Lightning

As I sat on the beach this afternoon at St Brelade’s I watched the build up of cumulo-nimbus towards the French coast both to the south and the east. The concerns about the possibility of lightning were confirmed with the occasional rumbles of thunder.  A check on the phone on the live lightning website indicated that storms were nearby.
Lightning is a major hazard for all sea paddlers and at the first hint of a storm it is important to get off the water, if at all possible. Seek shelter in a building and if that is not possible seek an area of dry ground. Avoid high ground as lightning normally joins the cloud with the closest point of land, ie. the highest part. For the same reason avoid sitting directly underneath a tree. Don’t sit under boulders or in bunkers, these are particularly dangerous areas unless there is at least 5 metres of head room.  Several years ago a sea kayaker in Maine was killed whilst sheltering in a bunker during a lightening storm.
The fickle nature of lightning was frighteningly illustrated to me whilst paddling in the French Alps about 20 years ago. We were preparing to launch and without any warning of an impending storm, there was a huge flash and a strange tingling sensation running through our bodies. Looking up we could see that all the windsurfers on the lake had been blown off their boards. It was with horror that we look around and saw that the two people who had been standing closest to us had been struck by lightning, one had died immediately and the other person died later. We managed to shelter in a building for the remainder of the storm and gather our thoughts as to how close our escape had been.
So what are the key points that we need to be aware of?   Firstly check the weather forecast. If thunder is forecast keep close to land and look out for the build up of cumulo-nimbus.
 Be prepared to get off the water quickly and try to find a building in which to shelter.
 If you are on the water make sure that you are wearing your buoyancy aid, if you are struck by lightning and go unconscious there is no chance of being saved if you sink.
 If you are on land and there are no buildings try to get into an open space, crouch on the balls of your feet and cover your ears with your forearms by grasping your hands together behind your head.
With the development of Apps and smart phones its so much easier to monitor the position of any approaching storms.  Live Lightning is a great website for up to the minute information about the location of lightning strikes.  Whilst paddling in the United States we used the Storm App from Weather Underground, which proved to be great for keeping us up to date about approaching severe weather.  I also like looking at some aviation weather sites, so for example this afternoon as I saw the clouds building I looked at the Jersey Met Aviation pages, which showed that the largest clouds could reach up to 30,000 feet.  That is a pretty big cloud!
It is important to keep up to date with your First Aid practice. A lightning strike does not necessarily mean death, but be prepared to resuscitate quickly and effectively.  In addition when it appears that the storm has passed you are potentially still at risk so wait at least 30 minutes after lightning ceases before starting paddling again.
Knowledge and up to date weather information will help ensure your safety but remember to treat and potential storm with the utmost respect.

Lightning
A storm approaching the Canadian Gulf Islands. We were stuck in camp for most of the day.
Lightning
The safest position to adopt if you are caught out in the open with a storm raging.
Lightning
An early evening storm over Jersey.
Lightning
This beautiful afternoon on the Greek island of Atokos, an uninhabited island to the east of Ithaca, Greece. Little did we know that we were going to be exposed to a lightning storm of such terrifying proportions the following day we just paddled to the shelter of a flat for a couple of days respite.

