Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Millennium Day

Towards the end of the 1990's the States of Jersey gave each Parish ( the island consists of 12 parishes) a wayside cross based on a medieval design.  The Societe Jersiaise presented to each Parish a granite standing stone, to be placed at various locations designated by the Parish.
Ronez Quarries donated the granite stones, which are between 9 and 12 feet high and the Jersey Field Squadron agreed to transport the stones and to help erect them.
The project was first suggested by Societe Jersiaise member Philip Le Brocq who said, "The standing stones will be giant fingers pointing to the future and inspiring people to think what the future holds for them."
Today I took the opportunity to cycle to all of the Millenium Stones, in one continuous circuit.  It actually took a bit of research to decide which was the most effective route, eventually deciding upon an anti-clockwise track, finishing with the St Brelade stone, which is the closest to where I live.
First stop St Lawrence.  Part of the way up Waterworks Valley, just below Dannemarche Reservoir, built in 1909 it was the second of the islands reservoirs
  Weather still wasn't great when I reached stone number 2, St Saviour.  Also located by a reservoir, Grands Vaux, constructed in 1952 it was the first big project from the Waterworks Company after the Occupation.

St Helier was next, on the waterfront at Havre des Pas, close to the seawater swimming pool.
 St Clement was next, after nearly 50 years of living on the island I had never seen this rural corner of this south coast parish.

 Grouville is next, looking towards Mont Orgueil Castle, one of the islands finest historic monuments.

 Half way through, St Martin's stone is on the breakwater at St Catherine's.  I am probably closer to France than my house.
 It was a long stretch to Trinity.  Hidden away in the trees it is not that obvious to find, somewhat spoilt by the proximity of the rubbish bins.
Sorel is the location for the St John stone. Sark is just visible behind, the scene of some great kayaking a couple of weeks ago.
St Mary is the smallest parish in terms of population.  The Parish placed its stone close to the North Coast Footpath.
It was a reasonable distance to the St Ouen stone, looking out over the whole of the west coast.
Most people think of the airport when they think of St Peter.  The parish stone was placed in front of the local primary school, a personal connection as my dad was head of the school when he retired.
 The last one, I arrived at the same time as a rather spectacular Marsh Harrier.

All that remained to do was to sink a quick pint at the La Pulente and then complete the journey home.  A total of 48 miles, which was surprisingly further than I expected but it did take me to some interesting parts of the Island.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts of sunnier days - Comino

Another weekend with a less than favourable forecast, force 6 westerlies blowing through frequent rain showers is not an encouraging scenario on a Sunday morning.  It does allow time to reflect though on some of the paddles that I have been fortunate enough to undertake this year.
One destination which has been particularly memorable is the small island of Comino, situated midway between Gozo and Malta.  Only covering about 3.5 square kilometres in area it is a relatively straightforward paddle from Gozo, the crossing from Hondoq is less than 1 nautical mile.
Many people head to, and probably stay around the Blue Lagoon, but if that is all they do they are missing out on some interesting kayaking and exploration.
During the summer months it isn't possible to kayak through the Blue Lagoon so it is necessary to approach that section of coast from the west which does  allow the opportunity to explore the numerous caves and inlets in that area.  There is a cave running through the small island of Cominotto, which does give access to the Blue Lagoon.  On one occasion we moored the kayaks outside the cave and swam in to the small sandy beach.
In the area around the Blue Lagoon there are numerous caves, arches and stacks waiting to be explored but you are going to have to share the experience with the numerous other watercraft particularly during the warmer summer months.  There is some superb diving in this area including on the wreck of P31, a former East German  patrol boat, which also saw service with the Maltese armed services.  It was sunk on the 25th August 2009, it's location makes by yellow buoys in the centre of the bay
The most obvious building on the island is probably Santa Maria (St Mary's) Tower, in the south west of the Island.  Built in in 1618 it overlooks the channel towards Malta.  The walls are 6 metres thick and 12 metres high, it is a very substantial structure.  The south west of Comino is marked by a low narrow peninsula, the end of which is marked by a small lighthouse.
The south coast has limited landing places but increasingly high cliffs until the south east corner is reached, close to the Redoubt.  This was built in 1716 to help protect the South Comino Channel.  It was allowed to fall into really poor condition but was restored in 1996.
The east coast of Comino consists of high cliffs, with one area in particular looking like an elephant, the north east corner is marked by some great caves and narrow channels, many of which are only accessible by kayak.
Santa Marija Bay is normally a convenient place for lunch, pleasant swimming off the sandy beach just to the west of the slip or the opportunity to wander off to the east coast where there are some jumping spots and good caves to explore.
During the winter months Comino has an official population of 4, which is swelled considerably during the summer months as the visitors arrive from both Malta and Gozo.  Generally though, it is possible to miss the crowds when paddling, by avoiding the area around the Blue Lagoon and exploring the rest of the coastline of this delightful Mediterranean Island.
 Preparing to leave Hondoq, in common with so many slipways in the area it was incredibly slippy.
 Some of the many caves in the area just to the south of Blue Lagoon

