Location and Background
Boscastle is located on the northern coast of Cornwall, in the far South West of England. It is a rural village hidden in a steep sided valley and is popular with tourists. Much of the land in and around Boscastle is owned by the National Trust, including both sides of the popular harbour. From the harbour you can explore the beautiful surrounding area with its ancient woods, the old village of Boscastle with cottages dating back to the 15th Century, the site of the Norman Castle and the medieval strip farming system which is still in operation on the cliff top. The small harbour now provides shelter to a number of little fishing boats. It was once a hive of activity with trade taking place between Wales, Bristol and the South of England. This Elizabethan harbour was built in 1584 by Sir Richard Grenville. The museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle houses the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related objects. The museum has been in Boscastle for over forty years and is amongst Cornwall’s most popular museums. A short walk up the river valley brings you to the Church of St Juliot, restored by Thomas Hardy in 1870, when he was a young architect. Many of Hardy's poems, plus his romantic novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes, describe the area.
The village has two rivers meeting there, Valency and Jordan, which come from the high hills of Bodmin Moor. These rivers are the main cause of the flood which struck Boscastle on the 16th of August 2004
Causes of the Flooding
There are two main causes of flooding
A major factor is the location of the village, within the Valency valley. The River Valency is normally a quiet stream, which follows a very steep course down into the valley from the hills around it. The valley's structure is probably one of the most major physical factors, as its steepness sped up the rainwater falling on the hills above the valley greatly as it travelled down to the valley floor where Boscastle stands. As well as causing the water to travel extremely quickly down the valley sides, the shape of the valley concentrated rainwater from the surrounding area into a relatively small space descending towards the bottom of the valley. Not only did this cause an increase in surface run-off speed, but also an increase in discharge volume, which was later to cause devastation in the confined river channel flowing through the village itself, which simply couldn't hold enough water to prevent the flooding which occurred.
The next major factor was the weather that day The entire South-West of the country had been hit with stormy weather over the days leading up to the flood on the 16th of August, and as a result the ground was saturated. The 16th was a very hot day, with clear skies in the morning and high temperatures for much of the day. The combination of high temperatures with the amount of unabsorbed surface water which lay on the ground, coupled with moist winds off the sea the effects of evaporation caused a great deal of moist, warm air to travel upwards quickly. This caused storm clouds to form very quickly and by early afternoon, the rain had started, and within a few hours a massive 5 inches of rain had fallen in Boscastle alone. When the flow in the valley was met by the water channelled down from the moors through the steep valley and the sheer volume of water in such a small space at once caused the Valency to burst its banks and cause a huge amount of damage in the village.
Human activity is hardly responsible in any way for the floods. They appear to have been a chance event, caused by an unfortunate configuration of wind and cloud patterns on the day. But the damage caused by the floods can be attributed partly to several human causes. The first of these is the lack of any flood control system, in the form of either raised banks around the river channel or emergency drainage ditches to catch overflowed water. Had…