St Peter’s Valley Cycle Route

Jersey has some great cycle routes but not that many which are exclusively dedicated to two wheels. There is the classic St Helier to Corbiere cycle path whilst from St Helier heading east the coverage is very patchy.  In the last few months there is a new kid on the block, in the form of  St Peter’s Valley Cycle Path.
Completed at a cost of approximately £1.77 million it is clear that there would be a degree of disquiet from certain sections of the Island community.  The usual statements that the money could be better spent elsewhere with very little consideration given to the benefits, to both residents and visitors, provided by such a facility.
It has taken some time for all the pieces to be joined together but we have now is an excellent facility for locals and visitors alike. Providing a fast and safe way from from the south coast to the north west parishes.
You leave the cycle path along the front from St Helier to St Aubins just before Beaumont, if you are heading west. There is a small car park (actually known as Le Perquage car park) and a pelican crossing, which gives access to the start of the cycle route.
The first section follows the long established Perquage path, which can be rather damp at times.  At Sandybrook there is a couple of hundred metres along the road before reaching the new cycle path as it comes down St Peter’s Valley, close to Tesson Mill.  This is one of the few remaining mills on the island and there has probably been a mill at this site since the 11th century.  the present building was built in 1831 and it was purchased by the Jersey National Trust in 1996.  Although part of the building has been converted into residential properties some of the main industrial elements have been retained and are open to the public in summer on Monday and Tuesday 10.00-4.00.
The red tarmac route starts to wind its way through the valley, following the route of the stream, which in the summer is barely noticeable but can become quite a torrent during the winter months.  Pretty quickly you arrive at the only working mill which is left on the island, Le Moulin de Quetivel, also owned by the National Trust for Jersey.  The mill was briefly brought back into use during the German occupation, after which it fell into disrepair, it was restored in 1976 and now is open to visitors during the summer months.
Ahead lies the Vic in the Valley pub where refreshments and and drinks are available, a small link route takes you from the main cycle track to the pub.
The path continues its way up the valley, with a number of interesting footpaths leading off to the west.  A potential activity for exercising your legs in a different way to cycling.  Eventually the path comes to a stop at the main St Peter’s Valley road.  It is necessary to cross the road and drop down a small road to the left before reaching one of the most interesting sections of the whole route.
It is largely an elevated section with lovely views across the small reservoir, on which there are normally a number of interesting birds.
The cycle route comes to an end but a little bit of searching will lead to a small isolated valley, which will allow you to continue cycling towards St Mary’s Church.  From here there are numerous options where to go next.  Following one of the excellent numbered cycle routes from Visit Jersey, or designing your own journey along the numerous small lanes, which are found in the area.
During my ride through the February sunshine I was amazed at the variety of birds I encountered en route.  The Brent Geese, were grazing on Goose Green Marsh and as I cycled up the valley I saw a grey heron, buzzard, marsh harrier, little grebe and little egret, whilst heard a water rail calling close the northern reservoir.  These were just a few of the many species I saw in just a few miles.
The St Peter’s Valley cycle route is a valuable asset to the cycling portfolio in Jersey, a lovely surface to ride on, taking you through some of the finest scenery in Jersey’s heartland.

St Peter's Valley
The initial part of the route from the sea front to the St Peter’s Valley cycle route follows the Le Perquage Path. To my left was Goose Green Marsh.
St Peter's Valley
The start of the new cycle route is close to Tesson Mill. A dramatic property, which provides a link to Jersey’s industrial past.
St Peter's Valley
It is just a lovely surface to ride on, along one of the prettiest valley’s on the island.
St Peter's Valley
The last working mill in Jersey. There is an Open Milling Day once a year, when flour is produced for sale in the small shop.
St Peter's Valley
Approaching the sharp turn in the valley, which is also where the Vic in the Valley is located.
St Peter's Valley
As the cycle route heads north in places in runs along an elevated track. Perfect for riding on.  This is close to the dam for the small reservoir.
St Peter's Valley
The small reservoir always holds a variety of waterbirds. There were tufted duck and a little grebe on the water, whilst I heard a water rail calling as I cycled past.
St Peter's Valley
The final climb from St Peter’s Valley to St Mary’s follows this secluded valley.  The cycle route has finished but it is still possible to find virtually traffic free routes.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been said that the best in-flight entertainment system is the window seat. I can never understand the person who selects the aisle seat when there is the option of observing the world passing by.
Below is a selection of some aerial photographs of potentially interesting sea kayaking destinations seen out of the aircraft window over the last couple of years.  Whenever I get in an aircraft it always stimulates ideas of where else to go paddling.  The to do list, regarding kayaking destinations, continues to grow.

