The Isles of Scilly is a tourist hotspot but it constantly under threat from rising sea levels. Schoolchildren have pleaded with world leaders to act before the beautiful area is lost forever
Gazing at the turquoise sea around the Isles of Scilly it is easy to see why it has become such a popular staycation spot, with record numbers of visitors this year.
Yet it is almost impossible to comprehend that this archipelago of 200 islands, 30 miles from Land’s End, is uniquely vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels.
But a message from local schoolchildren to Prince Charles earlier this summer urged world leaders to act as they prepare for COP26, the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November.
It is a plea that must not be ignored as nowhere in the British Isles is more dangerously exposed to the consequences of climate change.
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Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
Scientists have warned how these islands, where much of the land is just a few metres above sea level, could become inundated due to the rising sea levels and more frequent and violent storms.
Only in July, five people had to be airlifted from their boat off the Isles of Scilly as Storm Evert swept through.
In the most extreme predictions, experts warn these islands may need to be abandoned as the climate crisis could make them uninhabitable.
Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
Two of the key residential areas, Hugh Town and Old Town, are at sea level.
Telegraph Hill on St Mary’s sits at just 50 metres, the highest point of the main island, the equivalent of the top of Nelson’s Column.
These islands, home to 2,200 residents, also boast one of the most important breeding populations of Atlantic grey seals in Europe, rare seabirds, including a significant percentage of the world’s Manx shearwater population, as well as the Scilly shrew and Scilly bee, both species unique to the islands. It is one of the few places in the UK where elm trees still thrive.
This unique flora and fauna have attracted artist John Dyer, 53, to the island of Tresco from his home in Falmouth, Cornwall, since 2001.
He says: “It’s my favourite place in the world to paint.” He is the founder of Last Chance to Paint, which teaches children about the effects of climate change on nature through art.
He says: “The Scillies are so unique. We are so close to Cornwall, but the flora that you get here, particularly on Tresco, is very different.
“Sadly, I believe in my lifetime that large chunks of the island will be unusable for housing and agriculture due to regular coastal flooding. In many ways my paintings are part of a last chance to paint the island as they are.”
The warmer waters have also been attracting new visitors. Earlier this month, humpback whales were spotted during a sardine feeding frenzy. Matt Slater, marine conservation officer with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said that before 2015 the trust had no recorded sightings of humpback whales in Cornish waters, but 53 were spotted last winter.
Alamy Stock Photo)
Local politicians declared a climate emergency in 2019, led by councillor Jonathan Smith, who is also an organic fruit and vegetable farmer.
He warns: “Climate change is a huge threat. We must adapt to safeguard housing, critical infrastructure and land.
“Weather patterns are changing, with seasons less pronounced and predictable.
“Cold and dry springs make growing a real challenge. More prolonged summer heat is also likely.
Alamy Stock Photo)
“It will be a combination of rising sea levels, storms and big spring tides that will lead to the sea encroaching on land and real damage.”
In May, £3.6million was awarded to Adaptive Scilly to tackle the risk of flooding, erosion and other climate risks over the next 25 years.
Other parts of the county also face a bleak future. The fishing town of Looe in south-east Cornwall is the most frequently flooded place in England, with storm surges six to eight times a year causing £40million of damage in the last five years.
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It is estimated the town centre could flood up to 60 times a year by 2050, as sea levels rise and storms increase because of climate change.
Retired trawlerman Armand Toms, 67, now an independent on Cornwall council, says: “I’ve lived with storms all my life, but it definitely floods more now because of the more extreme and powerful storms we get.”
The Mirror has joined forces with community television channel Together TV to hand out 50,000 packets of free basil seeds to readers.
The seed starter kits are being given away as part of a new Green Challenge to encourage more people to start growing more of their own food.
Along with your packet of basil you will receive tips on how to look after the plants and exclusive recipes using the herb from celebrity chef Rustie Lee.
Bake Off winner and presenter Nadiya Hussain and TV gardener Danny Clarke are also backing the Green Challenge.
Nadiya told the Mirror: “There is so much joy you can get from cooking, it’s good for the soul. The power it has to bring your family, friends, neighbours and community together to connect and share the delicious food you’ve made is the best.”
How to apply for your free seeds:
- Visit www.TogetherTV.com/GreenChallenge and fill out the online form
- By SMS: Text “Together” to 80800 for free followed by your full name
- Sending your full name, post address and phone number via letter to –
Together TV’s Green Challenge 24 Neal Street
London WC2H 9QW
In 2019, Cornwall council backed a plan to build a tidal gate, but the £41m project would only be entitled to £3.7m of government funding.
Mr Toms says: “We need measures. Doing nothing is not an option.”