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.

On the water

The opportunity to get back on the water presented itself much earlier than expected as my ruptured achilles appears to be mending quicker than anticipated.  My first excursion at sea, over the weekend, was on a sit on top as I worked out that I would be able to keep my foot straighter than in a closed cockpit boat.  In addition, if necessary it would be pretty easy to place my foot into the cooling water.
St Brelade’s was the chosen departure point and it had been some time since I had paddled there last.  The hardest part of the whole trip was probably carrying the kayak down to the waters edge as I was so apprehensive about walking and carrying on the sand, multi-tasking was a pretty new experience.  Once afloat though life became much easier and despite having relatively low aspirations we did manage to paddle all the way to Corbiere.
I have only been off the water for 3 months, which doesn’t seem too long, but flicking through my paddling log books I realized that it has been the longest time that I haven’t been paddling, since I started my log books in January 1979.
This was the first place I went kayaking, in 1969, and I still appreciate that it is a special section of coast.  In the warm June sunshine, the red granite cliffs, fringed with vegetation and the blue seas combined to produce a coastline, more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than the British Isles.  Just a great day to relaunch my kayaking career.

On the Water
Nicky and Ruth heading towards the cliffs at Beauport.
On the Water
Heading west towards Corbiere. Offshore are the Les Kaines, one of the islands small reefs.
On the Water
Just to the east of Pt La Moye. One of the most impressive things about today was the clarity of the water.
On the Water
One happy paddler and his friend!
On the Water
Looking towards Beauport, one of Jersey’s most beautiful bays. Today the only boat at anchor was an old style French sailing boat.

February Sunshine

For what seemed like the first time in months the Sunday morning session of the Jersey Canoe Club took place in some bright February sunshine, although the temperature was modified by the strong north easterly wind.  11 of us paddled out from St Brelade’s heading towards Corbiere, the granite cliffs looking particularly stunning.
Although Corbiere was our destination, as we approached the south west corner it was clear that with the amount of water moving, due to the Spring tides, and the westerly swell, that we might need to cut our journey short.  We didn’t really want an unplanned journey to Sark.
Close to the causeway, at Corbiere, a plaque commemorates the attempts of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, an assistant keeper of the lighthouse, who was drowned on 28 May 1946, while trying to rescue a visitor cut off by the incoming tide, who also lost her life.  Many years ago I was landing on the slipway at Corbiere, after a Club session on a Thursday evening.  I noticed the plaque and said to one of the people who was with us, “that’s funny you have the same name as the lighthouse keeper who drowned” his reply was “that’s not surprising he was my uncle and I am named after him”.
In the Corbiere Phare Restaurant there is a photograph of Peter Edwin Larbalestier, in his lighthouse keepers uniform.  The likeness to Peter Larbalestier is really quite amazing.  Sadly Peter from the Canoe Club passed away a few years ago but every time we look at the photograph of his uncle we are reminded of the good times we had with Peter kayaking.
The paddle back to St Brelade’s against the wind and tide was a bit challenging in places but that was largely irrelevant as we enjoyed our first sunny Sunday morning paddle of 2018.

February Sunshine
Looking east along St Brelade’s Bay. An hour after high water.
St Brelade's Church
Looking towards St Brelade’s Church, which must be it the best position of any of the island’s parish churches. There is evidence that parts of the church were here before 1035. To the left of the main church is the Fisherman’s Chapel.
Beauport
Approaching Beauport, once inside the bay we gained some shelter from the strong north easterly wind. Contrast this with the views of Beauport earlier in the week
February Sunshine
Once past the Grosse Tete you become more exposed to any westerly swell. There was a few feet of swell today plus plenty of water movement due to the 11 metre tide.
February Sunshine
Corbiere lighthouse in sight. The lighthouse must been the most photographed site on the Island.
February sunshine
Rachel close to the point where we turned back. Due to the size of the tide there was a large amount of water running past the point and when combined with the swell it was creating conditions, which were possibly a bit too entertaining for the Canoe Club Sunday morning session.
February Sunshine
Returning to St Brelade’s Bay, it was a rather windy as we paddled through the gap but it marked the end of an enjoyable couple of hours in the February sunshine.

