you are looking for a cheap break.
Helston is quite a quaint little town and it's a nice place to browse round the shops. There are some practical shops more for local people but there are also some nice shops selling local arts and crafts and also some excellent gifts and souvenirs. Every Monday there is a market in the town and this is a great place to look round and find some bargains. There are also a few nice little cafes which serve excellent home made food, a cream tea is a must if you visit one of these. There are also a good selection of pubs, some of these offer excellent bar meals and they all give you a good friendly welcome. The locals take great pride in their little town and this really comes across in the way the town is so clean and tidy.
Each year there is a festival in the town known as Flora day. This usually takes place on May the 8th although it is moved if the 8th falls on a Sunday or a Monday. The festival features well organised dances that the locals take part in, lots of music and some interesting stalls to look round. This is a major event for the locals and they take great pride in putting on a good show and entertaining the people who come to visit the town.
Helston is set in some stunning countryside. Cornwall has some of the most spectacular coastline anywhere in the UK and there are many great beaches, amazing cliffs and quaint little villages to explore. Wherever you go in Cornwall there is always something to see and do and Helston is a great place to use as a base as you explore this magical county.
Helston is a is small Cornish town located only a few miles away from the coast is at the northern end of the Lizard Peninsular.
I moved to Helston myself only a few years ago from Yorkshire (yes I am a proud Yorkshire-lass who often feel overwhelmed by some of the odder Cornish ways!) and have since discovered a few things about my new home.
# Helston has a population of 9780
# Helston is the southerly most town in the UK
# Helston is the 2nd oldest town in Cornwall ( Marizion being the eldest).
# Its Charter dates back 800 years
# Originally it is thought Helston used to be a coastal town but the forming of a sand bank (loe bar) was cut off from the sea.
# In days gone past the towns income was mainly derived from tin mining and cattle.
# Home to the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall, Loe Pool.
# Has the largest school in Cornwall, Helston Community College.
# Helson is twinned with towns in Brittany(Pleuveur-Bodou) and Italy(Asso Marconi)
# Most famously Heslton is the home of the Flora Day.
Flora Day is held on the 8th of May, (except if that date is a Sunday or Monday, then Flora Day is the preceding Saturday), basically it involves 4 dances one at 7am, 9.50am, 12pm and 5pm to celebrate the passing of winter. The 7am dance is originally thought to be for servants but is now usually couples wearing smart dresses and formal dinner suits. The 9.50 dance is for the school children, this is my favourite as each school (every one wears either white dresses or white trousers and shirt) has a different colour head bands. One year it poured down and the colour ran from the headbands and onto white clothing! The child's dance can be quite competitive between parents as it is the children with the 'purest' Helstonian blood who get to lead the dance, to even take part in the dance I believe you have to of been living in Helston for some measure of time. The midday dance is full of ladies wearing full ball gowns and gentlemen in top hats. and finally the 5pm dance are the same people who did the 7am dance. Each dance proceeds around the town led by Helston Town Band. The town, shops and houses are decorated in bluebells and green foliage around door ways.
The Hal an Tow is also celebrated on this day. "It is a moving street theatre that appears to have its origins in the Middle Ages, and the themes tend to be more English than uniquely Cornish. The theatre consists of the Hal-an-tow song accompanied by dancing and acting out the content of the verses. The costumes and the song itself represent many different historical and mythical themes. It has evolved over time, the most recent verse (about St Pissan) only appeared within the 21st century."
Helston town is full of pubs, mainly due to the largest military base in Europe being not too far away (Culdrose) and consists of 3 streets. There are a few high street names, Dorthethy Perkins, New Look, Boots and a host of charity shops which are seen in most failing towns. The town centre is not that exciting and the people of Helston usually go to the larger towns to do shopping, just using Helston occasionally out of convenience. At the end of the town there is Coronation Lake which is home to a boat renting service, a small cafe and some dog walks.
Not many tourist visit Helston as they prefer the nearby coastal town of Porthleven. There are a few B&Bs in Helston and Premier Inn just on the outskirts. Flambards is probably the main tourist attraction in Helston.
I probably wouldn't recommend coming to Helston on holiday (unless it was Flora Day) as there isn't that much to do, it is a day visit at the most.
