Cornish home to TV’s Doc Martin appeals for sea defence funds


Last two full-time fishing vessels left in harbour cannot afford to pay for work to protect Port Isaac

A Cornish fishing village familiar to fans of gentle comedy drama is facing a crisis because part of its sea defences are crumbling and there are no longer enough working boats to fund the repairs.

Householders in Port Isaac, the setting for the long-running ITV show Doc Martin, are worried that if one of the breakwaters that protect the picturesque village are not repaired, homes could be inundated when Atlantic storms sweep in.

For a century, fishing boat owners have clubbed together to maintain the breakwaters, but there are only two full-time working vessels left in the harbour and they cannot afford to pay for the work.

The Port Isaac harbour commissioners have launched an online appeal to try to raise £40,000 for the work.

Dugald Sproull, the chair of the commissioners, said: “It’s very sad. When I was a lad the whole place was about fishing. The industry has died a death. The problem now is there are only two full-time commercial fishing boats left. We have lost half a dozen or more in the past few years, more by coincidence that anything else – people have got old or had an accident with a lobster pot or whatever. The fishing is going down the pan.”

A chunk of the eastern breakwater, built in the 1920s to protect the exposed port on the rugged north coast, has collapsed. The final cost of repairs is not known yet but Sproull said it was is clear it would be “eye watering”.

Sproull said homes and businesses would be at risk if the breakwater was further damaged. “The bottom of the village is really at risk,” he said.

In their appeal, the commissioners say: “In recent years the commercial boats in Port Isaac have depleted from around 10 to just two. If there are no commercial boats left in the harbour, there will be no one around to look after the infrastructure, and it will be only a matter of time until the breakwaters fall in to disrepair and, with sea levels rising, the bottom of the village will be regularly flooded and become unsustainable and uninsurable.”

They would also like to carry out repairs to the harbour’s 16th-century fishing cellars and a path that leads to the breakwaters. They conclude: “Your support would mean everything to this tiny corner of Cornwall and would benefit every local, holidaymaker, business owner and Port Isaac lover alike.”

The commissioners do get paid by the people behind Doc Martin, which is filming this year for a new series. Some of the funds they receive for the right to film in the village are expected to go towards the cost of the breakwater. Each year tens of thousands of Doc Martin pilgrims throng to Port Isaac.

There may also be help from the sea shanty and folk group Fisherman’s Friends, who are based in Port Isaac. Choirs helped raise money for the breakwaters 100 years ago, and it is a consoling thought that the group may come to the village’s aid in its hour of need now by holding charity events.

The harbourmaster and fishing boat skipper Tom Brown said: “In years gone by we’d all get together to sort out the repairs, but the breakwater has been pretty badly damaged and it’s going to cost mega money to repair it.”

Brown, a fifth-generation fisher, said: “If we get a 40ft or 50ft sea, without a breakwater there’s going to be big flooding problems. It’s feeling quite bleak at the moment.”

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