Home news Portreath: The village at the centre of the storm

Portreath: The village at the centre of the storm


The Cornish fishing village of Portreath lost part of its sea wall when severe weather hit in 2014. Exactly four years to the day, it’s happened again. What’s it like to live in the village at the centre of the storm?When huge waves battered the north coast of Cornwall in 2014, part of Portreath’s sea wall and its railings were washed away. A fisherman’s hut was among the structures lost and total repairs were estimated to have cost £500,000. Surveying the fresh damage caused by Storm Eleanor on Wednesday, Colin Higgs from the Portreath Harbour Committee said a 20m (65ft) section of the harbour wall had been destroyed, “Hundreds of tonnes of masonry has crashed on to the sand below,” said Mr Higgs of the latest storm damage.The damage has left a row of houses and pub backing on to the beach exposed and at risk. More problems may yet be on the horizon, with another threatening high tide due on Thursday morning.

One of the families living in the exposed terrace fled their home in the early hours of the morning after seeing the wall collapse.Sarah, who did not want to give her surname, was awoken by the wind and waves at about 05:20 GMT. “My husband was looking out the window and said we should just probably go,” she told the BBC.”We were a bit worried because he did see the sea wall come down. “So he was concerned that, with the power of the waves, we would get flooded.”We’re just here for the winter. We’ve had a quite a few stormy days and a lot of rough seas but nothing as bad as this.”

Storm Eleanor brought winds of up to 80mph and waves of 8.5m (28ft) to the county, with Cornwall Fire Service taking multiple calls to deal with floods, damage to buildings and fallen trees.Portreath lies about three miles northwest of Redruth between St Ives and St Agnes, and used to be a busy port importing coal and exporting copper. Now the village of roughly 1,100 people is driven by tourism, with a number of holiday lets, restaurants and shops populating the village. Lisa Belcher manages the Waterfront Inn, whose terrace borders the sea, and is fighting against time before the next high tide.

“We’re getting the sandbags out of the loft to make sure we do what we can,” she said.”The sea is a very unpredictable force. It was quite a big chunk of wall that went. It makes you realise what a force the sea is.”Whatever happens we’ll come to work in our wellies and will still be open.”

Simon Gregor has lived at Chynance, which backs right on to the beach, for 31 years.He said the fear of the next high tide was on everyone’s minds.”I think everybody in Portreath is worried about it, and not just Portreath but the whole north coast of Cornwall,” he said.”All I heard all night was the exceptionally strong winds and exceptional gusts of wind – I thought my windows might be coming in to greet me.”The first I knew about the wall was when I pulled my curtains back this morning.”You see with the debris on the beach that [the waves] must have come through with such force. “There are parts of the pier several yards away – probably 20, 30, 40 yards away from it – so it was something exceptional.”

Even though the village has taken a battering, the community spirit remains strong.Emma Phillips, a coach at Portreath Surf Lifesaving Club, said a lot of people “underestimate” Mother Nature.”But its force can take the harbour wall down,” she said.”Over the last few years the storms have got stronger and more frequent. “In the village everyone will look out for each other.”
Source: Cornish BBC