Helston isn't a bad little town. It's a very typically cornish town with narrow, winding streets and that salty sea air that permeates everything, even when you're miles from the coast.
helston is mostly made up of local shops, with some staples such as boots and dorothy perkins. it's a one street town, with some cute places to grab lunch, but not many restaurants and little to no night life.
fun to visit for the day, probably on the way to somewhere else is best, but i wouldn't reccomend a long stay. The locals are friendly once you get to know them, but it's quite a secluded place and I don't think tourism often reaches Helston, so sometimes it seems quite quiet and almost deserted - I'm sure the credit crunch hasn't done much to improve situations, sadly.
If you're looking for a nice town that hasn't been spoilt by tourism, it's worth giving a go.
This is a review of my hometown, Helston, in Cornwall.
*Location and travel
Helston is located at the far South-West of Cornwall, where the county splits in two like someone holding out two fingers in the game scissors, paper, stone. To the South lies the Lizard Peninsula, at the end of which is Lizard Point, the most southerly place in Great Britain. To the West lies the Lands End Peninsula, which ends at, well you guessed it, Lands End, the most westerly part of the mainland!
So, to get there you need to hop in your car and keep going southwest. It will take you about 6 hours from London on a good run. If you meet the Atlantic Ocean, youve gone about 25 miles too far. If travelling by train, youll be disappointed but probably not surprised to learn that the Helston branch line was closed many years ago and some rather fetching pebble-dashed bungalows now grace the spot where the station once stood. The nearest stations now are Penzance (15 miles), Redruth (15 miles) or Truro (17 miles). Dont even think about using the incredibly badly named National Express, unless maybe you sleep well on coaches. Even then, wherever you are coming from, you will need to change at Plymouth or Bristol, or both. If you are rich though, you can fly to Newquay Airport and hire a car.
Finally - DO NOT BRING A CARAVAN! (Grrrr ;-))
Helston was granted its charter by King John in 1201, although it had already been in existence for several hundred years by then. Its name derives from henlis, the Cornish word for old court, and the town is listed in the Doomsday book as Henliston ton being a Saxon word for village, or enclosure.
The town stands on the River Cober, which was once tidal before it was cut off from the sea by a long sandbar, Loe Bar. This formed a large lake and there are pleasant woodland walks from the bottom of Helston through the Penrose estate around the lake to Loe Bar and the sea. (You can catch the bus back if you walk just a little further along the coast into Porthleven. And handily, the bus stop is right next to the Harbour Inn!). Allegedly, Helston was a port before being cut off, exporting tin and copper, but what is definitely known is that it is an ancient market and stannary town. Miners would bring their tin to be weighed and tested for quality in the coinage hall, and this gave rise to the name of Helstons main street, Coinagehall Street.
*Modern day Helston
The town centre is compact, to put it politely, and constitutes three streets. Truly, dont blink if you are driving through. Coinagehall Street is the main thoroughfare, running uphill for about a quarter of a mile from the river and boating lake at the bottom of town. Meneage Street and Church Street run off it, and contain various shops, pubs and Helstons Museum. However, the population of Helston is artificially large due to the fact that the largest Naval Airbase in Europe, RNAS Culdrose, sits at the outskirts of town. (This, combined with the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station just beyond should make Helston a very safe place to live in the event of any future hostilities against the UK. Or not.)
It is a generally attractive town, with a wealth of Victorian and Georgian architecture and an interesting history. However, it does suffer slightly from a feeling of faded grandeur and, lets be brutal, the lack of non-seasonal employment.
Helston is most famous for Flora Day, which takes place every year on May 8th, except when it falls on a Sunday or Monday (market day), when it takes place on the preceding Saturday. It is a town holiday, and of huge significance for Helstonians. The towns buildings are decorated with bluebells and green foliage and there is a general air of carnival.
The main event is the Flora Dance (also known as Furry), which is a processional dance through the streets, led by the town brass band. The tune is well known, but contrary to popular opinion, and the worst efforts of Terry Wogan, there are no words set to the music. During the preceding weeks and days, you can hear the band practising and school children rehearsing the steps: out-and-out, and in-and-in, out-and-out, and in-and-in. 1-2-3-hop, 1-2-3-hop, 1-2-3-hop, change partner.
