Helen Rose Outdoors
History of Jersey
In May I travelled to Jersey in the Channel Islands with www.scot-trek.co.uk on a walking holiday. We had four days walking and stayed in a comfortable hotel in St Helier, the capital of Jersey. Jersey is a Crown dependency of the United Kingdom, ruled by the Crown in right of Jersey and is off the coast of Normandy, France. Jersey was part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066. After Normandy was lost by the kings of England in the 13th century and the ducal title surrendered to France, Jersey and the other Channel Islands remained attached to the English crown. Jersey is a self-governing parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, with its own financial, legal and judicial systems, and the power of self-determination. It is best known as a tax haven being offshore. The United Kingdom is constitutionally responsible for the defence of Jersey. Jersey was the only part of the UK to be occupied by the Germans in the Second World War.
Jersey is an island measuring 44.87 square miles and lies in the English Channel, about 14 miles from the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, France, and about 100 miles south of Great Britain. The street names are mostly in French and the local language is Jèrriais which is closely related to Norman French and is only spoken by 2,600 of the 87,000 population. It is the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands, with a maximum land elevation of 469 feet above sea level. The walks we did were on the north, east, south and west of the island. We took the public bus to St. John’s in the north of the island and followed the coastal path to Bouley Bay. At St. John’s Village, we picked up the path to walk the coastal route around Bonne Nuit Bay above rocky cliffs with amazing views on to the English Channel. It was a good path and we finished at Bouley Bay to enjoy a fresh crab sandwich at Mad Mary’s Café before catching the bus back to St. Helier.
The following day, the walk was to Gorey on the east coast where there is a castle. Unfortunately, the weather was wet and we cut the walk in the countryside short to have a Jersey cream tea! We did manage a walk on the beach at Gorey at the lovely sandy bay despite the rain. Gorey’s position as the closest strategic mainland point to the Cotentin Peninsula has meant that it has a history of fortification going back at least to the Iron Age. After the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204, the strategic location of the harbour led to the construction of the castle of Mont Orgueil to protect the island against the French, also serving as residence for Governors of Jersey until the late 16th century when Elizabeth Castle was constructed off Saint Helier.
We travelled to St. Aubin and followed a path that would eventually take us to Corbiére on the south west of the island stopping at St Brelade’s Bay for lunch overlooking the wide expanse of sandy beach. It was warm and sunny and we carried on a good path above the cliffs at Fiquet Bay before arriving at Corbiére and seeing the lighthouse at the end of the walk. On the last day we walked along the Green Lanes out of St. Helier to eventually arrive at the Tunnels, a major tourist attraction. Priority is given to walkers, cyclists and horse riders on the 50-mile network of Green Lanes and speed is limited to 15mph for traffic. It is very pleasant walking on these lanes with so little traffic. We reached the Tunnels at lunchtime. Dug deep into the hillside by forced and slave workers from nations across Europe during the five year Nazi occupation, the extraordinary tunnels run over 1km in length. They now contain an underground collection of thought provoking galleries that detail Jersey’s occupation history from resistance, through to starvation, and then eventual liberation. There was an old fashioned bus for the journey back to St. Helier.
The award-winning Occupation Tapestry was woven by Islanders to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the liberation from five years occupation by the German armed forces during the Second World War. The twelve richly colourful panels of the tapestry, which is housed within the Maritime Museum, depict life and hardship under military rule and were created from the memories and stories of Islanders who experienced it first-hand. The tapestries were woven by each of the twelve parishes in Jersey and all have different themes based on the occupation. They are beautiful works of art while depicting an important part of the island’s history.
The range of eating places in St. Helier is impressive and all were excellent restaurants we dined in. I particularly liked the Fish Market where there was fresh lobster on the menu. We ate in an alleyway within the market as it was closed in the evening. The other memorable meal was a steak in a restaurant where the meat had been imported from the owner’s home village in Ireland. First rate! Jersey is nearly all dairy cattle and the island is famous for its cream and ice cream. Of course we sampled these regularly. We all put on weight as the food was so nice.
The Channel Islands have always been popular with the British for holidays and the way of life is very relaxed there. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the neighbouring islands of Guernsey and Sark but they also have fascinating histories.
Coming attraction; Mèze.
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