At last after a wet and stormy winter, April is bringing a little warmth and sunshine. Some of the February storms were as severe as one can remember, but luckily the Riverside survived without being flooded or damaged.
The history of severe weather in the English Channel stretches back for centuries and a collection of these extraordinary events can be found on the Chesil Beach Storms search on Google under the Southampton University website. There was a Great Sea Flood in 1014; Lyme Regis was battered in 1320 and 1372, causing the Harbour to be moved from Cobb Gate to its present site. 1703 produced a true Hurricane that led to the death of 8000 people in the UK and 1824 was the year of probably the greatest recorded storm when every coastal area was assaulted and changed forever. The February storms were as severe as any that we can remember but the new Harbour coastal protection saved West Bay from even more damage. However the beaches to the east have lost a great deal of sand and shingle and we can only hope that successive tides will bring it back as the shingle is finite and will never be renewed.
Our most dramatic day was on Feb 14th when 91 people had booked for St Valentine’s day Dinner.
In spite of rain and high winds, the situation did not seem to be too bad at 5.00pm but as the high tide at 6.45pm approached, the rain intensified, the wind grew stronger and the water levels rose steadily. However, our customers refused to be deterred and kept arriving, many quite soaked by the rain and rising water. The tide continued to rise, even 1 hour after high water and did not turn until 8.30 pm. 55 people arrived before the Police and the coastguard decided to close the roads to West Bay for public safety. The wind continued to blow and the windows flexed with the pressure but everyone inside seemed to enjoy the evening, even though it might be remembered as more dramatic than romantic!
The severe weather has caused many problems for fishermen and fish markets. Many boats did not put to sea from the middle of December until early March. Nets went missing, boats damaged and gear swept away. Pete our local supplier of crabs and lobsters lost half of his pots and some that he managed to find had been swept some three miles down the coast and badly damaged. Even the fish have had their habitats disturbed by such terrible weather and many were found dead on the beaches. The wave gauge in Lyme Bay measured one wave to be 10,5 metres ( 35ft ) in Feb and others almost as high. The usual wave height in gales is less than half of this. Naturally, the shortage of catches has lead to premium prices for all species and we hope that more tranquil weather could reduce prices to a more normal level. It is ironic that the focus on healthy eating has encouraged people to adopt a seafood diet at a time when stocks are very low and prices have risen accordingly.
Many people believe that properly managed fish farming is the only way forward.
We thank all the customers who have shown such concern for all at the Riverside over these stormy times and hope that we will continue to be able to offer the freshest of seafoods from local waters.