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Saturday, 3 September 2011

JERSEY: THE CHANNEL ISLAND WAY: 6: The East Coast (iii)

OR: DON’T MENTION THE WAR…

In previous posts I may have mentioned that in the past the French had cast their eye over Jersey and thought it might be worth a go – a bit like the Argentinians and The Falkland Islands, I suppose. Well, the Brits were having none of this and fortified the island to the teeth. You can’t have ‘Johnny Foreigner’ taking bites out of your Empire, can you now? Where would it all end? Defensive forts were built from the finest Jersey Granite along the entire coastline with heavy cannon installed to deter the French fleet.

When the construction of huge harbour walls started in earnest, to house the British fleet, that seemed to do the trick. The French finally gave up trying and went back about the business of global domination by stealth; developing the finest cuisine in the world and taking over that way.

So having dined rather well, on our ‘Gastro-Tour’ as Robin so succinctly dubbed our exploration of the wild coastline in the previous blogpost’s comments section,  we continued on our stroll down the east coast of Jersey. We started with a gentle amble down through the castle grounds and met with this rather striking fellow: My herpetology isn’t all it should be and I am guessing that it is a lizard?  Helpful comments identifying the chap (or chap-ess, perhaps?) would be appreciated. I was grateful that the little fellow stayed still long enough to be recorded on my incredibly slow party camera.

Lizard - What am I?

Arthur, our Blue Badge Guide, let us know that you could spend a very happy afternoon exploring the castle, which has quite a history. There really is absolutely piles of stuff to do around here; the walk could be easily be broken down, as suggested in the guide book, into little fragments as eating, drinking and generally enjoying being a tourist will fill the remaining part of your day quite comfortably.

Gorey Harbour

Gorey is a rather splendid little place; nestling beautifully beneath the castle and cuddling it’s sandy harbour with boats bobbing about. Cafes and some quite smart shops line the ‘main drag’. I did like their newsagent:

Gorey News Gorey Bus Shelter & Phone Kiosk

I shall now touch on some observations that really are quite shocking to a chap from the mainland:

  • The phone boxes are all intact and are a resplendent bright yellow
  • The civic amenities’ (bus shelters, public loos, public buildings etc - but you know what civic amenities are, don’t you, so there’s no need for this absurd explanation) paintwork is all immaculate.
  • Benches to relax upon and enjoy the wonderful views are intact, comfortable and numerous.
  • I did not spot a single piece of litter ANYWHERE on the entire trip.

Quite a culture, shock, really…

Gorey Harbour Sea Holly

Right! Enough of the smug ramblings of a contented Englishman abroad! Onwards. We are heading south once more along the sweeping strand of La Baie du Vieux Chateau and soon we leave the cultured environs of Gorey and find ourselves on the golf course. To the sides of the immaculate fairways, the rough hosts wonderful little plants like the sea holly, above right. I would have been quite happy to try out my collapsible hiker’s lob wedge and chase my divots around the course but I was persuaded to stow it back in my rucksack. Members only, I am afraid… It did look quite lovely and hardly a soul was out to play on it. It looked ideal for a little one man tent on those billiard table smooth baize greens…

We’ll move on, before Jersey Tourism take me away in one of their chauffer driven white vans. There are lots of dungeons in Jersey where I could be incarcerated and never ever be seen again.

La Baie du Vieux Chateau

Then we came to the really heavy business of the more recent fortifications put in place by the last lot of invaders.

Fort Henry

The Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans for the five years between 1940 and 1945. The British gave them up as impossible to defend and so, apart from a couple of bombing raids, the Germans took over the running of the islands without having to storm the place. They were there in great force; there was approximately one German soldier for every two Channel Islanders. Hitler ordered that the Channel Islands were to be part of his ‘Atlantic Wall’ of defence and huge concrete defences were constructed using both slave and volunteer labour forces. Examples of these absolutely massive constructions can be seen all around the island; huge gun emplacements, machine gun nests and the huge anti-tank walls to the rear of the open beaches. A few of the larger examples are open to the public.

Jersey was liberated a long time after the Allies had invaded Europe, so cutting off the supply lines to the German garrisons. It also meant that the Germans and Islanders almost starved to death as the food supplies were cut off! Peace came to Jersey the day after it was declared in Europe.

Fort Henry

We continued southwards towards Jersey’s south easterly tip at La Rocque, where the last failed French invasion took place; most of their ships having been caught on the dangerous reefs off-shore. If you look closely at the picture, below right, (click on it to enlarge it) you will see the the reefs that the French fleet foundered on, seen from the end of the breakwater.

Harbour Steps: Le Havre de la Rocque Seymour Tower

Then it was off to St Helier in our air-conditioned black limousine for more fun and frolics – but more of that in the next post!

9 comments:

  1. Your account makes me want to visit again! I went in 1990 and cycled all round the island - i fancy walking it now I've read your exploits

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  2. Hi WW: That's a generation ago, you know. I think that you will find that Jersey has changed.

    It has really spruced itself up: The old Pontins Holiday Camp fell apart around that time as tourism changed - everyone ran off to Torremolinos to drink their Watney's Red Barrel and slap Timothy White's suntan oil on their purulent white flesh.... (ooh - I've caught a nasty dose of Python)

    Now it's a vibrant, friendly good quality destination for nature lovers and lovers of a quiet peaceful time. (With a few great pubs thrown in, but we'll get to them later!)

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  3. Looks lovely. Are you visiting Herm? I camped there as a youngster. From what I remember it was beautiful.

    You should visit the Isles of Scilly as well, which is like a smaller, undeveloped Channel Isles.

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  4. Hi Robin

    In the time we had available we stayed on Jersey; the largest of the Channel Islands.

    I believe Bob & Rose covered the smaller islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark & Herm. You can find their podcasts by clicking HERE and having a rootle around. They were quite excellent!

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  5. If the Scilly Isles have a tourism office, and if the good people of Sciliy Isles Tourism need two stout yeomen of this parish to promote their islands...then Alan and I could do some Scilly walks, although that won't do much for Alan's dose of Python.

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  6. Mark said: "if the good people of Sciliy Isles Tourism need two stout yeomen..."

    I know I may have a burgeoning belly, but,,,,, stout?

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  7. Sorry Alan - forgot to complete my readings of your CI posts. Never realised just how heavily fortified the islands were. My kids would love this place, beaches, castles and walks. Perfick

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  8. Jersey really does make a great place for kids' holidays: So much to see and they can easily cope with the coastline as well.

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  9. Your account of Jersey made for a good read. Would love to go on a holiday to Jersey! .

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