Aerial photographs
Final approach in Barcelona. Didn’t manage to get any sea kayaking in although some of the coast looked pretty interesting from a paddling perspective.  Particularly to the north, which is the venue for the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Aerial photographs
Climbing out from Malta. Gozo on the left and Comino in the middle are clearly visible. There is some great kayaking to be had in the Maltese archipelago.
Aerial photographs
Newhaven, Sussex. A few minutes after take off from Gatwick. It has been a few years since I paddled this stretch of the English coast.
Aerial photographs
Superb meanders on the River Seine.
Aerial photographs
Flying into clouds like these, over Dijon in France means that you are in for a bumpy ride. We were at 32,000 feet and some of the clouds were towering above us.
Aerial photographs
Final approach into Malta, with views of the Grand Harbour. A great sunset and you know that the kayaking is likely to be superb in the morning.
Aerial photographs
Poole Harbour in Dorset. Heading home after a weekend paddling in Swanage, which is just off the picture to the left. Always good to see where you have been.
Aerial photographs
Approaching Jersey on a blustery September day. The Ecrehous below, a great paddle.
Aerial photographs
Heading home from kayaking on the west coast of Greenland we had superb views of the east coast.

John Muir Award

Today was just a perfect day spent on the cliffs near Corbiere, with a local primary school. It was the first day of the John Muir Award, which I think is just a great way of involving people of all ages in exploring and helping to improve their local environment. I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce the Award as part of my work for about 18 months but now I am retired I seem to have lost the opportunity to be involved in this worthwhile project. So when a opportunity arose for some voluntary work in conjunction with Absolute Adventures, I jumped at the chance.
Each Award involves four separate challenges, Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share. To achieve the Discovery Award, the first Level, participants must commit for at least 4 days ( or time equivalent). There are two higher levels, which longer time commitments. Upon completion of each Level the participants receive really attractive certificate.
The John Muir Trust was formed in 1983 with their mission to “To conserve and protect wild places with their indigenous animals, plants and soils for the benefit of present and future generations”.  The John Muir Award was launched on the 26th February 1997, from its base in Scotland and has now spread throughout the UK.  As it approaches its 21st birthday around 300,000 Awards have been presented.  Representing a significant involvement by a large number of people in environmental projects.
Our “little” project was to explore the headlands between Corbiere and Pt La Moye whilst removing some of the hottentot fig, an invasive species, which is taking over the cliffs and killing the natural vegetation.  Although the headlands have a wild and natural feel to them there is some fascinating industrial archaeology, the remnants of the active quarrying industry, which actually only finished in 1957.
After the storms at the start of the year today was just a perfect day to be on the cliffs, non stop sunshine and warm enough not to need a coat whilst pulling up the hottentot fig.  I am always amazed how enthusiastic the young people are and how they wish to become involved.  I feel certain that if we asked them to pull up weeds in somebodies back garden we would get a far less positive response.
Buzzards soaring overhead, a peregrine hunting along the edge of the cliff and fishing boats offshore provided a perfect backdrop to the days activities.  Next week we continue with the hottentot fig clearance before using kelly kettles to produce hot chocolate on the cliffs and heading out for lunch at the world’s most beautiful lighthouse!  Not that I am biased.  The John Muir Award really is great way to encourage people of all ages to engage with their local environment.

John Muir Award
This was the sight which greeted up this morning on arrival at Corbiere. Delightful winter sunshine and a serious North Atlantic swell breaking on the outer reefs.
John Muir Award
Part of the history of the area. Built by the Germans in the Second World War this iconic building is now available for rent from Jersey Heritage.
John Muir Award
The small bay to the west of Corbiere is La Rosiere. The remains of a couple of quarries are clearly visible as is the footpath leading round to a feature which is known both as the Smugglers Cave or Pirates Cave. We weren’t able to enter the cave today because of the swell but did reach a point where we could look in.
John Muir Award
A couple hours of clearing hottentot fig produced this significant pile. Pretty good for primary school children.

Some more aerial photographs

It has been a while since I have posted some aerial photos taken from commercial flights so here are a few from the last few years. They show some potentially great kayaking destinations from above. With views like these it is hard to understand why anybody would book an aisle seat!

