Ecrehous Pictures

As many of you are aware the Ecrehous is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, sea kayaking destination.  Visits to this delightful reef have been covered many times in the life of this blog.  To gain a flavour of this small archipelago, approximately 6 nautical miles to the north east of Jersey have a look at some of these posts:
Ecrehous Today.
Ecrehous Sunshine.
Ecrehous – First of the Year.
Sunday morning at the Ecrehous.
To mention just a few.
Over the years there have been a number of articles published about the reef, but as far as I am aware only two books in English.  The most recent is “Les Ecrehous” by Warwick Rodwell, which was published in 1996 and must be the considered as the definitive study of a small land mass.  The information contained within the pages is amazing.
An earlier book was written by P. J. Ouless, “The Ecrehous” and published in 1884.  This book contains five plates, which depict the reef in the second half of the 19th century.  I thought that it would be interesting to take some modern photographs from roughly the same position to see how the reef has changed over the last 150 years.
So we headed out to get some modern Ecrehous pictures, trying to decide exactly where the earlier pictures were taken wasn’t always easy and clearly we must have had different size lenses!  It was certainly an interesting exercise and encouraged us to look at the Ecrehous through new eyes.

Ecrehous Pictures
In this picture the Rocking Stone and Flag pole are clearly visible, whilst behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
I didn’t quite go far back enough to get the full sweep of the picture by Ouless. The Rocking Stone is visible, and still rocks! Clearly there has been some modern building development.
Ecrehous Pictures
Fisherman’s huts on Marmotiere with the flag pole. Behind is Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous Pictures
This picture has changed somewhat and it was difficult to decide on the exact location for the photograph. The hut behind Alex was built in 1893, 9 years after the publication of the book by Ouless.
Ecrehous Pictures
A distant view on Maitre-Ile, looking north. Marmouttiere and Blianqu’Ile are visible behind.
Ecrehous Pictures
This was a rather difficult picture to take. I don’t really lioke landing here because of the possible disturbance to the birds. It gives a flavour though of how the hut has been improved whilst the priory remains in ruins.  Either the hut has increased in height or the hill behind has shrunk!
Ecrehous Pictures
A ruined hut plus the ruins of St mary’s Priory on Maitre-Ile.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south towards Marmouttiere. the rock surrounded by water is La Petite Brecque.
Ecrehous pictures
Looking south, very little is different in this picture apart from the fact that La Petite Brecque has acquired a hut.  The first hut was built on that isolated rock in 1962.

Ecrehous x 2

This summer  as everybody is aware has been perfect for kayaking and we have been fortunate enough to get in a number of paddles to the Ecrehous.  The Monday one that I described here, is possibly the most memorable visit that I have ever had to this delightful reef, which lies nearly 6 nautical miles to the north east of Jersey.  Some people expressed surprise at as us going to the Ecrehous again (3 times in 10 days)  but with light winds and blue skies it is virtually impossible to beat as a sea kayaking destination.
The Ecrehous is a precious eco-system, which needs protecting, it is part of a RAMSAR site but generally people seem to totally respect the uniqueness of the area although at weekends it can appear rather crowded, with boat owners heading to the reef from both Jersey and France in significant numbers. During the week visitor numbers are greatly reduced and for complete isolation try a mid-week visit in January.
It is one of those special places, which deserves to be explored throughout the year so I am more than happy to visit the Ecrehous again and again.  It doesn’t matter how often you go there is nearly always something new to be discovered and whatever the weather you are never disappointed.

Ecrehous x 2
Leaving the outer reef, somewhat early as we were concerned about the increasing wind.
Ecrehous x 2
There were a few waves around, creating some interesting conditions. We were expecting it to be flat calm.
Ecrehous x 2
The sea conditions don’t accurately illustrate the force of the wind. Thankfully as we could have expected it to be rougher.
Ecrehous x 2
On the second Wednesday conditions were pretty much perfect for kayaking around the Ecrehous. Some great views look out from the main reef.
Ecrehous x 2
Playing on the shingle bank. The water was really clear and our arrival coincided with the optimum flow.
Ecrehous x 2
It looks like there has been a successful breeding season for Terns on the Ecrehous. There were numerous individuals flying overhead or perched on convenient poles
Ecrehous x 2
On the second Wednesday we had a few hours on the reef, which allowed us to walk north and explore some areas we rarely have chance to see.

