Stage 7: St Helier to St Catherine's Breakwater

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Liberation Square

(1) Liberation Square

Steam Clock

(2) Steam Clock

Old Harbour

(3) Old Harbour

English Harbour

(4) English Harbour

The final leg of the Channel Islands Way is a four-day walk around the coastline of Jersey, the largest and most populous of the islands. Unlike the other four islands visited by the Way, the circuit of Jersey is walked anti-clockwise.

I had arrived on Jersey in the early afternoon of the day before this walk after a short flight from Alderney to Guernsey and an only marginally longer flight from Guernsey to Jersey. That had given me several hours to wander around St Helier, the island's capital, and the only settlement in the Channel Islands that I could genuinely describe as bustling.

I started the walk in Liberation Sqaure, across the busy A1 Route de la Liberation from St Helier's large harbour. The centrepiece of this popular meeting place is a large bronze sculpture of a group of islanders holding a Union Flag aloft in celebration of the end of the German Occupation on 9 May 1945 (picture 1). Between 1873 and 1929, the square was the terminus of the Jersey Railway, which served much the same territory as today's walk.

The Way crosses the A1 and turns left along the edge of another square, where several benches bear the names of vessels from Jersey's shipbuilding past. The centre of the square is occupied by a large steam clock (picture 2), created in 1997 by artist Gordon Young. Across the square, the Way runs along the left side of the Old Harbour (picture 3), devoid of water at the bottom of the tide. When the road eventually kinks left then right to skirt around the smaller English Harbour (picture 4), the Way drops down slightly to use the cobbled quayside.

Mount Bingham

(5) Mount Bingham

Havre des Pas

(6) Havre des Pas

The Lido

(7) The Lido

A4 Road

(8) A4 Road

Back on the road, La Folie Inn is passed before walking down the cobbled slipway of the French Harbour. Steps at the bottom of the slipway go back up to the road, which is crossed to a longer flight of steps that climbs up the side of a high retaining wall. At the top of the steps, the Way turns right alongside South Hill for a few metres until the pavement runs out, then crosses diagonally to another pavement where steps soon ascend on the left to the pavement beside Mount Bingham, which swings away to the left of Jersey's power station and its tall chimney (picture 5).

The first turn on the right takes the Way across a carpark and down a dingy path between the power station and the barracks of the Jersey Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers. At the bottom of the path, by a large mound covered in scrub, the Way turns left to join a wide promenade path around the rocky shore of the Havre des Pas (picture 6).

In the 19th century this bay was dominated by ship-builders and rope-makers, but today it is rather more gentrified. The promenade passes in front of a park and some modern apartments before swinging left past a large shelter to join the A4 road, which runs beside a sandy beach where a pier stretches out to the former Fort d'Auvergne, now incorporated into a large tidal swimming pool (picture 7).

The Way now follows the A4, which diverges from the beach to pass several grand seaside hotels (picture 8). After the road kinks to the right it is running through a more residential area, but it's still almost a kilometre before the view of the sea is regained at a small green with a half-buried anchor next to the La Grande Charriere Slipway.

La Mare

(9) La Mare

Samares Methodist Church

(10) Samares Methodist Church

St Clement War Memorial

(11) St Clement War Memorial

Le Hocq Tower

(12) Le Hocq Tower

The Way follows a narrow pavement along the seaward side of the road, next to the stout seawall bordering the long beach of La Greve d'Azette, eventually passing a white metal tower topped by a miniature lighthouse that is paired with a larger offshore light to warn shipping away from the many rocks off the beach of La Mare (picture 9).

A paved footpath diverges from the road, passing to the seaward side of a carpark and a handful of houses before the path is forced through a narrow alleyway to rejoin the road for another lengthy stretch out of sight of the sea. After 300 metres the road passes the Samares Methodist Church (picture 10), which bears the date 1903. In another 300 metres are the wrought iron gates of Rocqueberg, a large property that occupies the western end of Le Havre des Fontaines, but still there is no sea view for the humble walker.

