The Hell Butterfly

Goodbye, Dawlish as we knew it.

The storms hitting the UK are more severe than I thought. I had heard that they were horrendous, but was yet to witness the damage. I still haven’t seen it up close and personal, but judging by the photographs I’ve seen, I really don’t want to be going down there.

ImageI live in Plymouth, right down near the coast, but too far away to be able to bear witness to the destruction by simply looking out of a window. We don’t have it so bad where we are. Though true the road outside our house floods easily in heavy rain, the truth is the rain hasn’t been that bad. It’s the wind that is causing the havoc. The gale force gusts are stirring the ocean into turmoil. And it is hitting the coast to such a degree, that it is literally destroying towns.

All throughout my youth, I used to come down from Basingstoke to visit my grandparents in Newton Abbot, Devon. When we were there we would always, and I mean always, spend a day in the local area. Teignmouth Pier. Teignmouth Beach. Fishing in Teignmouth Bay. Dawlish. Dawlish Warren. And eventually back to Newton Abbot. We would spend the morning on the pier playing the old arcade games. I don’t think the boardwalk, or even the games, have been updated since they were built. At least, they’ve always been the same for me: shooting at miniature paper targets with a tiny air gun, bowling a shotput-sized ball uphill into circles of varying sizes for points, shooting at targets with a water gun which would trigger the 3D puppets to move and spray you back, throwing as many bean-bags into the Looney Bin as you could to ‘beat’ Sylvester the Cat. Then we would always go outside onto the main pier and watch the world go by. We would then go to the beach and mess around for a couple hours. Sometimes – more so as we got older – we would go mackerel fishing in the bay. I like to do this with my Dad still.

But we would always go to Dawlish.Image

We would walk from Teignmouth, following the beach until we hit the Red Rock. A literal giant rock, a cliff if you will, made of bright red stone. I won’t pretend to know what type of stone it is. From here, we would follow the train track. Eventually we would get to the same spot we always came to and sit on the wall right next to the tracks. From this vantage point, we would be able to see if a train was coming from the tunnel to the right, or round the corner from the left. We would wait there for a train, sometimes twenty or thirty minutes, and as soon as we saw one we would wave like mad. Almost always the driver(s) would wave back. Sometimes they even blared their horns. As a child, it was unbelievably exciting.

ImageWe would then go on to Dawlish Warren. As soon as I get a boyfriend that I want to travel with, or get some free time with my best friend, I want to bring them here. We always did the same thing, countless hours of repetition, but I would do it all again a thousand times if I had the chance. It never loses its glitter to me. Crazy Golf. Cricket by the canal. Watching the ducks swimming under the fairy lights. Moving up-canal, past the bird sanctuaries, to watch the ever-elegant black swans gracing the canal, and us, with their magnificence. Then back to Gay’s Creamery – without a glimmer of competition the best ice-cream in England. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I imagine they’d have some real work to do to be better than a Gay’s double-scoop vanilla ice cream with clotted cream and flake…

I reminisce like this sometimes when I think about the area nearby. When I travel between home and Plymouth, the train always passes through Teignmouth and Dawlish. It’s one of the most peaceful parts of the journey. The most peaceful journey perhaps that I’ve ever been on.

The storms have hit Dawlish bad.

Dawlish has been crushed.

All of the following pictures are brought to you courtesy of Buzzfeed.


I once stood on this platform after watching the Air Show and it was a little windy. We got soaked. It was nothing compared to this.


This is the sea wall at Dawlish. The waves have been so strong that they have torn whole chunks of it out.


This is the train line I get home. Well, used to get home. It is scheduled to be shut for up to 6 weeks to fix the damage to the tracks and surrounding area.


As you can see, the ground below the tracks is gone. The line is essentially suspended in mid-air. The waves have torn out the ground from beneath it.


The storm has ripped out whole chunks of the town. As you can see, my childhood paradise has been hit hard.


The roads are flooded, and the sea is showing no signs of letting up on its fury.


This was torn from its seat and strewn here. You can see the wreckage of the surrounding area. And for the record, this is not Gay’s Creamery.


It’s going to take weeks, months, to fix the damage caused by these storms. A chunk of my childhood, and a massive part of the lives of many more locals have been turned upside down because of this.

When I think back over the many hours of my childhood I spent in that area. And see it now in tatters. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s happening right now. Everywhere. All around the UK, coastlines are being battered. And here I sit, warm(ish) in my bedroom, at my laptop, only just now considering the impact it has had, is still having, and will continue to have on Britain.

I won’t use this post as a rant about Climate Change. True, it is my opinion – and that of many others – that fossil fuel burning, and all those related subjects we hear about so often, contribute to Climate Change and therefore to the abnormal (and frankly disastrous) weather patterns we have been experiencing. But that isn’t the point of this. Yes, we have fucked up the Earth, and yes, the Earth is biting back – hard. But I am merely reminiscing about times gone by, easier, happier times, and reflecting on the drastic changes that have happened because of said weather patterns.

It’s crazy to think how quickly something can change. How fast something sacred to you can be taken away. I have always held a fearful respect for the power of weather, and in turn of the Earth. And it is such incidents as that which has occurred at Dawlish which make that feeling ever-more present in my mind.


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