Looking down on P31 with air bubbles from divers rising to the surface.  The location of the wreck is marked by a yellow buoy.
 Rounding the south west corner.  Hardly a memorable lighthouse.
One of the few places on the south coast where it is easy to land.  The group are busy doing a navigation exercise on a BCU course.
Some delightful rock architecture on the south coast.
Just about to round the south east corner of Comino.  The Redoubt is just visible above the kayakers. 
A narrow passage on the north coast, just prior to crossing back to Gozo.
If you want to avoid the crowds, it is probably best not to visit the Blue Lagoon during to tourist season.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dolmen Day

Another day of fairly constant westerlies at around force 5 encouraged another day on the cycle as opposed to being out on the water.  Rather than just a random ride around the Island I selected 5 dolmens and decided to join them together, using as many of the cycle routes as possible.  
I headed east from St Helier, following the coast initially before heading inland.  Mont Ube was reached first, in just under 3 miles.  The route to Faldouet went through some of the most pleasant countryside of St Saviour and St Martin, using small lanes to cover just over 5.5 miles.  It was then 3.5 miles to Dolmen du Couperon.  I stopped for drink and food because it was over 13 miles to Grantez, overlooking the west coast of the Island.
The route to the final dolmen dropped into St Ouen's Bay before a short climb to the headland above La Pulente, to visit La Sergente.  From here it was onto the Railway Walk and the cycle track back to St Helier.  Following the route that I took was exactly 37 miles.  It gave a real purpose to visiting some of the most fascinating historic sites on the Island.
A great day out.
First stop was the Dolmen de Mont Ube, to the east of St Helier.  Approximately 6,000 years old, the dolmen was excavated in 1848, sadly there had been significant damaged to the structure by people quarrying.  It had also suffered abuse as a rubbish dump and a pigsty.

La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, is pretty close to Gorey, although it would be quite a strenuous uphill walk.  It was first recorded as a site of historic interest in 1682 and was excavated several times before the start of the 20th Century.  Built about 6,000 years ago and has an unusual double chamber.
Le Dolmen du Couperon, overlooks the north east corner of the Island.  Approximately 5,000 years old it was first excavated in 1868, although not very well.
 Grantez, is located in a quiet corner of St Ouen the north west parish.  6,000 years old it was excavated in 1912, 8 human skeletons as well as bones from a variety of animals.  Grantez is a very special place for many people.
 La Sergente, on a headland between La Pulente and Corbiere, is possibly the oldest dolmen on the Island, at approximately 6,500 years old.  It was excavated in 1923, prior to this it was covered by a mound.  This was the last stop on the cycle route, it was pretty much all downhill to St Helier.

Looking across to Corbiere, it was clear from the sea state that the wind was still blowing fairly constantly from the west.  Cycling seemed like a good choice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jersey Cycle Rides

As the remnants of Hurricane Bertha brushed past the Channel Islands, leaving a showery, blustery airstream in its wake, it was clear that conditions were going to be less than pleasant for a few days. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to get the bikes out and to see something of the interior of the Island as opposed to the coastline. 
What a revelation, we cycled down roads we had never been down before saw hardly any traffic and had a couple or really memorable days.  We followed Route 1 and Route 3, information about the routes is available from Jersey Tourism, but we were pleasantly surprised how clearly signposted they were. 
 Corbiere, with a sea state which isn't typical of August.  Just heading out on Route 1, 40 miles right around the Island
Heading around Petit Port headland, one of a couple of short sections which were off road.
A steady climb out of St Ouen's Bay.  I had never been on this road before.
 We stopped off at Greve de Lecq for breakfast.  It would be great one day if the island authorities put up a sign which encourages you to enjoy the beach.  Everything on these signs is telling you not to do something.
 Hamptonne is in the middle of the Island.  There are exhibits regarding the agricultural heritage of the Island.  Route 3 passes by the entrance.  It is one of a number of properties which are looked after by Jersey Heritage
 The entrance to one of the finest passage graves in Europe, at Hougue Bie.  Another fascinating stopping point on Route 3.
 Another short section of off road, a hidden corner of St John's
 This stone is supposed to be in the centre of Island.  Cycling the other way you would miss this.  It is part of Route 3, which winds its way through the centre of the Island.
 On Route 1 you spend a considerable amount of time wandering around the narrow lanes of St Martin's.  Some of the climbs are pretty steep. 
Mont Orgueil Castle sits overlooking Gorey, on the east coast of the Island.  It is well worth a visit if you are cycling Route 1, it is one of the finest castles anywhere.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

How far have I paddled?

