I have visited the small North Devon seaside town of Lynmouth several times, but one visit stands out in my memory. This was the first weekend after the terror attacks of 9/11, and like most people at that time I was suffering from a deep feeling of anxiety and insecurity – a feeling sadly reinforced after recent events in Paris. I remember being struck by what a lovely, peaceful place Lynmouth was to be after such a terrible event, so much so that it was hard to drag myself away. This feeling was helped by Lynmouth’s geographical location at the bottom of a steep wooded valley, which gives the impression of being almost cut off from the world and its problems.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the geography of Lynmouth and the surrounding area. The steepness of the terrain, combined with the fact that two rivers, the East and West Lyn rivers, converge in the town, makes Lynmouth vulnerable to flooding. This was tragically demonstrated on the night of 15-16 August 1952 when heavy rain caused the rivers to swell, sending a wall of water cascading down through the town, made even more dangerous by the boulders being swept along with it. 34 people lost their lives on that dreadful night, and over 100 buildings were destroyed. There is a permanent exhibition on the disaster down by the harbourside in the Flood Memorial Hall, and there is archive footage on the British Pathe website about the disaster and subsequent rebuilding efforts. Suspicions have been voiced that the flooding was caused by rainmaking experiments by the RAF and a team of scientists, but this has been dismissed by experts. More recently, Lynmouth was one of many locations on the British coast affected by flooding in 2014, but earlier this year it was announced that the town would get a grant for flood defences.
Lynmouth's harbour is surrounded by a small cluster of shops, pubs and restaurants, with the picturesque harbourside inn The Rising Sun forming a focal point. One of the main attractions in the town is the Cliff Railway, which links Lynmouth to its neighbour at the top of the cliff, Lynton. This makes a pleasant alternative to walking up the steep hill for the carless. Lynmouth is great for walking, with a lovely trail leading from the town up to Watersmeet, taking in a National Trust tea room. Another wooded valley which can be explored by visitors is the Glen Lyn Gorge. There is an entrance fee for this one, but in return for this there are a range of interesting features on view such as the chance to learn about renewable energy, water wheels, water cannons and hydroelectric turbines, while visitors to the gorge can view the 1952 flood level reached there. Just outside Lynton, the Valley of the Rocks is a lovely, rugged spot for wandering around on foot, taking in part of the coastal path. The rock faces are dotted with cute goats going about their business and observing the walkers.
Map of the area.
Lynton and Lynmouth webcams.