The view is briefly regained after the pavement swaps sides of the road but is lost again until the St Clement War Memorial and Parish Hall are reached (picture 11). Across the road, a park on the small promontory of Le Hocq Point contains the Le Hocq Tower (picture 12), one of a series of twenty-three towers built around the Jersey coast at around the same time and for the same reason as the loophole towers I had seen on Guernsey. The main difference in the design is that Jersey's towers have four projections on the roof to allow a defender to safely fire downwards at anyone attacking the walls.

The stone cross in front of the tower is the St Clement Millennium Cross. In 1999, each of Jersey's twelve parishes erected a Millennium Cross and a Millennium Standing Stone. The crosses were intended to represent the wayside crosses that were once common on the island before they were destroyed when England broke away from the Catholic Church in the 16th century, while one article at the time described the standing stones as "giant fingers pointing to the future". A couple of the standing stones are passed on the next day of the Channel Islands Way.

St Clement's Bay

(13) St Clement's Bay

Parish boundary of Grouville and St Clement

(14) Parish boundary of Grouville and St Clement

La Rocque Pier

(15) La Rocque Pier

La Rocque Harbour

(16) La Rocque Harbour

Leaving the park, the Way continues beside the A4, getting a view across St Clement's Bay (picture 13) from opposite the Le Hocq Inn before the road squeezes behind a few houses. The sea view is regained for a while before a much longer stretch of road walking where the A4 is separated from the beach by closely-packed houses for the rest of the way around the bay. Along the way, a stone monument, dated 1909, marks the spot where the road passes from the parish of St Clement into the parish of Grouville (picture 14).

At the far end of the bay, the road curves across the back of the headland of La Platte Rocque at the south-eastern corner of Jersey. The top of another loophole tower can be glimpsed over a tall hedge, but there will be a better view of it soon.

Just around the bend, the road reaches La Rocque Harbour, where I walked out to the end of the 300 metre long stone pier (picture 15) for a better view of the harbour (picture 16).

View towards Seymour Tower

(17) View towards Seymour Tower

Platte Rocque Tower

(18) Platte Rocque Tower

Seymour Inn

(19) Seymour Inn

Royal Bay of Grouville

(20) Royal Bay of Grouville

Beyond the end of the pier one can see the Seymour Tower standing on a rocky islet about two kilometres offshore (picture 17). The square tower and its adjacent artillery platform were built in 1781 as part of a project to strengthen Jersey's defences after a force of 1,400 Frenchmen made a failed attempt to invade the island in January of that year. Most of the invaders landed at La Rocque on the evening of the 5th of January and marched to St Helier where the Battle of Jersey was fought the following morning.

The Seymour Tower is now used as holiday accommodation and the seabed off this corner of Jersey slopes so gently that it is often possible to walk out to the tower at low tide, though occasionally people get caught out by the speed with which the tide rolls back in. The Icho Tower, a round Martello tower built in 1810, is a similar distance offshore and further over to the right of the Seymour Tower, but can only be visited on foot at very low spring tides.

Turning back from the end of the pier, the Platte Rocque Tower and the Chateau beside it is framed by rocky outcrops (picture 18).

Back beside the coast road, the Channel Islands Way passes the harbour and runs along the seawall until the road diverges from the beach for a stretch of urban walking, much of it on the road, sans pavement. The La Rocque loophole tower is passed halfway along this stretch but it is now part of a private dwelling and inaccessible to the public.

Opposite the Seymour Inn (picture 19), one can walk down the Seymour Slipway for a view across the Royal Bay of Grouville (picture 20), though the footpath along the seawall is a dead-end and one must return to the road to continue on the coast path.

Le Hurel Tower

(21) Le Hurel Tower

German bunker

(22) German bunker

Fort Henry

(23) Fort Henry

Cottages by Gorey Coast Road

(24) Cottages by Gorey Coast Road

The Keppel Tower is passed along the road, which returns to the coast at a slipway next to the Le Hurel Tower (picture 21). Both towers are now incorporated into houses.

A little further along the road a gap in the top of the seawall gives access to steps down to a path along the foot of the seawall. This path passes below the Fauvic Tower (again with a private home built around it) before returning to the top of the seawall and passing another tower that appears to be unaltered.

