Pierres de Lecq

Located to the north of Greve de Lecq, the Pierres de Lecq are better know by their other name the Paternosters.  Small boats frequently pass by although people rarely land.  I first visited the reef in 1979 and on every subsequent visit we have had the reef to ourselves.
Visits tend to take place on spring tides, in Jersey high water on springs is always in the morning and the evening, meaning that low water is around lunch time.  Visits have to take place around low water, otherwise there won’t be anywhere to land.  A consequence of going on springs is that the tidal streams will be flowing much faster so an understanding of tidal flows is necessary.
We headed east towards Sorel point as we were going to allow the tide to sweep us back to the west for what we hoped would be our arrival at the Paternoster’s.  This wind and wave swept reef is formed from gneiss, a type of rock absent from the main land mass of Jersey.  At high water there is virtually nowhere to land so it is best to arrive at mid tide on the ebb, which just happens to mean that you will be the crossing towards maximum rate.  This always adds to the entertainment.
The Pierres de Lecq have become known as the Paternosters due to a legend linked to the settlement of Sark by some families from the parish of St Ouen in Jersey, in the 16th century.  One of the boats was wrecked en route to Sark, with the women and children drowning.  At times it is said that their cries can still be heard in the wind and so it became a tradition for fishermen passing by to say a Lords Prayer.  On the day of our visit the only sound was the call of oystercatchers and herring gulls.
Although only a few miles from Jersey  the reefs have truly remote and wild feel.  All too soon though it was time to head back to the mainland.  We used the flooding tide to carry us towards Plemont headland, the speed over the ground rarely dropped below 7 knots before returning along the coast back to Greve de Lecq.
Overall we only paddled about 9 nautical miles but what quality, any visit to the Paternosters or the Pierres de Lecq makes you feel that you have visited somewhere special.

Pierre de Lecq
Approaching the Paternosters from the south east. The tide was running from east to west at close to 3 knots.
Pierres de Lecq
Once we had landed it became apparent how quickly the tide was dropping, stranding my kayak well above the water.
Paternosters
Looking across the reef as the tide drops. To the north the closest land is Sark.
Pierres de Lecq
Probably 20 years ago we paddled out here one November morning and we managed to climb all the way around the Great Rock, just above water level. We named the route “Howards Way” after the television programme of time but also because well known sea kayaker, Howard Jeffs, was with us on that day.
Paternosters
Preparing to leave. We we about to jump on the liquid conveyor belt that is the consequence of spring tides in Jersey.
Paternosters
Crossing the last of the tidal flow into Plemont headland, before heading back to Greve de Lecq.

Grey North Coast Days

The low cloud, mist and drizzle, which has been a constant since Wednesday morning continued over the weekend. Despite the gloom we did manage 2 north coast paddles.
On Saturday we headed west from Bonne Nuit along to Sorel and on the Sunday we headed east from Greve de Lecq towards Sorel.  We are hoping for a bit of sunshine over the next week or so (although its not looking that likely) but in spite of the weather we had a couple of good sea kayaking trips on the two days before Christmas.

North Coast
One of the largest industrial sites on the Island, the true scale can only really be appreciated from the sea.
North Coast
The old jetty for loading the rock onto ships, which no longer visit. The fascinating thing in this area is that Choughs have started to breed in this area in the last couple of years. The successful culmination of captive breeding programme co-ordinated by Jersey Zoo.
North Coast
The top of the television transmitter was drifting in and out the cloud. At the base of the cliffs near the transmitter are Wolf’s Caves which are always worth exploring.
North Coast
Circumnavigating Le Cheval Guillaume in the middle of Bonne Nuit Bay. Tradition states that people used to row around this rock in the hope of having some good fortune in the coming year.  Time will tell whether our circumnavigation will bring us good fortune in 2018, I would like to think that it will.
North Coast
The restorative work that has been carried out on the cliff face over the last year is clearly seen here. The cliff has crumbled during a storm on March 2016, placing some of the buildings above at risk of ending up on the rocks below
North Coast
The following day dawned just as grey but this morning we were heading out from Greve de Lecq. These channels between the reefs lead to a rather isolated beach, a great location for a summer picnic.
North Coast
Looking into Devil’s Hole, one of the most significant physical features along this section of coast. The low swell entering the cave created some interesting conditions for those paddlers who ventured furthest in.
North Coast
The swell was focusing on the headlands, some of which required a bit of extra care, when paddling around.
North Coast
Heading back along the north coast to Greve de Lecq and welcome Christmas Eve pint at the Moulin de Lecq. Janet and Jim were experiencing the waves in the Club double.

