Les Minquiers

This reef of rocks lies to the south of Jersey and covers a much larger area than the Ecrehous at low water.  The sovereignty of these islets has been the subject of much dispute between the French and the British governments but as in the case of the Ecrehous responsibility was awarded to the Britain in 1953.  There was a brief resurgence of the dispute in August 1998 when a party of French invaded the reef and hoisted the flag of the King of Patagonia, who had died over a 100 years previously.  This was supposedly in retaliation for the war in the Falklands.
There are several small buildings on the main island, Maitresse Isle, which includes a Jersey Customs house, built in 1884 and a toilet, which has the distinction of being the most southerly building in the British Isles.
Many of these buildings were put up at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th Centuries when the rock was being quarried to be used in the construction of Fort Regent in Jersey.  Some of the cottages have fallen into disrepair and they are generally not in such good condition as the cottages on the Ecrehous, although in recent years quite a lot of renovation appears to have been undertaken.  A post war development has been the building of a concrete helicopter landing pad, with a store of food and water alongside for emergency use.
The French interest after the Second World War was partly because they planned to build several large tidal power stations.  One was to run from Cap Frehel to the Minquiers and another from Cancale to Granville, in addition to the smaller one across the Rance Estuary.  Many people would argue that fortunately only the smallest of the three projects was completed as it would have affected the character of the whole of this area of the Channel Islands and surrounding French coast..
Prior to the Second World War the fishermen from La Rocque in Jersey looked upon the Minquiers as their fishing grounds and would frequent this area.  Nowadays though the visitor is likely to have the reef to themselves apart from the numerous Shags.  There isn’t the same movement of people to the area from Jersey at the weekends as there is to the Ecrehous.  On a recent August Bank Holiday with an excellent weather forecast my paddling partner and myself had the main Island to ourselves for two days.  It is a very special feeling to sit outside the huts on a still summers evening and watch the sun slowly sink and the tide rapidly covering the surrounding reefs.  The only other indication of other human beings the twinkling of lights across the water from Jersey or Chausey.
This is an area to be savoured and experienced at all stages of the tide.  There is much to explore at low tide, miles of reefs and sand banks interspersed with calm pools.  The character very quickly changes with fast running tidal streams developing in the narrow channels and the rapidly rising tide covering the reefs until at high water there are only about 9 islets visible.  The contrast between high and low water is quite stunning.
Those people who succeed in visiting this area by kayak should feel privileged at being able to view such a unique environment.  Hammond Innes in his novel “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” captures some of the magic and atmosphere of the area and it should be compulsory background reading for all intending visitors.
 Approaching the main island from the north east, in recent years we have always approached from the west.  Leaving from Corbiere as opposed to St Helier avoids spending too much time in the shipping lanes.
 An early visit to the reef.  This was on a visit in June 1982, it felt really isolated in those days.
 A visit in May 1986.  The compulsory picture in front of the toilet door.
 The toilet in 2007, it had received a fresh coat of paint but is still the most southerly building in the British Isles.
 There are plenty of small signs and plaques dotted around the reef, some of them over 100 years old.  Clearly the Minquiers were and still are a special place for some people.

As the sun sets and the surrounding reefs are slowly covered by the rising tide it is hard not to fall under the spell of this unique area of the British Isles.