South West Corner

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.

Weather forecast
Wind warning number 101 of the year, issued at 02.47 on the 31st January, an indication of just how unsettled the beginning of 2018 has been.

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.

Belcroute to Corbiere
Launching from a rather foggy Belcroute. St Aubin’s Fort, the islands outdoor centre, is barely visible.
Belcroute to Noirmont.
Approaching Noirmont from the north. At this point we had the tide helping us reach 5 knots. The tower was built between 1810 and 1814, to help protect the Island in case of invasion by the French.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Pt La Moye from the east. Potato fields, covered in plastic, to encourage early season growth are just visible on the slopes.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Approaching Corbiere, the lighthouse is virtually invisible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Even when relatively close the lighthouse was barely visible.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading past Beauport, one of the most attractive bays on the Island but today it looked rather grey.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Adam heading past Pt Le Fret, one of the most dramatic headlands on the island, which is normally exposed to swell.
Belcroute to Corbiere
Nicky heading towards Pt Le Fret.

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.

Wednesday Coasteering

A strong, cold northerly wind meant that it was cold as we changed in the car park close to the German Tower at Corbiere.  This was our selected venue for our Wednesday coasteering as we knew that once we dropped down the cliffs we would be sheltered from the strongest wind.
Our initial plan was to swim and scramble out to the Jument Rock, the obvious rock, which is painted white as a navigation mark.  To get there involved a couple of short swims, with the opportunity to play in some of the narrow constrictions, which were funneling the swell.
I must have paddled past the white rock, almost a thousand times in the last 48 years that I have kayaked in the area but today was the first time that I have climbed to the top of this unique landmark.  This was quickly followed by another first as we swam into some narrow caves, which I had never explored prior to today.
Despite the strong northerly wind and low temperatures our Wednesday coasteering session was thoroughly enjoyable.  What was particularly memorable was the fact that we were able to visit a couple of locations that I hadn’t been to before.  I have lived within a couple of miles of Jument rock for over 40 years and for the last 15 years have lived within a mile of the rock but had never found a reason or the time to go there, before today .
Sometimes we travel thousands of miles in search of adventure, often costing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.  The reality is that there might be plenty of adventure and places to discover much closer to home.  Many years ago we coined the phrase “adventure in your own backyard”, to describe the sea kayaking trips we were undertaking in the Channel Islands.  In the last 18 months we have explored Jersey’s coast by kayak or swimming, several times each week, realizing that within a few miles of where we live there are so many special places.
My book on Coasteering, providing advice on techniques and safety is available for the Kindle from Amazon.  Further information about the book is available here.

Wednesday coasteering
Swimming out towards the offshore reef. It was a very wintery sky that greeted us this morning
Wednesday coasteering
Jim swimming in one of the gullies we had to cross to reach the outer edge of the reef. At times conditions were quite entertaining!
Wednesday coasteering
On top of Jument Rock. Painted white for navigational purposes, I have paddled past this thousands of times but I had never stood on top before.
Wednesday coasteering
There were a few pleasant rock scrambles over the rocks. Generally we were sheltered from the northerly wind so it felt quite pleasant in the sunshine despite the 7ºC air temperature.
Wednesday coasteering
This cave is underneath the Radio Tower on the headland at Corbiere. It was another area that I hadn’t explored before