Ecrehous today

The Ecrehous are always special but the Ecrehous today was somewhere truly memorable.  A paddle which I am sure will remain etched on the memory of those who went, for many years.
Although it was a Monday morning and people have work commitments we still had 5 people from the Jersey Canoe Club meet at St Catherine’s for an 09.30 departure to the Ecrehous.  The ability to arrange group paddles at short notice has to be one of the major benefits of WhatsApp groups.  This was was to be my first visit to the Ecrehous since February 2018.
What started off as a relatively cloudy morning with the hint of fog gradually transformed into just a perfect day with light winds and wall to wall sunshine.  Enough of the rambling lets allow the pictures to describe the Ecrehous today.

Ecrehous today
Conditions were perfect for the paddle out, flat calm and very little tidal flow as we were neaps. The only thing missing was the sunshine.
Ecrehous today
Pete passing in front of Marmotier. There is a great bench to sit on but it is presently off limits due to nesting Common Terns and it looks like it has been a really successful breeding season.
Ecrehous today
Getting ready to depart and whilst we had been on the reef the cloud had dispersed and the scene was transformed.
Ecrehous today
Passing in front of Marmotier again. What a contrast to a couple of hours earlier.
Ecrehous today
Kate paddling through the reef in perfect conditions, the houses behind are the most northern ones on the reef.
Ecrehous today
The clarity of the water was truly exceptional as we headed through the channels and in several places were accompanied by 3 very inquisitive grey seals.
Ecrehous today
Pete just to the east of me experiencing the reef on a particularly fine day.
Ecrehous today
Kate paddling past one of the smaller rocks. Because we were on neap tides we had plenty of time to explore the reef before we had to head back to Jersey.
Ecrehous today
This just sums up the quality of the Ecrehous today!

Pierres de Lecq

Located to the north of Greve de Lecq, the Pierres de Lecq are better know by their other name the Paternosters.  Small boats frequently pass by although people rarely land.  I first visited the reef in 1979 and on every subsequent visit we have had the reef to ourselves.
Visits tend to take place on spring tides, in Jersey high water on springs is always in the morning and the evening, meaning that low water is around lunch time.  Visits have to take place around low water, otherwise there won’t be anywhere to land.  A consequence of going on springs is that the tidal streams will be flowing much faster so an understanding of tidal flows is necessary.
We headed east towards Sorel point as we were going to allow the tide to sweep us back to the west for what we hoped would be our arrival at the Paternoster’s.  This wind and wave swept reef is formed from gneiss, a type of rock absent from the main land mass of Jersey.  At high water there is virtually nowhere to land so it is best to arrive at mid tide on the ebb, which just happens to mean that you will be the crossing towards maximum rate.  This always adds to the entertainment.
The Pierres de Lecq have become known as the Paternosters due to a legend linked to the settlement of Sark by some families from the parish of St Ouen in Jersey, in the 16th century.  One of the boats was wrecked en route to Sark, with the women and children drowning.  At times it is said that their cries can still be heard in the wind and so it became a tradition for fishermen passing by to say a Lords Prayer.  On the day of our visit the only sound was the call of oystercatchers and herring gulls.
Although only a few miles from Jersey  the reefs have truly remote and wild feel.  All too soon though it was time to head back to the mainland.  We used the flooding tide to carry us towards Plemont headland, the speed over the ground rarely dropped below 7 knots before returning along the coast back to Greve de Lecq.
Overall we only paddled about 9 nautical miles but what quality, any visit to the Paternosters or the Pierres de Lecq makes you feel that you have visited somewhere special.

Pierre de Lecq
Approaching the Paternosters from the south east. The tide was running from east to west at close to 3 knots.
Pierres de Lecq
Once we had landed it became apparent how quickly the tide was dropping, stranding my kayak well above the water.
Paternosters
Looking across the reef as the tide drops. To the north the closest land is Sark.
Pierres de Lecq
Probably 20 years ago we paddled out here one November morning and we managed to climb all the way around the Great Rock, just above water level. We named the route “Howards Way” after the television programme of time but also because well known sea kayaker, Howard Jeffs, was with us on that day.
Paternosters
Preparing to leave. We we about to jump on the liquid conveyor belt that is the consequence of spring tides in Jersey.
Paternosters
Crossing the last of the tidal flow into Plemont headland, before heading back to Greve de Lecq.

