In 2004, Boscastle was a picturesque coastal village in Cornwall. It enjoyed the annual influx of visitors who enjoyed the scenery and attractions of this stunning part of the south west of England.
On 16 August 2004, a devastating flash flood hit the centre of the village which was to change the area forever. Miraculously, there were no fatalities but the damage caused to buildings, vehicles and the overall infrastructure of the location was immense and it took many years to clean, repair and restore the beauty of the popular fishing destination of many holidaymakers and the home to almost 900 residents.
The day life changed in Boscastle
Torrential rain lasting 8 hours caused flash flooding which was later deemed to be one of the worst floods ever seen in Britain. Already a high flood risk area due to meteorological and physical characteristics, this hillside tranquillity had suffered floods in the past. Nothing was to prepare the community though for the afternoon of destruction where heavy rain, a high tide and the bursting of a temporary dam caused by a blockage of cars and debris under a bridge which had already swept down the hill leading to a 3 metre high wave of water being sent coursing through the centre of the village. An estimated 20 million cubic metres of water flowed through Boscastle that afternoon, taking 75 cars, 6 buildings, 5 caravans and untold amounts of other items such as uprooted trees into the sea at the small harbour entrance. Over 100 homes and businesses were destroyed and 150 people were rescued from roof tops or from trees they had climbed. The area was deemed inaccessible and it wasn’t until the flood waters had reduced that repair work as well as flood defences for the future could be commenced.
Even though the area suffered further minor flooding a couple of years later in 2007, Boscastle has undergone extensive works to repair the village to its previous beauty. A great deal of specialist flood defence work has also been undertaken to help with prevent future flood threats.
A flood defence scheme which cost £4.5 million to create and implement now holds the key to a safer life for all those living in and visiting the area. Drainage and sewage have been re-sculpted, upgraded and moved where necessary and drains now allow water to run into much lower areas than in the past.
The visitor car park, sited at the top of the hill above Boscastle where many vehicles were swept from has been rebuilt. It has been raised in height which means the nearby river cannot suffer burst banks as easily and the channel of the river itself has been widened to accommodate more water. Two underground pumping stations were constructed for sewage treatment as well as under pavement pipes being installed.
The major works were completed in 2008 and Boscastle is now restored to being a peaceful coastal location with shops open to sell local produce and traditional buildings lovingly repaired and conserved.
Local residents have their own home protection plans in place should there ever be flooding again. Whilst the terrible images of 2004 should never happen again because of the comprehensive work undertaken, the topography of the area means that the village can never be completely safe. Those who are resident there know the reality of a flood and are ready with barriers and an emergency evacuation plan.
Many areas of the UK are as vulnerable to flooding as Boscastle and it’s wise to be as prepared as those who live in this part of Cornwall now are. Nobody wants to experience flooding but it’s sensible to be ready should the effects of climate change and the local environment culminate one day in the need to put barriers in place and to evacuate to safety.