 Passing over Calshot when heading south towards Jersey.  The site of the BCU Sea Touring Committee Symposiums in the early 1990’s.
 Greenland West Coast.  The island on the right is Uummannaq and the larger Salliaruseq to the left.  The cliffs and the larger islands are over 1,000 metres high.  This post documents the day we paddled between the two islands.  This was taken whilst flying from Heathrow to Seattle, some years ago.
 Final approach into Stockholm.  It looked like a kayaking paradise.  Little did we realize the frustration which was to follow after we landed
 Take off from Jersey on a beautiful summers day.  The aircraft is banking north over St Ouen’s Bay.
 Sunrise over the Thames estuary.  The south coast of Essex is clearly visible, just minutes after leaving Heathrow.
 A few hours later the Essex coast had been replaced by the Turkish coast to the west of Istanbul.
Approaching Heathrow.  The rectangular shaped water directly in front of the engine is the location of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, an area we have visited regularly over the years as members of the Jersey Canoe Club paddling with kayakers from London.

Cycling – the small details matter

It was another day cycling various routes around the Island, mainly on routes 1 and 3, with a few other lanes thrown in as well. Often when we are out and about we focus on the big picture, looking at the dramatic seascapes or photographing towering cumulus clouds whilst missing out on some of the small features. Bikes are the perfect vehicles to allow us to view these smaller features, which are often missed whilst driving.
We headed into St Helier and whilst cycling around the harbour my eye was caught by a riot of colour at the base of a wall.  It was a plaque to commemorate those Islanders who served in Burma from 1941 to 1945, and had been unveiled the day before.  Amazingly as we stood and considered the information that it contained we were joined by two other people, one of whom was the son of the first named person on the plaque.

Cycling
Close to South Pier this plaque carrying the names of 42 Islanders who served in the Forgotten Army in Burma was unveiled yesterday.

After a stop in Gorey for coffee and cake we decided to head back west on the Cycle Route 3.  This is one of a number of cycle routes, which cross the the Island, further information about the routes is available from Visit Jersey.  Cycle Route 3 is one of the hardest options as it goes straight across the Island, up and down numerous valleys.  Just over 14 miles in length with nearly 2,000 feet of ascent.

Cycling
The route follows a number of very quiet lanes, which in places are almost traffic free.

As you follow the route you come across some features, which are almost unique to Jersey.  Many of these would be missed if driving or they are in places where it would be difficult to stop and examine them in greater detail.  We came upon this Parish Boundary Stone at a road junction.

Cycling
This Parish Boundary stone was laid in 1881. St John to the west and Trinity to the east. Not only have we crossed parish boundaries the design of the road names varies from each parish.

This toad made me stop and look in Waterworks Valley.  It has been developed by Michelle Caine and Alcindo Pinto, working with the National Trust for Jersey.  I had been away from the Island when the project was launched therefore it came as a complete surprise, and I thought I knew may way around the Island pretty well.

Cycling
A willow toad in Waterworks Valley. A project arranged with the National Trust for Jersey.

The final surprise was a rather old everyday object.  A Victorian Post Box!  Post Box No. 45 was made between 1861 and 1871 and still has a collection at 09.00 Monday to Friday, although I do wonder how many letters are posted here each day.

Cycling
A 19th Century Post Box set into a wall in St Mary. There are only 4 examples of this type of Post Box left in Jersey.

These are just a sample of the interesting features that can be encountered when cycling around Jersey.  We are already planning a different route for next week.

West coast cycling route

It has been a couple of weeks since I had been out on the bike and I was keen to get a few miles in the legs.  A quick circuit of some of the western parishes, with lunch thrown in for good measure seemed like a good idea.  It is interesting just how many good cycling routes on Jersey, particularly if you know where to look.  We started along the Railway Walk, surprised how many people were out walking.  It appears that the Island is managing to attract a reasonable number of active visitors during the autumn months .   The Railway Walk is such a great resource for visitors and locals alike.
The cycle route turns north at Les Quennevais and skirts around the Airport, where there was still some activity after yesterday’s Battle of Britain Air Display.  From there we cycled through St Peter’s and down the narrow lanes into St Peter’s Valley so that we could ride on the recently opened cycle track.

Cycle route
Nicky on the St Peter’s Valley cycle route. A great new facility.
Cycle route
The cycle route is slighty raised in places and runs along a wooden board walk.

The track has come in for some criticism from some people in the media but it is a valuable addition to the islands network of cycle routes.  Hopefully there will be many more developments to come.
One of the great things about cycling in Jersey are the number of narrow, virtually traffic free roads, which are available to be explored including the Green Lanes.  Around the Island there are about 50 miles of roads where the maximum speed limit is 15 mph and priority is given to cyclists and walkers.  They were designated from 1994 onwards, and are perfect for cycling along.

