Boscastle - Witches, Walks and Water
Boscastle, known in Cornish as Kastell Boterel, lies on the North Cornish Coast about five miles northeast of Tintagel. The main village lies just over half a mile inland of the coast but stretches northwards along Old Road to meet the sea at its sheltered harbour. This is the oldest part of the village, and the most picturesque part. Many thousands of visitors come every year to experience Boscastle's unique atmospheric and scenic surrounds. A favourite is the short walk from the car park passing Boscastle Pottery, the new Visitor Centre and National Trust Shop to the harbour alongside the River Valency.
The village lies at the bottom of a steep sided valley which is fed by three rivers, the Paradise, the Valency and the Jordan. Formerly a port exporting slate from the nearby quarries whilst importing coal and limestone, the port has now been largely turned over to the tourist trade. There are still a few boats in the harbour and a little fishing carries on today.
Overlooking the village are the scant remains of the Norman Bottreaux Castle that gave the village its name. A little further west lies the Forrabury Stitches, remnants of medieval field systems. A little to the northeast of the village lies the hamlet of St. Juliot, once home to the novelist Thomas Hardy. The area around Boscastle and St Juliot being the setting for his book 'A Pair of Blue Eyes'.
Unfortunately for this picturesque village, there was a great deal of devastaion caused by the flash flood of 16th August 2004, incidentally 52 years to the day after the terrible flood of 1952 up the coast at Lynmouth. The geography of the two villages is very similar indeed, with water running off the high ground channelled into the river valley by the steep sides of the valleys causing the village stream to grow into a raging torrent capable of destroying everything in its path. Luckily, there waas no loss of life at Boscastle due to fine work by the helicopter crews of RNAS Culdrose, RMB Chivenor and RAF St. Mawgan. Over 90 people were rescued from their cars, buildings and rooftoops thanks to their skill and courage.
A recent visit to Boscastle some four years after the flood shows that Boscastle has started to re-establish itself as a tourist destination. There is a new improved car park, the width of the river channels has been increased and the visitor centre rebuilt closer to the footbridge. The new flood prevention measures are part of an on-going regeneration of the village. The lower bridge has been replaced by a sinple yet stylish modern bridge and businesses are looking forward to new opportunities whilst remembering the lessons of the past.