Over the years I have come in for some ridicule as I have kept a kayaking log book. My first entry was in January 1979 and since that date I have made a record of every time that I have been in a canoe or a kayak.  Sometimes it might just be a brief note whilst at other times it might be a comprehensive record of where we parked the car, what the launch was like, any wildlife seen etc.  Due to the fact that I have kept the log book going for so long it has now become almost impossible to stop.
Earlier this year I was wondering to myself as to whether I paddled the equivalent of the circumference of the earth at the equator?  First of all how far is it around the equator.  Plenty of places will give you the distance in kilometres and statute miles, it was only after a bit of searching that I found the answer in nautical miles, it is 21639nm.  My log book records have always been in nautical miles so this was an important figure to find.
I then sat down with the log books and over a couple of hours completed a table. There were 5 columns, standing for year, sea kayak, sit on top, canoe/general purpose and total.  I passed the magical distance on the 19th May 2012 whilst on a trip out to the Paternosters.
So if you don't already keep a log book think about starting keeping a record of your paddling experiences, in a few years time it will make interesting reading.  I don't have a log book from 1969 to 1979 sadly, as there could be some interesting reading about a number of sea kayaking adventures, including being pulled of the water by Tito's police in the former Yugoslavia, as we naively thought it was alright to paddle on the sea in communist countries.

 The oldest picture I have scanned in.  The first trip to the Ecrehous, August Bank Holiday Sunday 1974.  Is it really 40 years since I first paddled out to the Ecrehous.  Possibly the best one day paddle anywhere.  This was probably the first ever organized paddle by the Jersey Canoe Club, which we had just formed.  This was 5 years before I started keeping a log book but it was a pretty memorable day.
A few months after I started keeping a log book.  An evening surf session in May 1979 at St Brelade's.  We were so proud of our KW7's.  So versatile, one day we would be rock hopping the next heading out to an offshore reef.

 One advantage of keeping a log book is that you are able to track your memorable paddles.  This is dawn on the morning of my 150th paddle to the Ecrehous, we are packing away before returning to Jersey.
The day that I passed the equivalent of the circumnavigation of the earth.  Getting ready to leave the Paternosters.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ecrehous Day Trip

The neap tide, today, meant that timing for departure wasn't as crucial on some other days but we were still on the water promptly just before 09.30.  The Ecrehous is one of the great, if not the greatest, one day sea kayaking trip.  
Just over 5 nautical miles north east of Jersey it is necessary to allow for tidal drift as on springs the tidal streams can reach over 5 knots but as you start to enter the reef it soon becomes apparent that you have arrived somewhere really special.
Today was no different.  If you are ever in Jersey with a sea kayak, a visit to this special place should be high on your list of priorities.
The view across the pool towards Jersey, it wasn't as busy as on some other summer days.  Whilst sitting on the bench having lunch a grey seal spent some time swimming around in the water below us.
Looking north across the reef.  In a few hours time all of the rocks would be submerged by the rising tide, next Tuesday would be even more interesting as the tides are so much larger.   Today's high water was 27.9 feet, in 5 days time it is 39.6 feet!
Looking along the shingle bank its hard to believe that on Spring's standing waves develop as the tide runs across the bank.
If time allows when visiting the Ecrehous it is always worth walking north, partly to escape the crowds but more importantly to view the dramatic seascape.
 Looking across towards the Normandy peninsula of France.  The clouds defined the edge of the land.
 Nicky paddling past one of the huts as we paddled north to catch the last of the south flowing flood tide.
 The edge of the reef, it was right hand sweep strokes to line up for a 5 mile crossing.
 Visibility was pretty good today so Jersey was clearly visible as soon as we left the Ecrehous. After about 1 nautical mile we had several groups of bottle nose dolphins pass in front.  They seemed pretty focused on heading west so they didn't stay and investigate.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Thoughts of better days

So our bags never made it to Karlstad, we returned to Stockholm Airport on Monday morning and found them within 30 seconds of entering the baggage hall.  Joining the others on the river was not easy, it was going to take nearly 36 hours, so we decided to fly home. Gutted that we missed out on the opportunity to spend 7 days on a Swedish river with other members of the Jersey Canoe Club.
After a day of sitting around moping about missed paddling opportunities there are a couple of bright spots.  Firstly, my first attempt at producing a book about a sea kayaking trip arrived from Blurb.  It was an easy process to go through and the result is a special reminder of a lovely week away.  So much better than having thousands of digital images sitting on a hard drive, which are rarely looked at.  I am certainly going to produce a few more books of some of the paddling trips we have been on over the last couple of years.
The second highlight is a trip to the Ecrehous tomorrow, one of the great sea kayaking destinations, half way between Jersey and France.
The Gozo book cover. 

Les Ecrehous.  Tomorrows destination.