Boxing Day Paddle

Since the early 1980’s the Jersey Canoe Club Boxing Day paddle has always been arranged for Ouaisne.  This is because we always used to announce the venue for the weekly Canoe Club sessions on BBC Local Radio, but on Boxing Day there was no appropriate programme, so the venue had to be decided well in advance.  After some deliberation it was decided that Ouaisne was probably the best location on the Island, where it was to possible in virtually every wind direction.
Despite technical advances, initially a telephone messaging service before moving on to WhatsApp, we have have remained loyal to Ouaisne and the Smugglers Pub over the years.
Unfortunately this year the wind was particularly strong form the south west but we had the option, thanks to WhatsApp, of moving a few hundred metres to the east and benefiting from the shelter to be found in Belcroute.
A couple of years ago I wrote a more comprehensive post about the history of the coast in this area.  It is stretch of coast,which isn’t the most dramatic to be found around Jersey but it is one which never fails to impress.  I particularly like the stretches of wooded coast, something which isn’t that common in Jersey.
Despite the poor weather and a venue we had used quite a bit recently, 14 members of the Jersey Canoe Club still turned out relatively early on Boxing Day morning for a couple of hours on the water, a perfect way to burn off some of the Christmas excess.

Boxing Day
Heading south from Belcroute, before heading offshore to pick up the southerly wind to surf towards St Aubin’s Fort.
Boxing Day
The hardy members of the Jersey Canoe Club who paddled on Boxing Day. The Fort is used as an outdoor centre by Jersey Youth Service. There have been additions to the Fort for nearly 500 years, the most recent by the German’s during the Second World War. Thanks to Kate Amy for this picture.
Boxing Day
Paddling around St Aubin’s Harbour is always a pleasure. Work on the South Pier began in 1754 and the North Pier was added in 1816. Initially it was a really busy harbour but when St Helier Harbour was built the shipping traffic drifted away. Today it is the preserve of leisure craft and at high water a beautiful location.
Boxing Day
Paddling along the shore south of the harbour gives you an idea of how impressive many of the buildings are.

Sunny Sunday Kayaking

Sunny Sunday Kayaking
A group of 29 sea kayakers is an impressive sight as they prepare for departure even more so when 6 of them are in the brand new orange Tiderace Vortex kayaks, which have just been unwrapped in the car park at Ouaisne.
This was the annual visit of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to Jersey and the plan for Sunday’s kayaking was to head east from Ouaisne, have lunch on Elizabeth Castle before taking advantage of the increasing north easterly wind to aid our progress back.  As it was the wind and tide slowed us down earlier than we anticipated with the result that it was sandwiches on St Aubin’s Fort.
That really didn’t matter as we had a really entertaining paddle along a lovely section of the Jersey coastline in conditions, which were quite interesting at times.  As we paddled back into the bay you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time this year, it really did feel like spring had finally arrived. 
 Its Christmas, in March!  Unwrapping the six new kayaks ready for our friends from Tower Hamlets Canoe Club to use.
 With 29 paddlers in the group, a clear pre-trip briefing is pretty essential.
 Angus just off Noirmont
 Matt paddling in front St Aubin’s.  Less than 72 hours earlier we had gone in the opposite direction on our night paddle.
 Janet enter St Aubin’s Harbour.  This was a pretty big tide so the water level was dropping at about 90 cm every 20 minutes, so we didn’t hang around.  Within minutes it was dry.
 Lunch at St Aubin’s Fort.  Thanks Matt for this photo.
 Approaching Noirmont, wind and tide with us.  It was a pretty quick run back to Ouaisne, although a bit choppy off the point.
Nicky passing through one of the narrow channels off Noirmont.

A kayak tour of Belcroute Bay

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.

Many of the slipways around the island were built in the 19th century, not necessarily for boat access but to allow horse and carts onto the beach to collect the seaweed which was used a fertilizer. The edges of the granite blocks are offset so that horses hooves got a better grip.
Steff heading out from Belcroute. St Aubins Fort is visible behind.
Into St Aubin’s Harbour. The white building directly above Pete’s head is the Old Court House. Now a pub and restaurant it featured in Bergerac in the 1980’s. It is thought that the building may have been used by the Privateers to divide the goods they had captured from the French.
St Aubin’s Harbour is one of the most photogenic on the Island. The large building is St Brelade’s Parish Hall, although it used to be the Railway Station.
Tracey heading towards La Haule. La Neuve Route is the road running along the seafront, which was built on reclaimed land in 1844, before then it was necessary to head up La Haule Hill and the come into St Aubin’s Village via the High Street.
St Aubin’s Fort dates from the 1540’s but its present appearance is probably from 1840, although the Germans enhanced the fortifications during the Second World War.
There was some small surf coming into the bay so we had an enjoyable 30 minutes playing in the waves.
There was a bit of bright sunshine as we came past the Fort with the view enhanced by the hundreds of wading birds, particularly dunlin, in the area.

A good day for Brent Geese

Although Sunday morning is a regular time for kayaking the forecast for this Sunday was less than favourable.  Force 6 from the north accompanied by continuous rain was enough to put an end to any thoughts about paddling.  A meal out on Saturday evening resulted in the opportunity to help out with a co-ordinated count of the Brent Geese in Jersey.  These are always interesting and have been taking place for so long, that it has been possible to build a reasonably accurate picture  of the status of the birds.
In just two locations yesterday (this was written in November 2014) there were 1340 Brent Geese present, which is really healthy total, it will be interesting to see the total figures when they are available.

For the latest news check out the Jersey Birds website.

18th December 2005    1280 ( this was the highest monthly count since 1989)
19th February 2006      1131
21st November 2007    1528
13th January 2008        1267
19th December 2009    1243
16th January 2010        1566
20th February 2011      1547
Can’t find the data for 2012, if I can put my hands on it later I will update the blog
12th December 2013    1375
23rd November 2014   1795
22nd February 2015    1635
16th January 2016       1590

Brent Geese
St Aubin’s Fort, Belcroute and the fields just inland drew a blank. Not a goose in sight.
Brent Geese
Looking back towards La Haule, it was clear that there was a pretty good turn out.
Brent Geese
Not the best picture but the weather was awful and I was using my phone.