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by Joy S
Manchester, England, United Kingdom
September 6, 2012
From journal Family Friendly Day Trips in North Cornwall
by GB from Devizes
Devizes, United Kingdom
February 10, 2005
All this was to change with a series of catastrophic events on August 16, 2004. The summer weather had been typically British, with heavy downpours in the surrounding areas, most of which was granite moorland.
The rain was relentless, and within a couple of hours, 3 inches had fallen, more than the August total average. The outlying granite moors are slow to drain, and very soon, the land surrounding the village was waterlogged, causing the excess to seek a natural passage downhill via local streams.
Boscastle sits at the mouth of a steep ravine with 300-feet cliffs on either side. Normally, this acts in the village’s favour, protecting it from the worst of the elements; on August 16th, this was to be its downfall.
The huge swell of water began its relentless surge toward the village, following the courses of the two streams that drain into the harbour, ripping up all in its path and carrying it along like a deadly moraine: trees, boulders, fences, and hedgerows. Once at the head of the valley in which the village sits, the natural contours caused the flow to increase speed dramatically as the weight of water was squeezed into the narrow ravine.
The first surge hit the village like a battering ram, a wall of water that crushed houses, turned vehicles over, and swept away all in its path. To compound matters, it was high tide, meaning that the floodwater had nowhere to go, causing it to back up in the village rather than drain into the Atlantic.
Within minutes, it was over, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the UK in many years. Businesses were destroyed; houses, restaurants, pubs, hotels and shops were swept away; and cars floated down through the harbour out to sea. Miraculously, no one was killed, although many sought refuge on rooftops and in trees for several hours whilst a huge rescue mission was coordinated. The RAF had to airlift some 150 people to safety by helicopter.
I visited Boscastle on the February 8, when a full rebuilding program was underway. Some businesses are already open for the first few out-of-season tourists. It will be a painstaking task to get back to normal, probably taking several years, but the resolve of the villagers will prevail. Do see the village - they need all the income they can muster - and the TV pictures cannot really do justice to the devastation that hit this sleepy village last summer. Go and see what these people had to contend with and marvel at their desire to get back to a regular way of life.
Riverview, New Brunswick
September 13, 2003
From journal The Beautiful Ports of Cornwall