La Dimerie
A very pleasant route along a road, La Dimerie, from St Peter’s Valley up to St Mary’s.
Cows
In a couple of places we passed small herds of Jersey cows. I might be biased but I think they are prettiest cows out there.

Once we had cycled up La Dimerie we had regained the higher land of St Mary and passed through the village with its lovely parish church.

St Mary's Church
En route we passed one of the 12 Parish churches on the island, St Mary’s.

Our destination was a little know feature alongside one of the roads in the parish of St Ouen.  There aren’t that many places on the island where it is possible to see whale bones.

Whale bone
Towards Plemont we passed this road side arch. Jutting above the right hand side of the arch can be seen the ends of a whale rib. The whale was supposedly washed ashore in 1726 at Le Pulec (Stinky Bay).
Whale ribs
Looking at the whale ribs from the side.  They are clearly starting to show their age.

After the excitement of whale ribs we were in need of some food and chose the delights of Plemont Cafe, with its extensive views of the other Channel Islands.  Features were particularly clear as we were under the influence of Polar Maritime air.
From here it was a particularly easy run along the west coast of the Island, passing the St Ouen Millenium Stone on the way.   25 miles of varied cycling, mostly on designated cycle routes or virtually traffic free lanes.

Millenium Stone
Each parish has a Millenium Stone, The one for St Ouen is at the top of L’Etacq, overlooking St Ouen’s Bay
St Ouen's
From above L’Etacq the whole of St Ouen’s Bay lay before us. The northerly wind was going to help blow us home.

Environmental Project in Jersey

Environmental Project in Jersey
John Muir, the father of the modern conservation movement, was born in Dunbar Scotland on the 21st April 1838 and moved to the United States when he was 11 years of age.  His impact on environmental issues is hard to underestimate, he was an inspiration for thousands of people both through his writing and his actions.
In 1983 the John Muir Trust was formed to celebrate his life whilst at the same time preserving some of Scotland’s wild places.  The Trust is now the owner of some of the most iconic Scottish landscapes include the summit of Ben Nevis, Sandwood Bay and areas of Knoydart.
As part of the educational programme the Trust started the John Muir Award, which has gone from strength to strength in Scotland.  Over the last 12 months I have started to introduce the Award into schools in Jersey, as well as about to launch a project with the Jersey Canoe Club.
Today sees the conclusion of Invasive Species Week, which is quite opportune as most of the projects that I have developed have revolved around Hottentot Fig, a South African species, which is gradually smothering the native vegetation of the south west cliffs of Jersey as well as destroying the habitat for species such as the Dartford Warbler.
Various groups have been working on the removal of the Hottentot Fig, with it becoming possible to see a reduction in the spread of the plant and a gradual re-establishment of the native flora.  The young people I have been working with are making a difference to their local environment.
It is not all about pulling up the plant though, there is the exploration of the area, which includes 19th century industrial archaeology, in the form of the quarrying, more adventurous activities, which has included scrambling over rocks, walking out to Corbiere Lighthouse, abseiling down cliff faces, kayaking into more difficult locations and cycling.  Too name just a few of the opportunities.
The activities are then shared with a wider audience, this has included a school assembly, a parents evening, a notice board, a film, model making, writing in the parish magazine etc.  Once this has been completed the participants receive a superb certificate celebrating their achievements.  Amazingly this is is all free.
The John Muir Award is a fantastic resource not just for schools but for anybody who has an interest in their environment.  The Jersey Canoe Club project is to collect rubbish off the more remote beaches and caves along the north coast of the Island.  It is something, which we might have done anyway but this provides a framework and means of celebrating everybodies commitment and effort. So really consider getting involved, you don’t know how far it will take you.

 Looking west along the cliffs.  Much of the dark green vegetation is hottentot fig.
 Looking east along the cliffs of the south west coast.  The small granite building is part of the desalination plant.
 An usual view of the quarry at La Rosiere.  It has been drained for maintenance.  Some of the rock from this quarry was used for the Thames Embankment in London.
 
