A resident of Devon or Cornwall, asked to list just a handful of iconic landscape features to sum up the appeal of the region would, surely, put a tiny ancient fishing harbour somewhere close to the top.
A place like Mousehole or Portwrinkle, Clovelly or Porthleven; a place that epitomises the region’s long association with the sea as, above all, something to be exploited for its riches but always respected for its strength and unpredictability.
Yet those tough little harbours named above, along with several larger ones like Newlyn, Penzance, St Ives and Brixham, all felt the full force of that strong and unpredictable sea last winter, suffering damage that is going to cost hundreds of thousands to repair.
So the news today that Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is to visit our region with a metaphorical cheque in his back pocket to help us patch up those harbours after the storm, will be welcome far more widely than just in the ports themselves.
Harbour repair is just the latest work to be approved by Government. In all it is having to spend over £200 million across our region, putting right the damage done by roaring winds, lashing rain and crashing seas in one of the worse winters for wind and rain on record.
That includes road repairs to fix flood damage, railways broken in two by the waves and sea front communities and the coastpath battered and broken by the relentless weather.
The devastating winter has prompted all sorts of dire warnings about what we can expect in the future, with many weather experts and scientists agreeing that a more volatile climate is likely to become the norm.
It has encouraged some organisations and individuals who own or operate coastal land to talk about ‘managed retreat’ and giving up areas to the sea.
Thankfully, in the case of those iconic harbours which have been places of work, places of rough beauty and havens for maritime craft for centuries, the idea of giving up is not on the agenda – at least not in most cases.
As Patrick McLoughlin tells the WMN today: “Our small ports are vital to the livelihoods of the communities they serve and are the lifeblood of the local economy.”
The various sums being invested to mend holes, strengthen stonework and shore up breakwaters, is money very well spent.
Not only do these ports provide jobs and incomes, they are also part of what makes the Westcountry what it is to millions. They must be cherished.