SUP Module

Over nearly 40 years I have run hundreds of British Canoe courses across all levels, in both coaching and personal performance but one of my favourites is the SUP Module.  This Discipline Specific Module was introduced several years ago in response to the significant increase in the number of people taking up Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Over the last couple of years I have run quite a few of the courses, attracting paddlers from both on and off Jersey.  What is interesting, is that as each course follows another, the level of the participants has steadily increased.  As a result last weeks course was just a pleasure to run.  With all the paddlers showing competency on the boards.
Conditions couldn’t have been better for the SUP Module.  I remember completing my training course in Nottingham, wearing a dry suit and being absolutely frozen, trying to avoid going into the water too many times.  This week it was warm, clear seas and light winds with every opportunity was taken to get into the water to cool off.
In the past it has been all to easy to be critical of British Canoeing courses but I think in this instance they have just about got it right.  That day with the staff from Absolute Adventures, we had a really positive experience.

Tico
Tico might be the first dog to complete the SUP module. He has previously found fame in national papers as a surfing dog.
Beauport
Heading across Beauport Bay in perfect conditions. It was an ideal day for paddling a few hundred metres, stop off to practice a few skills and then carry on with the journey.
SUP Module
We even had the opportunity to paddle through some narrow channels, which are normally too rough to consider going through, when working with groups.
SUP Module
No course in Jersey would be complete without the opportunity to leap off the cliffs. Jumping off rocks is in the DNA of people who live in Jersey.
SUP Module
Heading back in we were able to join together in one long raft, which we managed to hold together for at least 400 metres.
SUP Module
It was inevitable that we were going to finish the days with a few games.

Staff Development

Sometimes days are just so enjoyable and this was the case the other day with Absolute Adventures staff development.  We left from St Catherine’s heading west on the ebbing tide.  In virtually flat calm conditions we headed past La Coupe and Tour de Rozel.
Lunch was on a small sandy beach to the east of Bouley Bay, which is only exposed on low water spring tides.  To the west we could see the remains of the SS Ribbledale. It was wrecked on the 27th December 1926, whilst en route from London to Jersey. Parts of the boilers were clearly visible just to the west.  Further information is available here.
The plan was to return via Tour de Rozel, where we planned to play in the flood tide, as it accelerated around the headland.  We weren’t disappointed, the water was starting to move to the east and accelerating quickly as the flood tide developed.
It was just the perfect place to look at skills and to work on strokes.  I always find it such an enjoyable place to play and somewhere to practice those techniques, which are crucial  to competent kayak handling.  In terms of staff development it was perfect, challenging conditions in a safe environment, helping to ensure that those paddlers who are leading groups during the summer months have the appropriate skill level.  Combined with the superb weather it was just a perfect way to spend a day.

Staff development
Paddling west past Tour de Rozel. The race doesn’t work on the falling tide but the tidal streams increase quickly once the flood tide starts. Conditions were somewhat different when we headed east later in the day.
Staff development
It was a day of one dominant colour, blue. Conditions like this are rare.
Staff development
Heading into Bouley Bay, in search of the small sandy beach, which is exposed on low water springs. Its not always an easy beach to find.
Staff development
A beach which I have rarely stopped on for lunch. Conditions were perfect and the situation ideal for a picnic.

