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Aug 26 2011

Jersey Coastal Walk – Day One

Looking south from Portelet Common

route: St Brelade’s Bay to Gorey
Date: 26th August 2011
distance: 17 miles
time: 6 hrs 55 mins
walkers: Dave & Leanne

We were finally here at the Golden Sands Hotel, St Brelade’s Bay in Jersey. We had been looking forward to a break for so long and now we had ten whole days to do whatever we chose to recharge the batteries that are worn down with everyday life. After a good sleep the night before we were up nice and early and after taking full advantage of the vast breakfast options we stuck on our walking boots and prepared for a walk. This wasn’t any old walk, this was a round the whole of Jersey walk, a walk of some 48 miles. Now personally I liked the idea of doing this but not at the expense of our holiday so the plan was to set off today and see how far we got. When we reached the point where we have had enough we stop and catch the bus back to the hotel. After that we would just have to see how we felt from day to day and see if we wanted to go back and do more. Both myself and Leanne wanted to do it but not to feel that that had been the main focus of our holiday, to add something to it would be great but not to dominate. That was the plan as we packed a rucksack up and prepared to set off into the unknown. We had done a fair bit of walking in some of Northern England’s National Parks and we feel fairly comfortable there but we had no idea what to expect here.

Taken right outside the hotel just before the off.

With our picture taken we began the slow stroll along the promenade around St Brelade’s Bay. The reason for the slow stroll was mainly to do with the fact we were flicking through the guide book we were following but also had something to do with the fact we were both full from breakfast and we had no timetable to work to. Personally I wanted any walking we did to be of the relaxed kind to soak up the views rather than the head down, bash out the miles kind. Leanne felt the same way as this so there was no issue there and we passed the small headland at the end our bay and made our way to the far end of Ousaine Bay. At this early stage things were looking good as the sun was beginning to come out and it didn’t look like the £2.99 poncho I bought earlier would be required, which is probably just as well as it was bright yellow and I would look like a walking banana. We reached the end of the promenade and continued round the beach over some big rocks that separated the beach from the cliff face. The tide was out which was good as I don’t know how far up here it would come and with no alternative in the book it could have been very interesting. The book stated that at the end of these rocks would be a footpath sign and indeed there was and we began the climb up the cliff side. Two years ago this would have left me gasping for breath but after all the fell walking we have done we powered all the way up without a break and we were soon rewarded for our effort with a fabulous view back over St Brelade’s Bay.

St Brelade’s Bay as seen from Portelet Common. Our hotel is the white building far right.

We didn’t know it at the time but this was to be just about all the climbing we would encounter today so we were set for a productive day. From Portelet Common we followed the path towards Noirmont Point with me reading the guidebook out loud as we went. There was a wonderful mix of colours from the wild plants and with the sea away to our right (see main pic) this was everything I was hoping the walk would be. The route then took us inland fractionally and we walked past a pub and a hotel before we headed back towards the sea via a new modern apartment complex. As we left the buildings behind we reached the far side of Portelet Bay and had a great view back to the bay we had just walked around.

Portelet Bay and Janvrins Tomb

Approaching the German defences at Noirmont Point

A short distance further on and we had reached Noirmont Point which is the sight of Batterie Lothringen, a German coastal artillery battery and bunker system that was built after the invasion of the Channel Islands in World War 2. Some of the bunkers are open during the summer and we visited the last time we were in Jersey three years ago. This time we didn’t have time to go inside the bunkers but we did spend twenty minutes or so having a nosey at the various trenches, sighting towers and gun emplacements.

Fortunately it wasn’t loaded!