 

Dry suits

Whilst looking through some of my old slides I came across this one, which represents an interesting time in the evolution of modern kayak equipment, in particular dry suits.

It was taken in November 1982 on the beach at Greve de Lecq in Jersey.  It was an unusually cold day, note the snow on the front of the kayak.  I am the one in the paddling equipment, if you weren’t sure.
Wind surfing was becoming popular and a number of the participants were wearing this new clothing, a dry suit, prior to this evolution the dry suits were very basic items of equipment.  We were fortunate enough to be lent a dry suit to try out.
One of the main concerns, which was doing the round of the paddling community was that in the event of a capsize, if the dry suit hadn’t been vented properly it was likely that the feet would fill with air and the kayaker would be suspended upside down.  My role, no pun intended, in this exercise was to paddle offshore, do a couple of rolls before capsizing and hopefully swimming ashore with my head above water.
As I am writing this 35 years later it is clear that being suspended upside down with your feet full of air was an urban myth.  So based on this rather unscientific experiment we ordered 6 dry suits and 7 months later flew out to Spitsbergen for a 2 month trip.  As far as I am aware we were one of the first sea kayaking trips to use the modern dry suit, an item of equipment, which today is virtually essential for any self respecting sea kayaker.

Dry suits
Typical kayaking conditions in NW Spitsbergen, just short of 80 degrees N.
Dry suit
If you are contemplating sea conditions like these a dry suit is pretty essential.
Dry suit
The sea is frozen just in front of the paddlers, wearing dry suits in conditions like this made life on the expedition bearable. It was a complete revelation to us nearly 35 years ago.

Octopus Pool

The evening of Saturday 18th November is the annual dinner of the Jersey Club Club at the Prince of Wales, Greve de Lecq. A number of us decided to stay the night and so to take full advantage of the area we decided that an afternoon’s coasteering out to the Octopus Pool was in order.
The Octopus Pool is one of those places where generations of young people have gained experience of exploring the coast line of Jersey, jumping into rock pools and scrambling through caves. Over the last few years it has become increasingly popular with commercial groups. During the summer months it has probably reached full capacity on some days but on a Saturday in November we were fairly certain of having the place to ourselves.
Greve de Lecq is a popular venue with the Jersey Canoe Club because of the quality of the sea kayaking which is easily accessible but today the focus was on rock scrambling and swimming as opposed to paddling.
A great afternoon’s sport setting us up for a good annual dinner.

Octopus Pool
Jacob is really enthusiastic about coasteering and is really confident for a 6 year old, when moving across the rocks.
Octhopus pool
This stone always fascinates me as the letters have been carved with such care. It says the following ASL HFM 1839
Octopus Pool
It is always a challenge to dive to the bottom to get some sand or seaweed. Most young people fail as they don’t know how to dive. In this day and age it is almost impossible for young people to learn to dive, due to health and safety concerns diving is banned in virtually every swimming pool.
Octopus Pool
At low tide the Rhino was quite a reasonable jump today, about 10 metres in height.
Octopus Pool
Its always great to be able to return to Greve de Lecq through the cave which runs underneath the headland.

Greve de Lecq – what a difference a week makes

After the near perfect conditions for exploring the coast to the east of Greve de Lecq last weekend, this Sunday was a complete contrast. Magicseaweed and Jersey Met had been predicting the arrival of a swell and they weren’t wrong. The one positive note was that the beach was reasonably protected, although there was still some dumping surf on the beach. It was what was going on outside the bay that created the talking points.
The Paternosters are approximately 2.5 nautical miles to the north but waves could be clearly seen breaking on the reef, whilst along the coast the swell could be seen breaking some way up the cliffs. This was clearly not going to be a day for exploring the caves along this stretch of coast. What made the swell even more impressive was its wave period, somewhere in the region of 15 seconds.

Swell
Leaving the beach was all about timing and the assistance of a couple of other paddlers. The important thing was to make sure that you weren’t the last person to leave the beach!

Once afloat there was very little opportunity to approach the cliffs and cave, which make this such a great stretch of coast to paddle.  A week earlier we had been able to go pretty much where we liked on a flat calm Sunday morning.

Swell
In places the swell was breaking some way up the cliffs. It was clearly somewhere that you didn’t want to be caught out.
Swell
There was not going to be any paddling through the arch on Ile Agois today. What a contrast to 7 days earlier.

We paddled as far as Sorel lighthouse but in most places we needed to keep several hundred metres out from the shore, there were just a couple of places where it was thought possible to approach a bit closer.

