For what seems like the first time in months we were able to have our midweek kayaking day trip off the south west corner of the Island. There have been numerous strong wind warnings this year, issued by Jersey Met, most of them appearing to involve some south westerly involvement. The consequence of this is that day trips, along the south coast have been few and far between recently. Fortunately today’s forecast allowed us the paddle from Belcroute to Corbiere and return.
It was just a few hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who congregated at Belcroute on Tuesday morning. Many of the regular attendees of the mid week day trip were off Island or unavailable this week. The aim was to use the last of the ebb as it flowed west, towards Corbiere, with the added assistance of the light north easterly wind. Amazingly as the tide turned and the east flowing stream started the wind also went around to the south west. It’s not often that you get both wind and tide with in both directions on a day trip. We were certainly getting our monies worth from environmental factors.
From Belcroute it was an easy run south to Noirmont Point, clearly identified by its black and white, early 19th century military tower. Although it wasn’t easily visible today because of the low cloud/fog. We used the last couple of hours of the tidal flow to assist our run towards Corbiere. This section of coast has to be one of my favourite lengths of the islands coastline, it is where I gained my original kayaking experience, starting in 1969.
It is normally a blaze of colour, the blue sea, red granite and green vegetation complementing each other but today the overwhelming colour was grey.
It was just a delight to be on the water without having to battle wind and waves, which have been our constant companions for the last few months. Corbiere was our turning point, the iconic lighthouse was first lit on the 24th April 1874 and over the years has been the scene of a number of dramatic rescues.
Lunch was on the small beach below the Highlands Hotel, before we took advantage of the easterly flowing tide and south westerly wind to assist our return. Overall we paddled just over 11 miles each, assisting Jersey Canoe Club’s entry into the British Canoeing Winter Challenge. Taking the Clubs combined mileage since the 1st December to just over 2,000 miles, a significant total considering the weather and the fact that because of geography we are limited to paddling on the sea.
I have written more information on the route between Belcroute and Corbiere elsewhere on the SeaPaddler site, so take a look for further ideas on places to paddle.
The 1st December marks the start of British Canoeing Winter Challenge. It last 3 months and the aim is to encourage members of canoe and kayak clubs to get out on the water during the darker, colder days of winter.
Last year Jersey Canoe Club came top, in terms of miles covered, just about fending off a determined challenge by Portsmouth Canoe Club. In the 3 months the members of the Jersey club paddled a total of 4,108 miles, with 4 members paddling over the 300 miles. The highest individual total was 520 miles, which is quite amazing considering that there is no inland water in Jersey, so they were all completed on the sea.
Today’s forecast was less than perfect for the first day of the Challenge as 5 slightly enthusiastic kayakers headed out from Belcroute. The initial mile was fast and easy as the northerly force 5 sped us on our way towards Noirmont point, which was the gateway to more sheltered waters, under the cliffs of Portelet. Some large black clouds gave a suggestion of rain or sleet but surprisingly we stayed dry. At times even feeling the warmth of the low angled winter sun.
Nicky pulled out in St Brelade’s whilst the rest of us carried onto Corbiere, with its freshly painted lighthouse. The tide had started to rise quite quickly meaning we had missed the opportunity to land in some of the small bays, so we headed back to Beauport for lunch. Without doubt one of the most beautiful bays on the Island, but on the 1st December we had the beach to ourselves.
After lunch we headed east across St Brelade’s Bay as the clouds built in size. For most of the paddle we were reasonably protected from the wind but from Noirmont to Belcroute there was no respite. The wind was blowing at about 30 knots straight into our faces, which resulted in some demanding paddling conditions. When we landed our total mileage for the day was 60 miles, which despite the weather was a pretty reasonable start towards British Canoeings Winter Challenge .
It is probably true to say that we wouldn’t have normally gone for such a long paddle in the prevailing conditions but the fact that we did stay out there and put the miles in is evidence of the success of the Winter Challenge, which is to get more paddlers out on the water during the cold, dark days of December, January and February.
