Leaving St Malo on the ferry last night we went past the island of Cezembre, somewhere we have visited quite a few times over the years. It is a delightful one day paddle, particularly during the summer months. Although it has been nearly 24 years since I first paddled there, it was a surprise to find that I hadn’t written anything about it.
The island is in the Department of Ille-et-Vilaine to the north of St Malo, the south coast of the island consists of a lovely sandy beach whilst the rest of coastline is steep cliffs. There is a small restaurant at the back of the beach but I wouldn’t rely on it being able to offer refreshments. I would go prepared to be self sufficient and if you are able to buy something that would be a bonus.
During the Second World War the islands defences were strengthened by the Germans as part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications.
Following the invasion of Normandy the Americans advanced to St Malo, which was taken by the Allies on the 18th August 1944 but the German forces on Cezembre didn’t surrender until the 2nd September. Whilst trying to recapture the island an early form of napalm was dropped on the island.
On our first few visits to the Cezembre we were able to wander around but on the last visit, large areas of the island were fenced off partly because of the large number of unexploded shells. I am not sure what the current situation is but even if you can’t walk around the island it is still an entertaining day trip if you are in the area.
Approaching Cezembre in June 1991. It was the final day of a great weeks paddling along the north coast of Brittany. At this point we had no idea what surprises waited ashore.
When we walked onto the island we could not believe the scene of utter devastation which greeted us. There were numerous shell holes and the German guns had been destroyed. It was impossible to imagine what it must have been like on the island in August 1944, when it was being shelled from the shore.
A surprising find on the entrance to one of the bunkers.
Leaving St Malo for another day trip to Cezembre in May 2013
Looking out from the walls in St Malo. Cezembre is the outer island. Care does need to be crossing to the island because the fast ferries from Jersey normally pass in between the islands. It is really useful to know your buoyage when you see a hi speed craft approach.