Helman Tor – Cornwall’s ancient hillfort turned nature reserve!

This strange tumbled rock tor feels like an island as you approach it through the surrounding marshy ground. Looking up at the jutting outcrops of stone it appears like a castle, a fortress, rising above you into the blue sky.

Helman Tor

Helman, like the mighty Carn Brea or Trencrom further south, is an example of what has become known as a tor enclosure. Here Neolithic man has made clever use of a naturally defendable feature in the landscape and constructed a series of walls to form an enclosed settlement. Safe from invaders and with an excellent view of the countryside in all directions.

Helman Tor

This early life on Helman, almost unimaginable to us now, began between 4500BC and 2200BC and lasted for about 300 years. Excavations at the site uncovered greenstone axeheads, flint tools, stone querns and pottery. On the fertile slopes below the tor the remains of an ancient field system has been found. It is thought that the physical prominence of the tor in the landscape not only made it secure but also gave it ceremonial importance.

These days Helman, and 500 acres of the wetlands that surround it, are a nature reserve managed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The tor lies on the Saints Way footpath, so in the summer sees a steady arrival of tired walkers.

Helman Tor

These passing travellers will probably meet the cattle used to graze the marshy ground and if they are lucky the marsh fritillary butterfly. This rare butterfly, with brightly coloured wings resembling the small panels in a stained glass window, can be found in the wetlands known as Breney Common and Red Moor. Its larval webs feed during September and the adults take flight in late May and early June. They might also see Sundews, a carnivorous plant with sticky leaves, which can be found lucking amongst sphagnum mosses during the summer.

Apart from the wildlife perhaps the most arresting thing about Helman tor however are the views. Epic views, the ancients really knew how to pick their spots! On a clear day you can see both coasts.

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This beautiful place is a little off the beaten track but well worth the effort. There is a small car park at the end of the track, from which it is just a short walk to the top. Alternatively make the most of the reserve by exploring the footpaths in the area.

NB There is a logan rock here, which is rather lovely, much like the one at Logan rock on Louden Hill . See me wobble it in the video below!


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9 thoughts on “Helman Tor – Cornwall’s ancient hillfort turned nature reserve!

  1. I’ll have to take my rock rocking crew there, they’ll enjoy the hunt after finding the Louden one successfully!

  2. I run the campsite at Mena Farm about 2 miles away and a frequent visitor to Helman tor and Breney common, I can confirm that there is a Logan stone there which does indeed move. It is a large flat stone with bowls cut out on the south side of the top of the tor.

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