 A normal view of the quarry.
The remains of the quarry infrastructure.
 A pile of hottentot fig, the result of the work of year 6’s from St Peter and St Lawrence Primary Schools.
If you spend enough time walking around an area there is a good chance that you will see some fascinating creatures.  This slow worm seemed totally unconcerned about my presence.
  These two Green Lizards were also oblivious of my presence.

Some more aerial shots

Some more aerial shots
I can never understand why people would ever request an aisle seat on an aircraft as the best entertainment is generally from looking out of the window.  These are a selection of some of the aerial photographs taken on some recent flights, they certainly provide inspiration for some future kayak trips.
A rather bumpy departure from Jersey, we were quickly into the cloud, re-appearing just before landing at Gatwick.
 My first flight into London City, with the descent taking us close to Dungeness.  A superb example of a cuspate foreland.
 Approaching London from the east, passing over the River Medway, close to Rochester.  One day I must try to visit this area to go sea kayaking.
 Flying over the deserts of the Middle East.  This was on a Qatar Airways A380, which is a great aircraft but not the best for taking aerial photographs from.
 Sunrise over the Loire.  I have paddled on the white water of the Upper Loire but never on this section which is more famous for its Chateaux.  This was an interesting flight as we climbed to 34,000 feet after take off from Toulouse and then dropped down to 24,000 feet just north of Bordeaux and stayed at that height all the way back to Heathrow.  There was no announcement as to why we were flying back at such a low level.
 Late afternoon approach into Warsaw.  The River Vistula is the longest river in Poland.  In the early 1980’s I visited one the Canoe Exhibitions at Crystal Palace and came across the International Long River Canoeists Club, an organization run by Peter Salisbury.  He used to produce numerous expedition reports, the first one I bought was his report of paddling down the River Vistula in the 1970’s.  I still have it somewhere and must dig out for a read.
Some seats just aren’t great for photographs, descending in Jersey we passed over Guernsey with Lihou just visible off the west coast.  I am looking forward to another weekend of paddling off this delightful island in June.
Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.  There were great views as the plane banked as it turned south towards the Channel Islands.

India Walk About – Day 3

India Walk About – Day 3
After a bitterly cold night, I can’t remember the last time I slept in my down jacket inside my sleeping bag, we woke to a beautiful blue sky.  We were camped at 3390 metres, with some of the group starting to feel the impact of the altitude.  Today had been planned as part of the acclimatization process, walk up a nearby peak, which was just over 3700 metres before dropping back to the camp site.  For some relaxtion before moving higher the following day.
As we were pretty much above the tree line, the walk had a totally different feel to the previous couple of days.  Open mountain sides and distant views, it was almost like walking in the British mountains apart from the occasional glimpse of glaciers.
The climb up the peak took much less time than we anticipated so the afternoon was spent catching up on sleep, reading and just generally relaxing.  Tomorrow we head higher.
India Day 3
It took quite a while for the frost to melt, particularly in the shady areas.
India Day 3
The toilet tents had a superb view. Our route for the day was along the ridge to the right of the tents.
India Day 3
t was always good to start the day with some group stretching or, as on this day, with some laughing yoga.
Indai Day 3
This could almost be the Welsh mountains, if it wasn’t for the altitude.
India Day 3
This was our high point for the day at 3740 metres. It had been quite warm as we climbed the ridge and lunch on the summit started off as a very pleasant affair with great views and some reasonably warm sunshine.
India Day 3
Within minutes though the temperature plummeted as the clouds swept in, obscuring distant views and forcing a speedy search for warmer clothing. This wasn’t a day for hanging around for too long.
India Day 3
Clothing for the descent was somewhat different to what we had been wearing about an hour earlier as we came up the ridge. People were generally looking forward to a couple of hours relaxing in the tent or reading during the afternoon.
India Day 3
Back at the camp site at 3390 metres. There were some pretty large clouds building on the surrounding peaks, fortunately where we were camped remained clear but the weather indications for the next few days were not looking good.
Indai Day 3
The views across the mountain ranges were always quite special. What surprised me at night though was just how many lights appeared on the hillsides. During the day you could pretend that you were the only people in the area but at night the lights indicated just how many people called this area home.