Swell
John making it out through the waves off Sorel.
Swell
Heading back to Greve, we kept well offshore. A couple of large sets of waves did pass by on their way to the cliffs. Jim from Manchester Canoe Club, clearly enjoying himself despite the rain just starting.

The landing back at Greve de Lecq was as difficult as anticipated.  The dropping tide meant that we had a bit more shelter than anticipated.  There had been 21 kayakers on the water with Jersey Canoe Club and only one person swam on landing.  We thought that was a pretty good success rate.

Greve de Lecq: always enjoyable

By default I found myself arranging the Jersey Canoe Club Sunday morning session. Considering tide and weather I chose Greve de Lecq, a delightful beach on the north west corner of the Island. In actual fact it would have been possible to go almost anywhere but I hadn’t been from Greve for some time, a fact which helped to influence my decision.
You are spoilt for choice at Greve de Lecq, heading east and west there are sections of cliff, interspersed with numerous caves whilst to the north are the Paternoster’s, one of the reefs which are located around Jersey.  Today there were some large clouds around with the possibility of thunderstorms so we selected the coastal option, heading east.

Greve de Lecq
On the beach at Greve de Lecq. Substantial clouds.offering the prospect of lightning are visible to the north.  We were deciding whether to head east or west.

The great thing about this section of coast is that almost immediately there are numerous caves waiting to be explored and today the lack of any significant swell meant that we could wander almost anywhere.

Greve de Lecq
This is one of the longest caves that I am aware of anywhere on the Island. At this point I was probably only a third of the way in.

Besides the caves there are numerous narrow channels waiting to be explored.  Just over a mile to the east of Greve de Lecq is Ile Agois, one of the most dramatic physical features on the Island.  Separated from the headland by a narrow channel the surrounding cliffs produce an almost totally isolated stack.  Excavations in the 1950’s and 70’s of the summit area uncovered a significant amount of iron age pottery, plus the remnants of some small huts.  It might also have provided sanctuary for a small community of monks.  It is likely at that time the stack was joined to the headland, otherwise it would have been a very challenging place to survive.

Greve de Lecq
Looking north from inside Ile Agois. The remains of the small settlement are to the right of the highest point.
Derek Hutchinson
The back cover of “The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking” by Derek Hutchinson. Published in 1994, although the photograph was taken in 1989. It shows Derek on the outside of the obvious arch, which cuts through Ile Agois.

I have fond memories of paddling in this area in the 1980’s with Derek Hutchinson, who at the time was probably the best known sea kayaker in the world with his televised expeditions as well as his crossing of the North Sea by kayak in 1976, when on a 31 hour paddle they were out of sight of land for 30 hours.
To the east of Ile Agois is another significant coastal feature, Devil’s Hole.  The scene of a shipwreck in 1851, when the French cutter, Josephine, ran aground.  One of the crew was drowned whilst the other 4 were rescued by Nicolas Arthur, the owner of The Priory Inn at the top of cliffs, plus a friend.  The figurehead from the ship was washed into the bottom of Devil’s Hole, from where it was rescued, before being carved into the shape of the Devil, before being put on display, hence its name.

Greve de Lecq
Not the view of Devil’s Hole that most visitors get.

Before returning to Greve de Lecq we explored the narrow channels towards Sorel, coming across the rather strange breathing rock.  A couple of hours on a Sunday morning is a great time to explore the Islands coastline with the Jersey Canoe Club and today didn’t disappoint.

 

Le Catel de Lecq

Le Catel de Lecq is an iron age hill which dominates the headland to the east of Greve de Lecq, possibly the finest beach for sea kayaking on the north coast of Jersey.  I must have paddled past it hundreds of times, in addition to passing by numerous times on the landward side.  It wasn’t until this week though that I made the effort to climb to the summit.
It was well worth visiting it as it is one of the best preserved defensive earthworks on the Island.  In recent months the defenses have been improved with the introduction of a number of very inquisitive Manx four horned sheep, so if visiting ensure that the gate is firmly closed.

Catel de Lecq
The fort seen from close to the road, minus the sheep
Catel de Lecq
Just a few of the many sheep which were grazing on the slopes and in the surrounding fields.
Le Catel de Lecq
Nicky on the way up.
Le Catel de Lecq
Looking east from the summit. Directly below the fort are a number of the more interesting caves to be found on the Island
Le Catel de Lecq
Looking down on Greve de Lecq and the coast running west towards Plemont.
Le Catel de Lecq
Nicky on the summit ridge, it was narrower than we imagined.
Le Catel de Lecq
Approaching Greve de Lecq from the Paternosters. Le Catel de Lecq is the distinctive hill above the kayakers. How many people passing by realize that it is man made?

