Stage 8: St Catherine's Breakwater to Greve de Lecq

Sunday, August 13, 2017

St Catherine's Breakwater

(1) St Catherine's Breakwater

St Catherine's Breakwater

(2) St Catherine's Breakwater

St Catherine's Breakwater

(3) St Catherine's Breakwater

Fliquet Bay

(4) Fliquet Bay

Before I started this walk I went for a stroll along the 700-metre St Catherine's Breakwater (picture 1), heading out on the upper level and back on the more sheltered lower level, both of which were popular with anglers. At the end of the breakwater is a tower carrying a small navigational light (picture 2), while just beyond is a tidal race where two bodies of water meet after being forced around the unnatural obstacle of the breakwater. Beneath the upper level are several groups of archways that once provided storage space for the local fishermen (picture 3).

The story of the breakwater is remarkably similar to that of it's sister on Alderney. Both were started in 1847 and each was intended to provide a large and safe anchorage for British naval fleets. As with Alderney, the development of ironclad warships rendered the whole project obsolete before it was completed, as the harbour wasn't going to be deep enough for the new ships. The northern breakwater was completed in 1855, but the southern breakwater from Archirondel was abandoned soon after construction began.

From the small carpark by the Breakwater Cafe at the landward end of the breakwater there is a good view westward across Fliquet Bay (picture 4), the first of several large bays to be visited as the Channel Islands Way makes its way across the north coast of Jersey.

La Ruette du Verclut

(5) La Ruette du Verclut

Fliquet Tower

(6) Fliquet Tower

Rue de la Perruque

(7) Rue de la Perruque

Rue du Scez

(8) Rue du Scez

I set off along the road to the right of the Breakwater Cafe, beside white metal railings. Shortly after the railings ended I took a footpath on the right, signposted as La Ruette du Verclut. The shady path climbs gently through a wood (picture 5) to meet the Rue de Fliquet, which descends past the stone-built Fliquet House to a small carpark by the Fliquet Tower (picture 6). The tower was originally of the same design as the other loophole towers, but the top floor was removed in the 19th century and what was left of the tower was capped with concrete during the Occupation.

From the tower, the Way climbs the Rue de la Perruque, which initially passes a couple of attractive stone houses (picture 7) and zig-zags uphill before straightening out somewhat and heading past a few farmhouses and more than a few small fields to reach a quiet crossroads 700 metres inland from Fliquet Bay. The coastal route turns right onto Rue du Scez (picture 8), which soon turns right then left to reach a junction by a large white farmhouse.

National Trust for Jersey sign

(9) National Trust for Jersey sign

La Coupe

(10) La Coupe

Le Havre de Scez

(11) Le Havre de Scez

Rue du Scez

(12) Rue du Scez

The Way continues along the road, but first I took a diversion of about 700 metres each way to the right down Rue de la Coupe onto the La Coupe headland, part of the Le Don Biggar property owned by the National Trust for Jersey (picture 9).

From the little carpark at the bottom of the lane, a short path climbs to the summit of the headland where a tiny whitewashed lookout post (picture 10) has a superb view westward across Le Havre de Scez and neighbouring Rozel Bay (picture 11). The lookout was associated with a battery built on the headland in 1778.

After climbing back up Rue de la Coupe to the junction, I continued along Rue du Scez, which passes three more small fields on each side before winding its way downhill into shady woods (picture 12) to a carpark at the end of the road.

La Douet de la Mer

(13) La Douet de la Mer

Rozel Bay

(14) Rozel Bay

Rozel Bay Tearoom

(15) Rozel Bay Tearoom

Rozel Harbour

(16) Rozel Harbour

At the entrance of the carpark, the Way turns left to climb along the edge of a field on a footpath named La Rue des Fontonelles. Unfortunately, I entirely missed the fact that the Le Couperon Dolmen, an eroded neolithic burial chamber, was just out of sight across the field not far to the right of the path.

The path emerges from bushes above the rocky inlet of La Douet de la Mer (picture 13) before zig-zagging through more woods, eventually making a sharp right turn onto La Grande Route de Rozel. The grandly-named but rather narrow, pavementless road winds its way through houses and then around Rozel Bay (picture 14), turning half-right at a junction in front of the Rozel Pub and then later reaching a junction in front of the Rozel Bay Tearoom (picture 15).

The Way turns right to climb Le Chemin du Guet to the left of the tearoom, but first I took the road to the right and walked around the little harbour to acquire lunch at the Hungry Man kiosk on the pier (picture 16).

Le Catel

(17) Le Catel

Bouley Bay

(18) Bouley Bay

L'Etacquerel Fort

(19) L'Etacquerel Fort

House overlooking Bouley Bay

(20) House overlooking Bouley Bay

From the Rozel Bay Tearoom, Le Chemin du Guet climbs rather steeply with views back down to the harbour. Halfway up the headland the narrow lane takes a hairpin turn to the left, heading back inland because the headland and its fort are privately owned and closed to the public. The lane bears right by a large white house, becoming Rue du Catel and heading between fields. Just past a large house called Le Catel (picture 17), the route turns right onto an unsealed track that bends left then right then left again to reach the White Rock Carpark, set back on the middle of a headland. The White Rock is a large rocky outcrop protruding from the end of the headland, painted white as a navigational aid.