Round Jersey

As mentioned in an earlier post we were due to paddle around Jersey, with Samuel, to raise money in memory of his dad, who sadly passed away last year.  Well yesterday was the day, on which the round Jersey paddle was planned, but the weather decided not to co-operate fully. After days of virtually calm winds, there was the possibility of a force 4, but we were happy to give it a go.
Just after 08.00 we left St Catherine’s and headed along the north coast.  With wide and tide with us we made pretty rapid progress, averaging well over 4 knots, Samuel was in the double with Jim, whilst John and myself were in singles.  Sections of the coast, which we often spent hours exploring, slipped past quickly.  The north west corner, is a particularly spectacular section of coast but no time to appreciate today as ahead lay the broad sweep of St Ouen’s Bay, which we knew would have potential crosswinds.  The west coast wasn’t as challenging as we anticipated but as soon as we rounded Corbiere onto the south coast the headwinds kicked in.
The automatic wind broadcast from St Helier Pierheads was a pretty constant 11 knots, gusting 19 knots, although it did reach a rather inconvenient 21 knots of headwind on several occasions.  It was a matter of simply putting our heads down, and covering the 8 nautical miles, with the least amount of discomfort possible.
As we headed onto the east coast St Catherine’s Breakwater came back into view so we knew whatever happened we were going to complete the circumnavigation.  What had started as a vague plan for Samuel, at Christmas, had developed into reality.  The 29 nautical miles were much harder than we anticipated due to the level if the wind but we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as we reached the breakwater and Samuel had his moment in the spotlight when he was interviewed by the local television station.
Samuel set out to raise £2,250 and even before we started the paddle he had more than exceed his total, which is great news.  To find out more about Samuel’s project take a look at his Just Giving page to see how much he has currently raised.
It was a great day and as experienced sea kayakers John, Jim and myself were just amazed at the amount of effort Samuel put in on the day we paddled round Jersey.

Round Jersey
Passing Egypt, on the north coast of Jersey, not the north coast of Africa. The Canoe Club runs the a small cottage at the base of the cliffs here, a great place to stay.
Round Jersey
Wolf’s Caves between Bonne Nuit and Sorel. Making good progress along the north coast with the following wind. In a couple of places we touched 7 knots.
Round Jersey
Rounding Grosnez, the north west corner of Jersey. Spectacular cliffs but unfortunately the end of the following wind, as we headed down the west coast, it was on our side. Somewhat frustrating
Round Jersey
The south west corner of the island is marked by the lighthouse at Corbiere. It also marked the change from a following wind to a head wind. The next 8 miles were not easy.
Round Jersey
Lunch was on the beach at Portelet, we had paddled nearly 19 nautical miles so were confident that we would complete the remaining 10 miles.

Fund Raising

I managed to get out the other day for a couple of hours with a young man named Samuel.  This was interesting from a couple of perspectives.  Firstly this was the first time that I had been in a closed cockpit kayak since my accident three months ago and secondly it was a chance to get on the water before Samuel’s fund raising paddle in a weeks time.

Samuel spoke to us at Christmas about undertaking a project in memory of his dad who sadly passed away last year. Whilst his dad was ill he set him self the challenge of paddling around Jersey, when he got better.  Unfortunately he never managed to complete his challenge and so Samuel has stepped forward to carry the challenge on.

He set himself a realistic fund raising target, which he has already achieved with the pledges that have come in so far but I am certain that when he completes the paddle next week, weather permitting his fund raising total will increase significantly.

At the moment the forecast for next week, although I know it is some time away, is pretty reasonable so we are prettyy optimistic that we will complete the paddle as arranged.  If not there are plenty more opportunities before the end of the summer.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will achieve, what is a very worthwhile project, if you would like to support Samuel he has set up a  Just Giving page.  He might up end up with a few blisters and some numbness in his legs but he will complete the 30 nautical miles, and I estimate in about 7 hours 30 minutes.

Hopefully next week I will be writing about an enjoyable and successful circumnavigation of Jersey.

Fund raising
Paddling past Mont Orgueil Castle, which towers above Gorey. This is one of the most iconic images of Jersey.
Fund raising
Arriving back at St Catherine’s Breakwater, 4 nautical miles covered. The extra 26 miles on the day will hopefully be as straightforward.

Les Landes

Whenever there is a period of north easterly winds my mind immediately starts to think about sea kayaking along the cliffs of the north west corner of Jersey, particularly those around Les Landes.  Direct exposure to the North Atlantic swell means that at certain times of the year the paddling opportunities in this area are somewhat restricted, but when the swell drops, head to the north west for some of the best kayaking in Jersey.

Although Sunday morning is the usual paddling time for the Jersey Canoe Club, it seemed like too good an oppportunity to miss so we put on an extra session on Saturday morning.  We had anticipated being sheltered from the easterly wind but in reality it appeared to be following the contours of the land, resulting in almost no respite.  I suppose these things are sent to try us.