Leanne at one of the gun emplacements with St Helier in the background

I could have quite easily spent another hour or more inspecting the numerous concrete structures and reading the information boards but if we were to get any distance done today we had to keep moving. The route took us through some gorse bushes to a chain fence that we followed for half a mile or maybe more before we came out at a little crossroads. The book told us to go straight over before taking the next road on our right which was one of Jersey’s many Green Lanes, which give priority to walkers. This lane was level for a mile or so before it started to twist down quite steeply towards St Aubin’s, passing some lovely big houses overlooking the sea. When we reached the bottom we were at the harbour and it was quite clear that the tide was out. Jersey has some of the biggest tidal ranges in the world and the difference between in and out is remarkable in some places.

St Aubin’s harbour with the tide out

We skirted round the harbour and after a quick toilet break we joined the promenade that sweeps around St Aubin’s bay for the next three miles until we reached St Helier. This section wasn’t the best as we were walking on concrete but the close proximity of the beach made me feel like we were still doing a coastal walk, even if the tide was a long way out. As we ambled along we were passed a few times by a little train taking tourists along the front and also encountered numerous cycles of varying sizes and shapes that had been hired from the end of the bay. About half way round the bay we noticed some sand sculptures and paused for a little while to have a look. Each of the four different ones were very good and must have taken a long time to do, although we did wonder if they were actually all made from sand and not some fibreglass template with sand applied over the top!

A Beetle, sinking VW camper van and a castle. To the right of shot was a jeep and some animals advertising the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

After dropping a pound note into the collection tub we carried on around the prom, stopping briefly for an ice cream as the temperature continued to rise. Following our refreshment we completed the section around St Aubin’s Bay and ended up on the outskirts of St Helier, following directions towards the various harbours and marinas that adjoin one another. Elizabeth Marina was the first one we encountered and we took a couple of snaps of the yachts and boats sat below us attached to the floating pontoons. The line around the marina walls gave some idea of how much the tide would rise when it came in.

Elizabeth Marina and a new apartment block

The directions were slightly misunderstood as we ended up at a dead end but it was easy to see where we had gone wrong and we backtracked about 50 yards and returned to our route as we passed the entrance to the Channel ferry terminal and ended up at St Helier Marina. Lining the marina were stones each one containing a letter, the phonetic equivalent and the morse code for that letter. On top of that there was a couple of flag signals which I assumed stood for each particular letter. It was interesting stuff and as we neared the top of the harbour the co-ordinates were stuck on the marina wall which I liked although how important it was I don’t know. I assume that if you are in the harbour you are too desperate for co-ordinates but not being up on all things sailing I don’t know.

Leanne at St Helier Marina

The Steam Clock near the old harbour which was commissioned in 1997

At this point there was no doubt we were in St Helier as the traffic was busier and louder and gave me the town feel which is what I walk to avoid so we carried on away passing the English Harbour then the French Harbour and after climbing a flight of around 30 steps we seemed to leave most of the noise behind. Unfortunately that didn’t mean we were back on the wonderful paths of Portelet Common as we encountered a power station but fortunately we soon turned away from that and with our backs to it we didn’t see it again. Now back on another promenade we approached Havre Des Pas and the sea water swimming pool which looked lovely and I can imagine that the water would be nice and warm, compared with the sea at least.

The Victorian tidal swimming pool opened in 1895

From here the next few miles were a bit boring and to be quite honest not particularly nice. I suppose it was a little too much to expect the full island path to be on the coast and whilst we weren’t that far away we did have houses in between us and the beach as we walked on a pavement that could have been anywhere in the world. Maybe not anywhere as you could still tell you were near the sea, or maybe that was because I knew we were, but it wasn’t exactly what I signed up for. By now we were hungry and as we were trying to remain flexible and holiday like, we hadn’t packed any food other than the odd snack, as we thought we could stop somewhere looking out over mile after mile of sandy beach and rippling blue water. Instead we walked past a garage and more houses until we reached a little road that led us to the beach at Green Island and decided that would be our lunch spot. There was a nice restaurant but we opted for the take away cafe sarnies instead as we didn’t want to get too comfy.