From the carpark, a well-worn path begins to wind its way along the steep hillsides above Bouley Bay (picture 18), the next goal being the little beach tucked into the far corner of the bay, about three kilometres walk away. This is one of the more strenuous stretches of the coastal route, with many little ups and downs as the narrow path twists and turns through areas of gorse, bracken and thick scrub.

Not quite halfway around the bay, the path passes above L'Etacquerel Fort (picture 19), built in 1835-6 to house four heavy cannon. After the path zig-zags across a wooded gully it comes up behind a house that surely must have one of the best views on Jersey (picture 20).

Bouley Bay Common

(21) Bouley Bay Common

Bouley Bay

(22) Bouley Bay

Bouley Bay

(23) Bouley Bay

La Vieille Charriere

(24) La Vieille Charriere

The remainder of the path around the bay is more open, running across the sloping edge of the bracken-covered Bouley Bay Common (picture 21), though there are still several short sharp ascents and descents along the way to the viewpoint over the sheltered beach (picture 22).

The path from the viewpoint descends behind the apartments and chalets that are packed into the narrow valley behind the beach, meeting the road of Les Charrieres du Boulay about 100 metres up the valley from the shingle beach. The coastal path turns a short distance inland to find a path with a marker stone reading "Cliff Path to Bonne Nuit" and the date 1982, however before proceeding I walked down to the road to rest on the beach for a little while and take a closer look at Fort Leicester, which stands behind the short pier a little further around the bay.

From the road, the Way snakes up the steep side of La Vieille Charriere, giving a great view back across the bay to the White Rock (picture 23) before turning inland to head up the valley on a narrow, slightly uphill track high above the valley floor. After a few minutes some steps on the right climb up through the bracken to a path that runs just outside a long field with views down into the fertile valley (picture 24).

La Pierre de la Fetelle

(25) La Pierre de la Fetelle

Valley above Le Petit Port

(26) Valley above Le Petit Port

Wolf's Lair

(27) Wolf's Lair

Operation Hardtack 28 Memorial

(28) Operation Hardtack 28 Memorial

The path continues to climb gently past a few smaller fields to regain a view of the sea on the flank of La Pierre de la Fetelle (picture 25) before descending into the wooded valley above the small cove of Le Petit Port (picture 26).

In a fenced enclosure at the bottom of the path is a small stone cottage which a sign proclaims is the Wolf's Lair (picture 27). Nearby is a stone tablet commemorating Operation Hardtack 28 (picture 28), a raid by nine British and French commandos who landed at Le Petit Port on Christmas Eve of 1943 in search of information about the German forces occupying Jersey. When returning down the path that I had just walked on, the raid's commanding officer, Captain Philip Ayton, trod on a mine and was fatally wounded.

La Belle Hougue

(29) Les Ruaux and La Belle Hougue

Giffard Bay

(30) Giffard Bay

La Crete Fort

(31) La Crete Fort

Bonne Nuit Bay

(32) Bonne Nuit Bay

From the shady valley the path climbs steadily onto the bracken-covered headland of La Colombine, rounding it to pass above the bight of Les Ruaux before the path zig-zags steeply up over the shoulder of the larger headland of La Belle Hougue (picture 29). Just over the top of the climb, the path descends again, soon reaching a fork. The coastal route takes the right branch, signed as the Lower Path, an undulating trail along the ragged clifftops above Giffard Bay (picture 30). Atop the hill behind the bay, Les Platons, is a large sphere belonging to a radar station perched on Jersey's highest point, 136 metres above sea level.

The low, rocky point on the far side of Giffard Bay is occupied by La Crete Fort (picture 31), a small battery built in 1813 to defend Giffard Bay and the neighbouring Bonne Nuit Bay (picture 32) and expanded to house heavier cannons in 1834 and again in 1848.

Bonne Nuit

(33) Bonne Nuit


(34) Fremont

New North Road

(35) New North Road

Les Fontaines Tavern

(36) Les Fontaines Tavern

A track from the fort heads behind a nursing home halfway around the bay and out along its driveway to join Old Fort Road, which continues around the bay. At a fork in the road, the coastal path goes left, soon reaching a hairpin turn with a good view over the shallow harbour (picture 33).

About 100 metres beyond the corner, steps on the right side of the road begin a longish climb up onto the headland of Fremont, partly assisted by dozens of rough steps cut into the hillside. After ascending to the top of the headland, the path turns sharp left to take a high-level route across the steeply sloping hillside, passing just below the Fremont Point Broadcast Tower and the La Saline Quarry. Turning inland, the path joins the quarry access road and follows it out to the New North Road (picture 35), a surprisingly broad thoroughfare after the narrow roads encountered so far on Jersey's north coast.

