Friday Coasteering

It appears that we have merged into a Friday coasteering group. Heading out each to explore another section of the Jersey coastline at sea level. As with kayaking, living on an island has its advantages as it is almost always possible to find somewhere appropriate, whatever the weather.
This week it was a return visit to the cliffs just to the west of Portelet Bay. This section is always best to do just a couple of hours either side of high water. The tide has just started to drop as we hit the beach, which was perfect. In the middle of the bay is Ile au Guerdain, with its 18th Century fortifications. Often referred to as Janvrin’s Tomb.
After a short swim around the rocks in the middle of the bay we were soon onto the coasteering.  A stretch of coast with a variety of jumps, caves, scrambles and swims.  A perfect place to spend a couple of hours on a overcast November Friday morning.  What surprises me about this coasteering route is that I have never seen anybody else in the area whilst we have been there or even heard people talk about it as a possibility for coasteering.

Friday Coasteering
This is the first jump as you traverse off the beach. The flat rock is clearly linked to the quarrying industry.
Friday Coasteering
When there is some swell running it is not always easy to jump into the water. Sometimes the easiest and safest is to a modified form of a belly flop when the swell is at its highest.
Friday Coasteering
Where the cliffs face directly out to sea there are a couple of superb jumps. Janet is flying through the air.
Friday coasteering
Sometimes getting out of the water is not as easy as it seems. Assessing the swell is essential to a safe and relatively easy exit.
Friday coasteering
The final jump of the day was from the rocks off Pt Le Fret. Getting to them required a swimming ferry glide across the ebbing tide.

Friday morning coasteering in Jersey

Friday mornings have generally been reserved for coasteering sessions for the Jersey Canoe Club and today was no exception.  Today was the local schools half term so when we gathered in the car park above Portelet there were 17 of us, ranging in age from 6 to 61.

The first jump of the day. Always a good one to start with.
It is always good to practice get out of the water in calm conditions before become more challenging.

As we moved along the coast there were a number of other jumps plus the opportunity to explore a cave and an offshore reef.  One of the most common misconceptions about coasteering is that it is all about jumping into the sea from great heights but nothing could be further from the truth.  Coasteering is about a journey along the coast as opposed to just jumping from the highest cliff possible.

Swimming into the cave between Portelet and Pt Le Fret.  The arrival of the swell created a variety water conditions within the confines of the cave.
The tide had just started to flow west so it was an entertaining swim across the channel to the reef off Pt Le Fret.
The final jump of the day. Another great session approaches its end, all that is left is the swim ashore and the scrambling up the cliffs.

Portelet either side of high tide is a great location for coasteering, so many locations are turning into locations where there are just too many people, lines of people develop at the most popular jumping locations etc.  Portelet though has always retain its uniqueness.  I have never seen anybody else there whenever I have been coasteering in the area.
Coasteering is an activity, which receives negative press at times but in reality it is one of the most exciting ways to explore the coastal environment.
For those who are interested my book on Coasteering is still available from Amazon.

Portelet Pizza

For a number of years the old beach cafe at Portelet gradually crumbled through disuse, it’s decline seemingly linked to the closure of the holiday camp, which used to dominate the cliff top above and the associated drop in the number of visitors to the beach.
This year has seen the refurbishment of the building and its reopening as a pizza place and the Jersey Canoe Club decided to visit the Portelet Bay Cafe for lunch on the last day of August.  A paddle from Ouaisne allowed us to visit some of the historical sites, which exist along this section of coast.
This was followed by a very pleasant break at Portelet Bay Cafe, the pizzas are highly recommended, and the paddle back assisting with their digestion.  Considering it was a rather grey day with an increasing north westerly wind we think we made pretty good use of the time.
 Leaving from Ouaisne is always fascinating as we pass close to La Cotte de St Brelade, which is one of the most important neanderthal sites in north west Europe.  Within the ice age sediments there are thousands of stone tools in addition to the bones of their prey.
 To the south lies the small stack of La Cotte Island, which has a number of short climbs on its west face.
 The first major headland is Pt Le Fret.  It is fully exposed to the Atlantic swell but today it was all calm and we able to thread our way through the gullies.  Earlier this year the swell so large that we had to keep about 200 metres out, when rounding the point.
 Noirmont Tower was completed in 1814 to help protect the southern coast of the island from potential invasion by the French.  Today the lighthouse marks the western approach to St Helier.
 Nicky passing in front of Batterie Lothringen, part of a World War 2 coastal battery.  The first part was completed in 1941 but this tower was built April and October 1943.
 On the beach at Portelet, after our pizza’s.  Today was a particularly large spring tide, when we had landed less than 2 hours before, we left our kayaks at the waters edge.
 Another Jersey round tower, it was completed 6 years earlier than the nearby one at Noirmont, in 1806.  A sergeant and 12 soldiers manned the tower, it must have been rather crowded.

Jersey Towers Part Three

As we continue our journey by kayak around the coastal waters of the island there are number of Jersey Towers, which we encounter on a more regular basis.  Fliquet Tower is probably the closest to the Jersey Canoe Club premises although we probably paddle past Archirondel more frequently.  Three of the towers are on offshore islets, the two shown here plus Seymour Tower, off the south east corner.
In the late 18th and early 19th century the island was clearly under threat of invasion by French forces and the authorities took this threat seriously as demonstrated by the number of towers which still exist around Jersey but they do add another dimension to our paddling.

Jersey Towers
The tower at Fliquet is seen regularly by members of the Jersey Canoe Club, who pass by regularly on their summer evening paddles. The tower looks unusual because the top fortifications have been removed. It is one of the oldest towers and was in existence before 1787.
Jersey Towers
In the centre of Portelet lies the small island, Ile au Guerdain. On its summit is the tower which is known locally as Janvrin’s Tomb, this is due to the death of Philippe Janvrin, the captain of the vessel, the Esther, from the plague. The authorities refused to allow the body to be brought ashore and so the crew buried his body on this small island, within sight of his home. The grave has long been replaced by the Tower which was built in 1808 to help protect the island from Napoleonic forces.
Jersey Towers
Another tower which is situated offshore is Icho Tower, built in 1810 to help protect the south coast. For the paddling bird watcher this is a particularly productive region during the winter months, with a wide range of species.
Jersey Towers
Victoria Tower, built in 1837 was the last one to be built in the 19th century. It is unique amongst Jersey towers because it has a moat and a drawbridge. Behind is St Catherine’s Breakwater, the home of the Jersey Canoe Club.
Jersey Towers
Looking south from the top of Mont Orgueil Castle across the Royal Bay of Grouville. This area was particularly vulnerable to attack from French forces so within this bay alone there were six towers plus two Forts.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of sea kayaking in Jersey is the historical background to the paddles.  The Jersey Towers are just one aspect to the rich and varied history of this small island.