Boscastle thrives ten years on from floods

Flooded Boscastle
Boscastle on 17 August 2004, the day after the floods National Trust

Visit the picturesque harbour village of Boscastle in Cornwall today and you wouldn’t guess that on 16 August 2004 this thriving coastal community, which we help to look after, suffered a 1-in-400 year weather event. In 2014, we reflected on the village's dramatic recovery 10 years after the flood.

Flash floods caused by exceptional rainfall – over a month’s rain fell in just two hours – devastated the village, destroying homes and businesses. The force of the water washed 100 cars out to sea, wiped out around 1,000 trees and deposited 20 years’ worth of river sediment in the village in a day.

An amazing recovery

But Boscastle’s story is one of a remarkable turnaround. Within days of the catastrophic floods a standard had been set for the huge recovery task ahead; ‘visitors coming back to the village should not be able to tell what has happened’. And you can’t.
The narrow river which runs through the centre of the village has been deepened to create extra capacity but still retains its natural feel thanks to efforts to mimic the natural river system with pools and ‘riffles’ (shallower stretches) that are good for wildlife.
Trees in the valley above the village have been kept rather than felled to act as traps for sediment and debris. Stone in keeping with the character of the village was used to rebuild garden walls and the floors and walls of houses and businesses.
Sympathetic measures like these have meant Boscastle remains a scenic village full of Cornish coastal charm, popular for walking and wildlife spotting or simply for pottering around the attractive shops and cafés.

Pulling together

Our part in the regeneration project called on our experience in restoring historic buildings and landscape but was inspired by the way the Boscastle community pulled together in the wake of the floods. It’s a memory that has stayed with Jeff Cherrington, our head ranger at Boscastle.
‘People at the top of the village hosted those with flood damaged houses for months after the event,’ said Jeff. ‘Offers of help came from everywhere; the village hall acted as a central point to give books, toys, food and clothes to those who had lost all their personal effects.’
Taking the villagers’ lead we worked together with the Environment Agency, University of Exeter and Rivers Restoration Trust to clear, rebuild and repair the damage to the village and surrounding countryside while keeping true to the character and history of Boscastle.