Stage 2: La Prevote to Les Grandes Rocques

Friday, July 28, 2017

La Prevote Observation Tower

(1) La Prevote Observation Tower

Valley west of La Prevote

(2) Valley west of La Prevote

View west from Les Tielles

(3) View west from Les Tielles

L'Angle Tower

(4) L'Angle Tower

It was another rather gloomy morning when I made my way back down the quiet lane from the main road to the headland of La Prevote and its German observation tower (picture 1). I was making a somewhat later start than I would have liked, and it was nearly eleven o'clock when I reached the tower, by which time it was raining lightly and the wind coming off the sea was quite strong and rather chilly.

Just before the end of the lane, the coastal path winds its way down through dense bracken into a steep-sided coombe (picture 2). Climbing out with the aid of more than a few steps, the path barely attains the next ridge when it dips down steeply into another valley. This pattern of ups and downs continues, with the path crossing eight valleys in all to reach the next significant headland, Les Tielles, where there is a good view ahead along the rugged, windswept coastal cliffs (picture 3).

The undulations of the coast are less severe beyond Les Tielles, with the path running outside a long series of small farmers' fields. At several minor path junctions the path follows marker stones for Pleinmont. Inland, the tall, conical spire of the St Philippe de Torteval Parish Church makes a useful landmark, though it was covered in scaffolding at the time of my visit.

After passing by a lonely stone building, the 1804 Mont Herault Watch House, the coastal route joins an unsealed track, following it as far as a sudden right-hand turn, where a narrow footpath heads across the next valley towards the imposing L'Angle range-finding tower (picture 4).

View from L'Angle Tower

(5) View from L'Angle Tower

Batterie Generaloberst Dollmann

(6) Batterie Generaloberst Dollmann

Pleinmont Observation Tower

(7) Pleinmont Observation Tower

Hanois Lighthouse

(8) Hanois Lighthouse

The L'Angle Tower is open to the public and one can explore its five levels, each one built to control a separate German coastal battery. It's quite a stark and claustrophobic space with no natural light other than the little that filters through the narrow slits in the seaward face of the building (picture 5). On a such a gloomy day, it was hard to imagine that being posted here would have been a pleasant assignment.

Leaving the tower, I followed the path around the next little bite out of the coast, passing behind a concrete bunker embedded in the clifftop. The bunker was the command post of the Batterie Generaloberst Dollmann, a coastal artillery battery equipped with four French 22cm guns left over from the First World War. About 200 metres further along the path is a restored example of one of those guns (picture 6).

The coast now turns north-west towards Pleinmont Point, the westernmost extremity of Guernsey. A granite marker stone declares that the path is entering the Charles David Nature Reserve, where the path passes about 100 metres to the seaward side of a tall radio mast and then a similar distance from the Pleinmont Observation Tower (picture 7) before reaching a viewpoint above the tip of Pleinmont Point.

About two kilometres off the point, the thirty-three metre high Hanois Lighthouse (picture 8) stands on the rocky Hanois Reef, where at least forty shipwrecks occurred in the first half of the 19th century. These eventually persuaded the authorities to build the lighthouse, which was completed in 1862. The tower was the first to be built from granite blocks that dovetailed both horizontally and vertically with the adjacent blocks, a design that was subsequently copied for many British rock lighthouses.

Pleinmont Point

(9) Pleinmont Point

La Table des Pions

(10) La Table des Pions

Fort Pezeries

(11) Fort Pezeries


(12) Portelet

From the viewpoint, the path turns inland past the roofless remains of a crumbling concrete bunker and onward to a path junction where a marker stone points left, to Portelet. The path soon starts to head downhill off the point (picture 9), with views towards Lihou Island, which lies just off Guernsey.

When the path levels out near sea-level it passes the curious La Table des Pions (picture 10), a small mound surrounded by a ditch that is in turn surrounded by a circle of stones. It is also named the Fairy Ring on some maps as there are many local tales of fairies and witches appearing there. Nobody knows for certain when the circle was built, though it's definitely no later than the middle of the 19th century.

Near the circle, the coastal path joins the end of a tarmac lane, Rue de la Varde, which soon passes the small Fort Pezeries (picture 11), perched on a rocky spur of land protruding from the northern tip of Pleinmont Point. A fort was first built here around 1680, though most of the present structure is about a century later.

The lane skirts a rocky bay and then rounds the point of La Varde to approach the sandy Portelet Beach (picture 12), where I stopped at a small cafe to wait out a heavy rain shower and pick up some snacks.

Rocquaine Bay

(13) Rocquaine Bay

Fort Grey

(14) Fort Grey

German bunker by Rocquaine Bay

(15) German bunker by Rocquaine Bay

L'Eree Tower

(16) L'Eree Tower

From Portelet onwards, the coast of Guernsey is flat and densely populated, quite a contrast from the ups and downs of the lonely south coast.