Thursday evenings during the winter months are the regular pool sessions, apart from one week in March when it is the local Swimmarathon. A huge community fund raising event so we normally have a week without midweek paddling but last nights forecast raised the possibility of a night paddle out from Belcroute Bay. Belcroute is a perfect place for a night paddle, sheltered from the prevailing wind and swell and out of the strongest tidal streams, but with plenty to explore including St Aubin’sHarbour a few hundred metres to the north. There are also plenty of navigation markers in the vicinity if you wish to improve the accuracy of your bearings and timings. We met at Belcroute at just before 7.00 pm and it was clear that the major issue was how we were going to launch. The 11.8 metre tide meant that the sea was pretty close to the wall and there was the occasional larger swell. In a plastic sea kayak launching down the slip was a distinct possibility, particularly with assistance. Launching with a fibre glass kayak was an entirely different proposition, the best option for preserving kit appeared to be to throw the kayak into the sea, jump in after it, hopefully timing your entry into the water so that the retreating swell sucked you away from the slip and then perform a self rescue, all in the dark. Although there was some initial reluctance regarding the assessment of the situation everybody managed to perform the task without any major drama. Once afloat we had a delightful paddle around St Aubin’s Fort, built during the English Civil War and extended in the 18th and 20th Century it now serves as an outdoor centre for the Education Department. From there we headed across to St Aubin’s Harbour, which thrived as Jersey fishermen returned from the fishing grounds off eastern Canada. The splendid merchants houses along the waterfront known as Cod houses. A paddle around the harbour is always pleasant, particularly during the hours of darkness. The return to Belcroute was simple and the landing at Belcroute was easier than anticipated as the tide had dropped slightly but it was still entertaining, having to time your arrival in the steep pebble beach with one of the smaller sets of waves, not always easy to achieve when you can’t see what is coming. A delightful way to spend a couple of hours on a mid-week evening in March.
Listening to Derek’s briefing whilst contemplating the upcoming swim.
Plastic kayaks could be launched down the slip although timing was pretty important.
Ruth swimming for it with Alex ready to help.
St Brelade’s Parish hall, in a previous life it was part of the railway station.
Heading back to the entrance.
On the outside of the harbour, passing the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club, as we head back towards Belcroute.
It was another Sunday morning with strong westerly winds forecast so the options for our weekly paddle were limited. It was another visit to Belcroute, which is sheltered from the strong winds from the west. The winds on the day didn’t appear to be quite as strong as forecast so we were able to head across St Aubin’s Bay towards Elizabeth Castle, using the wind for quite an entertaining outgoing ride.
One advantage of living on an island is that whatever the wind direction it is always possible to find somewhere to paddle and as result of this the Jersey Canoe Club has managed to get on the water, on a Sunday morning pretty much every week since the mid-1970’s, although some weeks when it is blowing hard and the rain is falling numbers might be limited, at other times when the sun is out and winds are light we have seen over 40 kayakers on the water at times..
Jason preparing to launch at Belcroute, sheltered from the strong westerly wind which was blowing at the time.
Looking back up the beach at Belcroute. With winds like those forecast for this morning the kayaking options were limited. The Jersey Canoe Club were not the only group paddling from there today. The faster group of regular Jersey kayaker’s who paddle Taran’s had also chosen this location to leave from.
Pete just before Noirmont. The relatively calm seas don’t indicate the true wind speed as we were sheltered by Noirmont headland.
Crossing St Aubin’s Bay. The further we moved away from Noirmont the greater the impact of the wind. Due to the limited fetch sea conditions weren’t too rough.
Elizabeth Castle lies ahead. One of the finest military fortifications of Jersey.
You don’t see too many of these navigation marks around, an Isolated Danger Mark, just to the south of West Park Pool.
Belcroute always feels reasonably isolated although after a cliff fall in 1930 evidence was discovered which indicated that the area had been inhabited since the Iron Age. Today it always feels a bit isolated although it is relatively close to St Aubins whilst the buildings of St Helier are clearly visible across the bay.
It has been used as a deep water anchorage for many hundreds of years, although it is relatively close to St Aubin, which from around 1700 was the main harbour on the Island. The wealth of the village was as a result of the trans Atlantic trade, particularly the cod fishing industry of Newfoundland. The merchants in the area grew rich and built numerous substantial properties, which are known as cod houses.
Although parking is limited at Belcroute I have never had a problem finding somewhere to leave the car as it doesn’t get particularly busy. As an East facing beach it is well sheltered from the prevailing wind but the steep land behind the beach means that the sun is lost early in the day. Access to the beach is via a short but relatively steep slipway, at high water the beach is pebbles but as the tide drops sand is exposed.
Belcroute was used as the quarantine anchorage and in 1721 the Esther with her captain Philippe Janvrin, returned to the Island from Nantes, where there was an outbreak of the plague. On the second of anchoring in the bay Janvrin died, his body was not allowed to be brought ashore and so he was buried, by 3 of his crew, on a small island in Portelet Bay, Ile au Guerdain, whilst the burial service was read out from the coast overlooking the bay.
The tower in the middle of the bay is known as Janvrin’s Tomb, although it is in fact a Martello Tower built in 1808. There whereabouts on Janvrin’s body is not known, although it has been said that it was removed to St Brelade’s churchyard, there is no evidence of this.
With today’s forecast Belcroute was the inevitable choice, and we weren’t disappointed.