After about 100 metres, a path on the right leaves the road through a tunnel of foliage, snakes along the middle of a clifftop meadow and goes through more trees to rejoin the road. The road was shady in the late afternoon sun (picture 35) and the narrow verge, a rarity on Jersey, makes for easy walking as the road passes a small carpark and continues around a long S-bend to reach a larger carpark diagonally opposite the Les Fontaines Tavern (picture 36).

A large stone in the middle of the carpark bears the following inscription: "This road is dedicated to the men and women of Jersey who suffered in the World War 1939 - 1945". The New North Road was built as part of a scheme to provide work for unemployed islanders during the Occupation so that they would not be obliged to work on military construction for the Germans.

Sorel Point

(37) Sorel Point

Le Mourier Valley

(38) Le Mourier Valley

Devil's Hole and Les Reuses

(39) Devil's Hole and Les Reuses

St Mary's Millennium Standing Stone

(40) St Mary's Millennium Standing Stone

The coastal route keeps following the road as it sweeps past the Ronez Quarry, where almost the entire hillside between Ronez Point and Sorel Point has been removed since the quarry opened in 1902. Part of the quarry is now below sea-level, though enough stone has been left in place to keep the sea at bay. In its early days, stone from here was used to build part of the Thames Embankment in London, but the 150,000 tonnes of stone extracted each year in modern times is all for use on Jersey.

At the first junction after the quarry a right turn down La Rue de Sorel takes the path past the St Johns Millennium Standing Stone to a carpark overlooking the triangular Sorel Point. It is possible to go another 300 metres down the road to see the Sotel Point Lighthouse, but I was a little worried about running out of daylight for the walk so I decided to press on and made for the cliff path that leaves the bottom-left corner of the carpark instead. There is a good view of Sorel Point and the lighthouse as the path heads around the first bay (picture 37).

A sign in the carpark advertises that choughs have recently started nesting on the cliffs below the path after an absence of a century. As I walked along this stretch of the clifftop a pair of the black birds started circling above me and making their distinctive call, following me along the cliffs until the path dropped down into the Le Mourier Valley (picture 38).

The path passes a stone commemorating the gift of the land to the National Trust for Jersey in 1995, angling down the side of the valley to cross a small stream about halfway up the valley. The path then turns back towards the sea to climb back up onto the plateau of Le Marionneux to a viewpoint where a collapsed sea cave known as the Devil's Hole is in the foreground in front of the bay of Les Reuses (picture 39).

There is a narrow valley hidden between the headland and the Devil's Hole, forcing the path to turn sharp left and follow a track inland to meet a minor road next to the St Mary's Millennium Standing Stone (picture 40).

Path above Les Resues

(41) Path above Les Reuses

Devil's Hole

(42) Devil's Hole


(43) Sunset

La Greve de Lecq

(44) La Greve de Lecq

A short distance to the right, the path goes down steps into the carpark of the Priory Inn. Another set of steps on the right edge of the carpark begin the path down to the Devil's Hole, but the coastal route bears off to the left about a third of the way down to circle around the rim of Les Reuses (picture 41). From the point of Le Col de la Rocque on the far side of the bay there was a good view back to the Devil's Hole in the evening sunshine (picture 42). (I returned on the Saturday after this walk for a closer look at the Devil's Hole.)

The cliff path skirts around one more cove before being forced inland again. I paused briefly on the headland to watch the setting sun (picture 43) before following a track between a couple of fields to join the end of the Rue de Crabbe, which jinks right then left before heading past Crabbe Farm to a T-junction. Turning right on Chemin du Catel, I passed the clubhouse of the Jersey Pistol Club before the narrow road heads out amongst fields, eventually descending around a sharp bend overlooking the sandy beach of Le Greve de Lecq (picture 44). After passing the Greve de Lecq Barracks, I turned sharp right back towards the beach, following the road down to the Prince of Wales Hotel, where I left the coast path for the day.

My GPS showed 27.6 kilometres walked for the day, including my side-trips along St Catherine's Breakwater and down to La Coupe and Fort Leicester. Without those it would have been 24 kilometres.

I arrived at Le Greve de Lecq about 15 minutes too late for the bus I was planning to use to return to St Helier and had almost two hours to wait for the last bus of the day, which left at around 22:30. My miscalculation was caused by the little guidebook for the Channel Islands Way giving the distance from Bonne Nuit to Le Greve de Lecq as 4.5 miles (7.2km) when in fact it turned out to be around 10.5 kilometres, a difference of about an hour at my sedate walking pace. On the bright side, the wait for the bus gave me time for dinner in the hotel and a wander around the bay to the pier, where the beams from the lighthouses at Sorel Point and at Point Robert on Sark, about 24 kilometres away, were clearly visible. It was almost midnight when I made it back to my accommodation in St Helier, making for a rather long but rewarding day out.