A Paternoster Sunday

The Paternoster’s are a wild reef nearly 3 miles off the north coast of Jersey which is always an interesting place to visit.  Sunday morning’s forecast couldn’t have been more co-operative with a light southerly breeze to blow us out and then dropping off, with the sun coming out.
It was a slightly longer Sunday morning paddle for the Jersey Canoe Club than usual and it did involve taking sandwiches but it was well worth the effort.  It is strange that we were only out for 5 hours in total but after a visit to the Paternoster’s you always feel as if you have had a break from the island.
 The Paternosters are just visible, with Sark on the horizon beyond
 Nicky and Kate leaving the north coast.  Sorel lighthouse is just visible on the headland behind the kayaks.
 Just approaching Great Rock from the north, landing would probably have been impossible an hour earlier due to the swell but the ebbing tide had produced some relatively sheltered areas in the reef.
 Looking south west from the summit of Great Rock.  Grosnez is the obvious headland behind.  There is a great jump into the sea from just near here but with the temperatures that we were experiencing it was sensible to remain dry.
 The view north.  Sark is visible on the horizon.  We had great memories of a delightful paddle back from Sark earlier in the summer.
Paul crossing one of the tidal flows, which contribute to making paddling at the Paternoster’s so entertaining.  We were going to use some of the flow from this current to head towards Plemont headland before following the coast back to Greve de Lecq.

A Gneiss Paddle

Just under 3 miles north of Greve de Lecq lie the Paternosters, a reef which for many sea kayakers offers their first opportunity for heading offshore.  Although the tidal streams can run with surprising speed towards low water the crossing can be reasonably direct and straightforward, which is what we had planned for today.  Leaving just before low water slack and hopefully taking a fairly direct route.
At high water only four summits are left protruding from the swirling waters but at low tide an extensive reef is uncovered.  Great Rock, which is ten metres high and Sharp Rock, four metres high, are the largest rocks and are situated in the middle of the bank.  Our plan was to have a drink and some food on the north side of Great Rock in the weak winter sunshine, taking advantage of a lull in the wind before the possible gales arrived in early evening.
The origin of their name is said to be due to a ship on its way to Sark, in the 16th century, striking one of the rocks and a number of women and children drowning.  As a result it became common practice for fishermen to say a Pater Noster or a prayer as they passed close to the reef.  Although they have two names it is the Paternosters that has been accepted into everyday use.  A more recent ship wreck occurred on the 16th September 1961.  A Dutch owned vessel, the Heron was en route to Portsmouth when it sank, with the loss of 3 lives.  The wreck lies in about 30 metres of water to the south of the reef.

Gneiss Paddle
On the beach at Greve de Lecq, ready for departure. The Paternoster’s are visible on the horizon, just over 2.5NM offshore.
Gneiss Paddle
Heading out from Greve de Lecq, the Pats visible on the horizon. This is one of a number of photos taken using a GoPro. I used on the setting for one photograph every minute, I kept a few but most were sent to the trash.
Gneiss Paddle
John the “Commodore” of the Jersey Canoe Club approaching the Pats. Although it was an impromptu paddle we still had 11 members turn up. Not bad for a morning when the temperature was below freezing.
Gneiss Paddle
Even closer to the reef. The white kayak is a late 1970’s Anas Acuta which was virtually buried for years but about 18 months ago was dug up, it has been refurbished and is as good as new.
Gneiss Paddle
Ideal paddling conditions for the first weekend in February.
Gneiss Paddle
The classic approach to the Paternosters, a ferry glide. The tide was just starting to run from right to left. A well known jump is from near the summit of the main rock. Conditions were a bit too cold for such activity today.
Gneiss Paddle
I explored the north side of the reef and then threaded my way through some shallow channels. Other members of the group are visible just above the bow of my kayak.
Gneiss Paddle
Looking down from the highest point of the reef. The rocks are gneiss which is metamorphosed granite, a type of rock which isn’t seen anywhere on the main island of Jersey.
Gneiss Paddle
We are about to jump on the tide towards Plemont headland. Although it was only a neap tide we averaged 5 knots on the 2NM crossing to Plemont headland.
Gneiss Paddle
From this distance it was difficult to distinguish most of the details of the Jersey coastline.
Gneiss Paddle
Looking along the coast. We paddled mainly in the shade but with a few glimpses of the sun through some of the gaps in the cliff top.
Gneiss Paddle
Nicky heading along the coast. We had seen numerous Razorbills along this section of the coast plus some very inquisitive Fulmars.
Gneiss Paddle
Landing back at Greve de Lecq, a great morning out followed by a well earned pint in front of the fire at the Moulin de Lecq.