Leaving Portelet, the lane passes the Imperial Hotel and becomes the more substantial Route de la Lague, running atop the long, gently curving seawall of the sandy, west-facing Rocquaine Bay (picture 13). About a quarter of the way around the bay, a small islet just off the beach is occupied by Fort Grey (picture 14). In the centre of the fort, painted white, is a martello tower that has been converted into a shipwreck museum preserving the memories of some of the many ships that have come to grief around Guernsey's coast.

Beyond the fort, the coastal path continues to follow the seawall and the road, which changes name regularly, passing a group of three German bunkers (picture 15) built into seawall at the south end of the long L'Eree Beach. The third of these is open to the public and I took a few minutes to explore inside.

For the first half of L'Eree Beach there is no pavement or verge beside the narrow road and one must either walk carefully along the road, ducking into driveways to avoid passing traffic, or take to the sand. The pavement beside the seawall resumes at the beach carpark and takes the coastal path around to the L'Eree Headland, which is dominated by its observation tower (picture 16).

MV Prosperity Shipwreck Memorial

(17) MV Prosperity Shipwreck Memorial


(18) Lihou

Mont Chinchon Battery

(19) Mont Chinchon Battery

Le Trepied Passage Grave

(20) Le Trepied Passage Grave

The main road cuts across the neck of the point, but the coastal path turns left past another bunker and follows a lane out to a carpark on one of the two prongs of the headland, where there is a memorial to the crew of the ill-fated MV Prosperity (picture 17), which was wrecked nearby on the night of 16/17 January 1974.

About 500 metres off L'Eree is the island of Lihou (picture 18). I had been hoping to explore Lihou, which has the ruins of a medieval abbey and a circular walking path of about a kilometre, but my timing was bad as the causeway connecting the island with Guernsey had just been covered up by the rising tide.

The coastal path runs along the edge of the headland to its northern tip before turning up through the bracken and some defensive trenches in front of the observation tower (which was built on top of an 1804 martello tower) and then briefly rejoining the same lane that was followed out onto the headland. At a fork the coastal path goes left and heads back out to the main road, which now follows the coast in a more easterly direction. For a while a footpath runs along a shingle bank between the road and the beach until the seawall and its accompanying pavement resume at a slipway. The road and seawall soon turn right and the pavement vanishes, to reappear a hundred metres later on the opposite side of the road as it rounds a point below the small hump of Mont Chinchon.

It is worth making the short diversion up onto the little hillock, where there is a late 18th-century battery (picture 19) and the remains of the La Trepied neolithic passage grave, which still has three of its large capstones (picture 20).

Approaching Richmond

(21) Approaching Richmond

Vazon Bay

(22) Vazon Bay

Vazon Bay Loophole Tower

(23) Vazon Bay Loophole Tower

Fort Hommet

(24) Fort Hommet

After rounding Mont Chinchon, the road skirts around the semicircular and rather rocky Perelle Bay, sans pavement for the first half. The large headland of Richmond separates Perelle Bay from Vazon Bay, but there is no public path around the headland, so the coastal path has to follow the main road, here called the Rue del la Maladerie, across the headland to reach the large sandy expanse of Vazon Bay (picture 22).

Once again the coastal path runs beside the road, passing a loophole tower (picture 23) shortly before reaching the Hommet headland at the far end of the bay. The coastal path runs around the edge of the grassy headland, passing a couple of small German bunkers on the way out to its rocky tip where the Victorian martello tower of Fort Hommet was augmented with several German additions during the Occupation (picture 24).


(25) Albecq

Cobo Bay

(26) Cobo Bay

Grandes Rocques Beach

(27) Grandes Rocques Beach

Grandes Rocques Fort

(28) Grandes Rocques Fort

A path goes around the seaward side of Fort Hommet then heads back along the edge of the headland, passing the remains of a medieval settlement before returning to the coastal road, which circles the small bay of Albecq (picture 25). Sticking by the road, the path runs around the much larger Cobo Bay (picture 26) and the adjoining Grandes Rocques Beach, where the sun made one last forlorn attempt to break through the clouds (picture 27). The beach ends at the headland of Les Grandes Rocques, where I had planned to finish the day's walk at a bus stop next to a triangular green by the main road.

As it turned out, I had about an hour to wait for the next bus, so instead of leaving the path, I first headed out along the edge of the headland to the Grandes Rocques Fort (picture 28) and back along the other side of the headland to rejoin the coast road. From there it was a short walk back along the road to the bus stop. My GPS showed 22.4 kilometres walked from La Prevote.