The path runs past more houses to reach the Royal Jersey Golf Club, where the concrete footpath ends and an unsealed path continues towards the first of a pair of German bunkers built on top of the seawall (picture 22). Each bunker held a 10.5-centimetre coastal defence gun and has walls around two metres thick.

Over to the left between the two bunkers, across one of the fairways, is the square stone-built compound of Fort Henry, with a square tower on the side facing the bay (picture 23). The fort was built in 1758, but is named after King Henry VII, who ordered an earlier fortification to be built here in the late 1400s.

The path squeezes past the two bunkers and continues to follow the edge of the golf course around the sandy bay until further progress is blocked by the walls of Fort William. The fort was built around 1760, but the walls now enclose a modern dwelling.

The Way leaves the coast to follow a hedge across the end of the golf course and along the fort's driveway to the Longbeach Carpark. At the far end of the carpark, which itself is rather long, the Way joins the A3 Gorey Coast Road and follows it past houses — including a row of attractive stone cottages with porthole windows (picture 24) — to reach a slipway where a broad coastal promenade path begins.

Mont Orgueil Castle and Gorey Harbour

(25) Mont Orgueil Castle and Gorey Harbour

Gorey Village

(26) Gorey Village

Mont Orgueil Castle

(27) Mont Orgueil Castle

Anne Port

(28) Anne Port

The promenade snakes its way along the edge of Gorey Harbour beside the long, narrow strip of Gorey Gardens to the foot of the headland topped by the impressive bulk of Mont Orgueil Castle (picture 25). The promenade ends just below the castle, in Gorey Village, where the turning circle of the Gorey Bus Interchange has a flower-filled boat in the centre (picture 26).

Across the road, a path to the left of the public conveniences climbs behind the row of shops to emerge on the grassy Castle Green below the castle's imposing stone walls (picture 27). The castle is primarily medieval, having been established in the early 1200s, but has seen waves of modification and improvement throughout its history, right up to the German Occupation. It is well worth a visit — I spent most of the Wednesday after this walk exploring there.

The Way crosses the Green to join the Rue de la Cote, which is followed past a small rocky cove and then curves around the next headland to reach a viewpoint at Geoffrey's Leap, overlooking the much larger bay of Anne Port (picture 28).

Le Havre de Fer

(29) Le Havre de Fer

St Catherine's Tower

(30) St Catherine's Tower

St Catherine's Bay

(31) St Catherine's Bay

St Martin Millennium Stone and St Catherine's Breakwater

(32) St Martin Millennium Stone and St Catherine's Breakwater

The road is followed closely as it dips down to circle around Anne Port then climbs again to round La Crete Point, from which I gained my first view across St Catherine's Bay to my goal for the day's walk; the St Catherine's Breakwater (picture 29). Nearer to hand, on a rocky outcrop on the far side of Archirondel Beach is the Archirondel Tower, one of the last loophole towers to be built, in 1794, and now painted red and white as a navigational aid.

To reach the tower one must continue along the Rue de la Cote, out of sight of the beach, until a right hand turn down a lane signed for the Driftwood Cafe. A slipway near the cafe takes the Way onto the rough seawall, which one can walk along all the way around the next rocky beach to reach St Catherine's Tower (picture 30), which stands just beyond the slipway of the St Catherine's RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Station.

The next stretch of the path alternates several times between walking atop the rough seawall (picture 31) and walking through the trees above it. Eventually the path joins the Route de St Catherine just before it forks to form a one-way loop around a hill that bears the scars of extensive quarrying. The Way takes the right fork, following the road past the boatyard of the St Catherine's Sailing Club and up to the St Martin Millenium Standing Stone at the landward end of St Catherine's Breakwater (picture 32).

I ended the day's walk over the road at the Breakwater Cafe, having walked 18.1 kilometres (not counting my detour on the pier at La Rocque). I was in good time to get a bus back to Gorey Village, where I had a look around the shops and walked around the harbour before getting another bus back to St Helier.