Our morning paddle actually proved to be quite entertaining.  A slight wind blown chop kept us on our toes but the lack of swell meant we were able to paddle wherever we liked.  Caves I probably hadn’t paddled into for 5 or 6 years revealed their secrets whilst we were surrounded by history.

The most recent is the evidence of 20th century German occupation, with guns at the base of the cliffs and bunkers above.  Grosnez Castle, a ruined 14th century castle, which was occupied by the French in 1373 and 1381 was visible above our most northerly point.  Whilst the oldest features were at the base of Le Pinacle, early Neolithic finds dating back to 4800BC as well as Roman from 200AD.

What is there not like about a Saturday morning with some great paddling set against a varied historical backdrop, followed by a lovely lunch at Jersey Pearl.  I can’t wait for the next lull in the North Atlantic swell.

Stinky Bay
Getting ready to leave Stinky Bay.

Les Lands

Underneath Grosnez there is this delightful circular inlet, which is normally a boiling cauldron. Today we were able to relax and enjoy the rock architecture.

La Nethe Falaise
A huge expanse of rock close to Grosnez. La Nethe Falaise, is the aptly named Black Cliff in Jersey French.
Les Landes
After the days of blue skies earlier in the week it was slightly disappointing that we had grey skies but the scenery more than made up for it.
L'Etacq
Looking back towards the cliffs at Les Landes. The tide was dropping quickly so it was important to return before the carry became impossible.

 

Staff Training

Although it was over 40 years ago I remember the excitement on opening a letter, within which, was the offer of employment at a centre in South Wales.  I was never sure whether it was my kayaking or mountaineering experience, which secured my employment.  I could barely contain my excitement as I headed west from London, along the A40 towards my life as an outdoor instructor.  At staff training on the first day I still didn’t discover, which of my activities was the most important as I received a crash course in archery and spent the next few weeks introducing school groups to the finer points of shooting with a bow and arrow.
Not once did I get on the water or walk up a mountain, I just spent hour after hour on the archery field.  My introduction into the world of an outdoor pursuits instructor wasn’t as exciting as I thought, so instead of returning to South Wales to further my career in the summer, I went to Chamonix climbing.
I did return to working in the outdoor world for a couple of superb years, in North Wales.  Great days on the mountains or water followed by personal time with a group of highly motivated fellow instructors.  Days off were spent on the crags at Tremadoc, unless it was raining and then we went paddling.  Those two years working in a centre were the equivalent of the present day gap year.
This week I was fortunate enough to spend time with some young people who are just starting out on the journey to becoming outdoor instructors, looking to achieve qualifications in a number of areas so that they are able to work with groups in Jersey’s superb marine environment.
They all work for Absolute Adventures, who are one of the largest providers of adventurous activities to both locals and tourists.  It was their first day trip in sea kayaks and the NE wind increasing force 6 ensured that in places the water conditions would be quite entertaining.
The first stop was La Cotte de St Brelade, one of the most important historical sites on the island, before heading towards Pt Le Fret, one of the most under rated headlands in Jersey.
We did manage to reach Portelet but ever wary of the increasing wind speed we decided to return back around Pt Le Fret, into the relative shelter of Ouasine Bay for lunch before looking at some skills in the shelter of the reefs.
It felt a real privilege to be on the water with three young people as they embark on their journey towards becoming full time outdoor pursuits instructors.  Hopefully the staff training they received will prove to be more useful in the long run than my few hours of archery instruction.  I haven’t picked up a bow since 1977!

Staff training
Heading through the gap just off Pt Le Fret. We were sheltered from the strongest winds.
Staff training
Heading towards Portelet with Noirmont behind. When the tide is higher this section of coast is great for coasteering.
Staff training
Although we had planned to have lunch in Portelet it was clear that the wind was increasing significantly so we headed back around Pt Le Fret to find shelter. Just after lunch the wind was a steady force 6.
Staff Training
Paddling across St Brelade’s Bay in an increasing wind. Water conditions were more reminiscent of the Caribbean than the British Isles, as we headed back at the end of staff training.