South coast kayak coaching

It was a reasonable turn out for the Jersey Canoe Club, Sunday morning session today. 17 kayakers of a variety of differing abilities gathered on the beach at St Brelade’s.  It was an early start, the changing of the clocks ensured that everybody was there promptly.  The plan was simple, head towards Corbiere and see what develops  We didn’t realize that it was going to offer an excellent opportunity for some kayak coaching.  The wind was possibly going to touch force 5 from the north west, which would blow us back, helped by the last of the flood tide.
Just before Pt La Moye the group gathered in a sheltered bay, whilst a couple of paddlers headed out to assess the conditions.  There was clearly some movement off the point, which is the most significant headland between St Brelade’s Bay and Corbiere. Normally it is a magnet for shore based fishermen but today the rocks stood empty. Perfect, we could play in the waters off the point, without fear of becoming entangled in fishing lines.
The tidal stream in shore had already turn west in close creating some entertaining wind against tide conditions. One of the pleasures of paddling with a group from the Jersey Canoe Club is the cross section of paddlers, today four of the group were Advanced Sea Kayak Leaders (5 Star in old money), whilst for 3 of the group it was possibly their first time on the sea in a closed cockpit kayak. The other 10 paddlers were mainly 3 to 4 Star level.
Leading such a diverse group of paddlers can present its own challenges but Alex and Rachel, the designated leaders for the day engaged the whole group in a constructive and educational manner.  Initially the group were taken into run off the point to practice turning and running with winds and waves.  Then followed a couple of exercises around a rock with a few small breaking waves to introduce an element of spice.  First of all simply paddling around the rock in reverse, how often do we practice reverse paddling in anything other than flat calm?
The second exercise involved working in pairs.  It involved paddling around the rock again but one of the paddlers had their eyes shut whilst the other had to offer clear guidance on which paddle strokes to use and on which side of the kayak.  Simple but effective one to one kayak coaching.  It really made the people with their eyes open focus on future water, not just theirs but also that of their partner.

Pt La Moye
Corbiere is just visible in the distance but that was for another day. Just experiencing turning in the swells was satisfying enough for most of the group.
Alex positioned off Pt La Moye as other paddlers turn to run with the swell.
Kayak coaching
Reverse paddling through a gap in the rocks with some slight movement due to the waves creating some entertaining conditions.
Coaching
Angus trying out my Nordkapp HM, possibly the classic sea kayak.

All to soon it was time to head back towards St Brelade’s, after all we had the Canoe Club Sunday lunch to attend.  As the wind pushed us to the east we came across a group out coasteering from our friends at Absolute Adventures.  The south west corner of Jersey is a real playground for anybody with an interest in water sports.

Coasteering
On the return to St Brelade’s we passed this coasteering group at Beauport.

St Brelade’s Bay on Mother’s Day

St Brelade’s Bay on Mother’s Day
Today was one of the first Sunday mornings this year which didn’t have strong winds forecast so the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session headed west from St Brelade’s along one of the most pleasant stretches of Jersey’s coastline.
 We changed in perfect spring sunshine but by the time we launched the clouds had gathered.  we were paddling along the stretch of coast which is close to the hotel where the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium is going to held in May.
 Part of the group under Corbiere Lighthouse.  I know that I am biased by I reckon it is the most beautiful lighthouse in the world.
 As we headed east the sun did manage to break through.  This section of coast is perfect for coasteering in the summer months, fingers crossed for warmer weather.
 Cliffs just to the west of Beauport.  Always a pleasure to paddle past these granite faces.
Time to head in for the Mother’s Day beer!

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.

South West Delights

Although this is the closest stretch of coast to where I live, it seems to have been quite some time since I last spent a day exploring this area of Jersey so it was a real pleasure to be on the water on Saturday.  Heading out from St Brelade’s Bay we headed along the base of the south west cliffs towards Corbiere, before popping into St Ouen’s Bay for some lunch on the offshore reefs.
This is a section of the Jersey coast, which I have paddled hundreds of times but there is always something to discover whatever the season.
Paddling into a feature which we known as Junkyard Gully.  At the rear of the inlet there is a large blow hole into which was thrown a lot of scrap metal and cars in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Laurie passing to the south of Corbiere Lighthouse, a significant landmark, which dominates the south west corner of the island.  There was a bit of swell around and some tidal movement but it was a relatively calm day.
 Heading south past Corbiere after stopping for lunch in the reefs to the west of La Pulente.  A bit chilly but it is October.
 Louis looking as if he is having a good time.
Louis and Rachel playing in the small race which was developing to the west of Corbiere.
Along this section of coast there are some many great jumping spots.  This flat topped rock, known as “Table Top”, is at Gorselands.  Laurie is in mid air whilst Simone is considering his options.
Just before Beauport we were able to take a short cut through the reef at the Grosse Tete.   This is known as Conger Gully, mainly because of the stories we tell younger people whilst we are out coasteering along this section of coast.