Living On The Edge

Cornwall has a longer coastline and is battered by bigger waves than any county in England. The sometimes violent drama that plays out around Cornwall’s shores has always been a part of its identity.

But as climate change brings rising sea levels and worsening storms, what will this mean for Cornwall’s coastal communities?

The film is presented by passionate ultra runner Emma Hazeldine, who takes us on a journey around the Cornish coast path, visiting places that are already being impacted in sometimes surprising ways – and coming up with a range of responses to the challenges that lie just beyond the horizon.

“Brilliant. Really the first time I have seen such a balanced account of the challenges facing coastal communities and the causes. Also, the right balance between personal experience and ‘expert’ commentary”.

Prof. Gerd Masselink, head of the Coastal Processes Research Group at the University of Plymouth

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Ayesha Tandon

Ayesha Tandon

Climate Science Communicator, Met Office

Listen to Ayesha Tandon talking in more detail about what climate change could bring for Cornwall as well as climate change denial, the impacts of climate change on health and farming, and how she ended up choosing this career path.

Ayesha has now left the Met Office to work for Carbon Brief: carbonbrief.org

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Dave Watkins

Dave Watkins

Flood and coastal erosion risk manager, Cornwall Council (now retired)

This is the full interview with Dave Watkins, talking in more detail about climate change impacts on the Cornish coast, the need to plan for inevitable changes, and the Shoreline Management Plan.

Cornwall Council Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management annual report

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Francesca Zerilli-Churchill

Francesca Zerilli-Churchill

Bude-Stratton Town Council

Here Francesca explains all about the work involved in trying to move the much-loved storm tower – and how she hopes this project could help to get the community on board with the need to tackle the much wider impacts of climate change locally.

Bude Storm Tower

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Prof. Gerd Masselink

Prof. Gerd Masselink

Coastal Processes Research Group, University of Plymouth

Gerd Masselink tells us here more about his research, and what happens to our coastline during storms – which are going to have an ever-increasing impact as sea level rises.

Coastal Processes Research Group

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Joanna Kenny

Joanna Kenny

Newquay Town Council

This is a longer interview about the impact of coastal erosion affecting Newquay’s spectacular cliff tops – and how the town became a coastal change management area to try to prevent things becoming worse in future.

Newquay Coastal Plan

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Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

Farmer, Scilly Organics

Jonathan Smith tells us here more about the issue facing his farm on St Martins – and his belief that the islands need to progress to a lower carbon and more self-sufficient future.

Scilly Organics

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Julian Gray

Julian Gray

Director, South West Coast Path Association

Julian Gray tells us more here about the importance of the SW Coast Path, not just to Cornwall’s economy but our physical and mental health – and the challenges of maintaining and preserving this trail as it comes under attack due to climate change.

Climate change and the SW coast path.

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Matthew Lewis

Matthew Lewis

Project manager, National Trust

ere Matthew Lewis talks in more detail about the challenges of maintaining access to Godrevy, and the pressures on the National Trust as climate change impacts increase.

National Trust Shifting Shores programme

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Nigel Horwell

Nigel Horwell

Arcadis Consulting

This is a more in-depth interview about the problems facing Looe, the proposed tidal gate scheme, and what benefits this might bring to the town.

Looe tidal gate scheme

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Rob Uhlig

Rob Uhlig

Bude Climate Partnership

Rob explains more here about the climate challenges facing Bude, and the steps he hopes the town will take to address these while there is still time.

Bude Climate Partnership

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Steve Watt

Steve Watt

Lead councillor for environment, Council of the Isles of Scilly

Steve Watt tells us more about the plans to attempt to protect the vulnerable Isles of Scilly from future climate impacts – but also discusses issues such as the vulnerability of the sea link, which brings essential supplies from the mainland but is increasingly being disrupted by storms. “Without it, the islands would die”.

Climate Adaptation Scilly programme.

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What you can do

Around 28,000 properties in Cornwall are already at potential risk from either surface water flooding, storm surges or coastal erosion, and this figure will increase in future due to climate change and sea level rise.

Although the sea level around our coasts has only risen about 20cm so far, the speed of this rise is accelerating.


Preparation is key!

Check whether your house – or a house you are thinking of buying or renting –  is in a known flood risk area

Sign up for flood alerts here

The Be Flood Ready provides loads of useful and locally-tailored information on how to protect your property from flooding, how to cope and recover from flooding, advice and support.

Find useful advice here on how to stay safe in a storm:

If you are a developer or are hoping to build your own home, ensure that you understand the future risks. Only build on sites that are going to be sustainable into the future.


Does your community or parish have an emergency plan?

How resilient would your town or village be in the case of a storm, flood or other emergency? Is there a plan for protecting people and property? 

What about elderly neighbours, or people living in more remote or cut-off parts of your area?

Cornwall Community Flood Forum provides information and support for communities, and training for volunteer flood wardens and response teams.


What about insurance?

Many people are worried about whether their insurance premiums will go up – or if they may even be unable to get insurance at all in future, especially if they have previously already had to make a claim.

The good news is that most homeowners will be protected thanks to the Flood Re scheme. This was set up to ensure flood risk will continue to be insured for permanently occupied residential properties that were built before 2009. (The Flood Re scheme compensates insurers to have to pay out for flood claims, and is funded from a pot paid from a proportion of all UK homeowner insurance policies). 

Look at the Flood Re tool  to find out if your property qualifies. Note that not all insurers use Flood Re, so check with your insurer that you will be covered. 

Insurers are unlikely to insure against coastal erosion, although you may be covered for subsidence, heave, landslip, etc. Check your policy and if in doubt speak with your insurer.


What about the future?

Do you know what the situation looks like for your home over the next few decades? Check out the interactive map here to see how your area is likely to be affected by sea level rise or flooding in coming decades. 

Have a look at Cornwall’s Shoreline Management Plan to find out what plans are currently in place for your part of the coast.

Our carbon footprint

As a project to document the facts around climate change in Cornwall, we take our own carbon footprint very seriously and aim to tread as lightly as possible.

We operate in accordance with an environmental policy that covers everything from our transport (which accounts for the bulk of our emissions) and banking to data storage and battery charging.