The dance, an ancient pagan fertility ritual, is one of the oldest customs in Great Britain. It has, of course, been adopted and modified by the Christian Church, and May 8th is also the Feast of the Apparition of St Michael the Archangel, Helstons Patron Saint. Before the Church got its hands on it, it is probable that the dance was performed on May 1st, Beltane (or May Day, as Christians call it). As an aside, children conceived at Beltane are in legend gifted by the Gods, which may explain the number of Cornishmen with February birthdays like my own son. No prizes for guessing what we named him.
The dance is performed four times during the day: at 7am, 10am (the childrens dance), midday and at 5pm. All the dancers wear buttonholes of lily of the valley. The children wear white, and floral headdresses, with a different flower for each school. The morning and evening dances are smart casual, but the midday dance is a very formal, invitation-only affair, the men wearing top hats and morning suits and the ladies wearing long dresses. To lead the dance you must be Helston born and bred. The dancers weave their way around the town, in and out of shops, houses and gardens that are not open to the public during the rest of the year. It really is quite a spectacle.
Also performed on Flora day is the Hal-An-Tow. This is a street play performed at various places around the town, enacting the verses of the Hal-An-Tow song - another old custom associated with fertility / the start of summer: For summer is a come-o, and winter is a gone-o. Included in the play is Robin Hood, the Spanish Armada, St George killing the dragon, and finally St Michael taking on the devil. So, something for everyone! A large crowd accompanies the actors, waving sycamore branches and making lots of noise to announce the start of each performance and you are encouraged to join in!
The pubs (of which there are many in Helston more on that later) are open all day and do a roaring trade. Also in town on Flora Day is the funfair, which sets up opposite the boating lake, and the market, with stalls along Coinagehall Street offering some quite good bargains.
*Other attractions in Helston
Aside from Flora Day, there is plenty to see in Helston, and most visitors also use it as a touring base from which to visit the surrounding countryside, for which it is ideally placed. You will need a car to get the best out of your visit, as public transport is generally poor in the area.
Within Helston itself, there is family fun to be had at the boating lake, and walks through Coronation Park and the Penrose Estate. There is also an indoor swimming pool, although this lacks any kiddie extras such as a flume or shallow area. Helston Museum provides an insight into the history of the area and entry is free. Dont miss the opportunity to find out why there is a cannon outside on the cobbled square - and the photo opportunity this provides.
On the outskirts of town, heading towards the Lizard, Flambards Theme Park offers an excellent day out for everyone. Its displays include a Victorian village, a recreation of Britain in the Blitz, and various aircraft and aviation related paraphernalia, as well as the usual rides and amusements.
Next door to Flambards lies RNAS Culdrose, which offers breathtaking aerial displays each year in July at Air Day. There is also a viewing enclosure at the far end of the base where spotters can park and watch helicopters and planes arriving and departing.
Beyond Culdrose, the Lizard Peninsula is home to many great beaches, stunning coves and pretty villages that warrant a review of their own. There is great coastal walking, and watersports such as sailing and diving are available. The very worthy seal sanctuary can be found in Gweek. This is also Daphne Du Maurier country, and no visit to the area is complete without visiting the Helford Passage.
In the opposite direction, it is possible to visit the attractions of the Lands End Peninsula, including Hayle, St Ives, Cape Cornwall and Lands End itself. This is also, arguably, where the best climbing in Cornwall can be found.
*Nightlife (lack of)
Nightlife in Helston is fairly traditional and centred around pubs and inns. As Helston is a Naval town, it has a preponderance of these. However, of particular note is the Blue Anchor, a historic thatched pub believed to be the oldest brew house in the country. It brews Spingo ales, all of which are incredibly strong. You have been warned.
There is one small nightclub in the town, but most would-be-clubbers travel to one of the surrounding larger towns. If youre desperate, the bus (yes really) to The Barn nightclub in Penzance is a popular choice; it leaves from outside The Fitzsimmons Arms around 9.30pm and makes the return journey when the club shuts.
I hope that this has given you some insight into Helston, what it is like to both visit and to live there. Thanks for reading.