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Rod Allday
Helston (Cornish: Hellys) is a small market town in the south west of Cornwall which is famous for its Flora Day celebrations and Furry Dance (on or around the 8th May each year). It is the most southerly town in mainland United Kingdom, and it acts as a gateway to the Lizard Peninsula. There is easy access from here to the picturesque fishing village of Porthleven and the unspoilt beaches or coves of Gunwalloe, Poldhu, Mullion, Kynance and the Lizard Point. Helston is adjacent to the beautiful grounds of the Penrose National Trust Estate. The Estate contains Cornwall’s largest natural freshwater lake, Loe Pool, which is cut off from the sea by a large natural sand bar called Loe Bar (accessible from Helston by a moderate walk through the Penrose Estate).
Unless you are in the area on Flora Day, when the town is packed with locals and visitors, the main reason to visit Helston is as a starting-off point for exploration of the eastern coast of the Lizard Peninsula. The walk to Loe Bar through Penrose parkland and along its woodland, lake-side tracks, is scenic at any time of year, and from there the South West Coast Path to Gunwalloe, Mullion, and further south is exhilarating, with spectacular cliff-top vistas.
Helston was granted its Charter in 1201, and some believe it to have been a port before the silting up of the River Cober which runs through the Cober Valley at the base of the town. In 1725, Daniel Defoe described Helston in these terms: “This town is large and populous, and has four spacious streets, a handsome church, and a good trade: this town also sends members to Parliament.” He also mentions that the River Cober makes a tolerable good harbour and several ships are loaded with tin. However, geologists believe the sand bank at Loe Bar is older than the settlement, and would have prevented using the Cober as a harbour.
Helston no longer has a member of Parliament of its own (it is part of the St Ives constituency), and its former castle (in ruins after 1478) is now the site of the Grylls monument and bowling green at the end of its main street (Coinagehall Street).
There is a nearby Naval Air Base, RNAS Culdrose, which usually hosts an annual Air Day (military airshow) in the summer.

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