Some of the rock formations revealed by the tide

From here we could see loads of rock formations with the tide out and I quizzed Leanne on why the German forces didn’t feel the need to build big gun emplacements here. She passed with flying colours and after shoving a couple of bottles of water and cans of diet coke into our bag (we did pay for them), we retraced our tracks back up the little road and turned right onto the larger road once again for more pavement slog. Shortly afterwards we came across a large set of iron gates and down a drive way we could see Rocqueberg or “witches rock” and I read to Leanne the story of how it came to be named so before carrying on once I had finished. We soon came across Le Hocq round tower which along with many others all around the island were built in the 17th and 18th centuries to protect the island from the French.

Le Hocq tower and one of the twelve parish crosses erected to mark the millennium

Again we lost our sea view and had to make do with road walking although this time the road was a little smaller and quieter so didn’t feel quite as bad. Leanne had mentioned a couple of times that her feet were hurting her and I had to admit that mine were hot and felt tender on the bottom. I don’t know if this was due to a prolonged period of road walking or the fact that the temperature was quite high, either way it was beginning to look like it may cut short our first day of walking. With this in mind we were already contemplating stopping at the end of this section of the guide book and as we kept an eye out for the gravel car park that signified the end we were already discussing dipping our feet in the sea followed by a nice cool beer. Finally we arrived at the car park at La Rocque and sat down to check the map and guide book.

We had done around 14 miles by the time we reached La Rocque

After a short deliberation we concluded that we should at least do one more section of the route and made our way to the far end of the car park as we were instructed to do before we rejoined the road. We passed a couple more of the round towers and after the third one the book told us to go down a slipway to follow the concrete platform that follows the beach. It also mentions to descend if the tide allows (which it did), but knowing the tides can move quickly on this side of the island and also not being sure of if we had escape routes we decided not to go down onto the beach. Instead we continued along the road as it gradually left the coast and angled inland. I was constantly checking the map and hoping that one of the small lanes to our right would take us back to the sea. Fortunately as we crossed one of these lanes a woman stopped in her car. She saw the guide book and commented, before I replied explaining our situation. She told us that we would have been fine along the beach but if we went back 20 yards we could follow that lane back to the footpath and we thanked her and took her advice, rejoining the path and heading north towards the golf course. The book told us to look out for a golf ball that had been placed in the concrete as it set and for those few minutes that was the only thing that mattered to us, game on!

We found the golf ball in the concrete

Different island defences. The older Fort Henry and the much more recent German bunker as the golf course runs between the two.

For the next fifteen minutes we followed the golf course pausing from time to time to watch people take their shots. I even commented on ones guys tee shot with the simple passing remark of “shot” to which I got back “thanks”. After leaving the golf course we entered a car park and spotted another ice cream van and as the temperature was pretty hot by now I fancied a lolly which I bought and Leanne got a can of pop. We sat in the shade and took stock of where we were and how we felt. We both were in the same physical condition which was the legs and lungs were fine as it had been flat all day, but our feet were sore and we didn’t know if we could do another section of the book. As we finished our treats we decided that we would begin the next stage but stop when we got to the next little village, Gorey. As the route was a circular one we didn’t need to stop at the given points in the book so we set off and soon picked up a promenade which we followed until we reached Gorey.

Mont Orgeuil Castle above Gorey. It was built in 1204 and used right up until the end of World War 2.

With the route taking us past a bus shelter we thought that would be an appropriate place to call it a day and we sat and waited for the next bus, which fortunately was within 10 mins. After a quick change in St Helier we were back at our hotel and we nipped to the room to get a towel and some flip flops then we were down to the sea to cool our feet off.
The ten minutes I spent stood in the sea were pure heaven as I had acquired a few blisters which I don’t normally get. Leanne’s feet were worse and we seriously thought that may be it for walking during our holiday. It was too soon to say and the only thing we could do in the meantime was to relax and give them a few days to recover before assessing the situation once again. With that thought in mind, we headed for the hotel bar and had a couple of cheeky ones whilst we watched the tide come in…

Sir Edmund

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