UK storms: Locals speak about life in coastal Cornwall

Gary Eglington: "If we had winds from the north we'd be in serious trouble"

Gales continued to batter the UK's south-west this weekend and more fierce weather is forecast in the next few days.

But while many hunker down to ride out the storms, opportunists are making the most of the abnormal conditions.

Thrill-seekers, adventure sports enthusiasts and curious dog-walkers alike have been treated to an acrobatic display by professional windsurfers braving 70mph (115km/h) gusts and 30ft (10m) waves off the Cornish coast in Red Bull's Storm Chase challenge.

Helen and Jay Barrett enjoyed Saturday's action as they walked their two dogs on Hayle Beach.

Collapsed beach on Fistral beach, Cornwall Parts of the Cornish coast have been battered by waves in recent days

"We're drenched but the dogs are loving it, so it's good," said Jay, 28, who runs a holiday letting business with his wife in St Agnes.

"There are some pretty chunky waves out there - it's bad but last week was worse, wind-wise; you couldn't stand up."

For many, this has been just another windy weekend by the coast. Local rugby fixtures were played, and the bar at Newquay Golf Club was doing good custom - even if only a hardy few members braved the links course itself.

"I could cope with the wind - especially when it's behind you - but when it started hailing I came in," said Dave Longbottom, 29, a drayman at a local brewery.

Dave Longbottom Dave Longbottom said Saturday's hail was a bigger problem than the wind

But weeks of bad weather are taking their toll on local communities.

Start Quote

You can tell the severity of the gales by the damage to the coastline - it's just being battered away”

End Quote Gary Eglinton Fisherman

At an animal hospital charity shop in Hayle, Vikki Corin was getting a glass of water for an elderly lady who had popped in to catch her breath.

"It's an old-fashioned curiosity shop which acts as a hub for the local community," Ms Corin said.

Customers ranged from youngsters on the hunt for cheap outfits to lifeguards looking for fancy dress, she said.

But those who visited most were retired locals, some of whom came in almost daily for a chat and a browse, while others regularly caught a bus from Penzance or Newquay.

"We're always looking out for them because it's a worry for the elderly getting around in this weather," added Ms Corin, 52.

Two women stand outside a charity shop Vikki Corin, right, said the charity shop was a hub for the local community

"Snow goes after a few days, but this stormy weather has been going on for weeks. It's the worst I've seen it."

The collapse of the Cornwall-Devon railway line at Dawlish has worsened transport woes for those who don't drive.

"I need to get my daughter to Olympic canoeing trials in Nottingham," said Ms Corin. "But how am I going to get there with the line down? Coaches are so expensive."

The Cornish coast has suffered erosion as dramatic as that in neighbouring Devon.

In Newquay, a section of sea-front wall several metres wide crumbled away during a fierce tide on Tuesday - not long after after another collapsed section of the same wall was patched up.

Collapsed beach on Fistral beach, Cornwall The waves have damaged buildings and sea defences in some areas

A terrace outside a local café has been undercut by the waves, and local fishermen even fear for the solidity of the harbour.

"My father has fished for most of his 85 years and says this is the worst continuous spell of gales he's known," said fisherman Gary Eglinton on the quay.

The 59-year-old was worried that the harbour walls might not be high enough to protect his boat, which he was repairing on the north-facing quayside.

Helen and Jay Barrett from St Agnes say people should be embracing the breezy conditions

"Luckily we've had wind coming from the south most of the winter but if it came from the north, we could be swamped and I'd be in serious trouble," he said.

Incessant choppy waters mean some fishermen have been unable to retrieve all their crabbing nets from the sea.

"Who knows what state they'll be in when the weather clears?" asked Mr Eglinton.

"You can tell the severity of the gales by the damage to the coastline - it's just being battered away."

Surveying a section of the collapsed seawall, one local small-holder remained stoical.

A man standing on a beach Smallholder Joe S was stoical about the coastal damage in Newquay

"There was a sombre vibe in the community when this wall came down, but there was also a sense of awe seeing nature in all its moods,' said the 29-year-old, who gave his name as Joe S.

"People know it's a longer-term erosion issue, so we can't be too glum about it."

Plus, he said, the waves had produced a bounty for foragers, uncovering an array of shells, stones and even the hulk of a long-forgotten boat.

"It's a treasure trove out here," he said.

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