Friday was a big tide, in fact a very big tide. The tidal range of 11.8 metres resulted in a significant movement of water. As it approached low tide we were able to go walking on the sea bed.
We met at La Rocque Harbour, the south east corner of the Island. Unfortunately the blue skies and sunshine from the west coast were replaced by an approaching fog. It was rolling in from the sea and obscuring all the physical features.
Icho Tower was about 1.5 miles away, the benefits of GPS ensuring that we had this information, but at times we could see less than a hundred metres. Heading so far offshore in the fog requires confidence in your navigation abilities. So for the first time in nearly 60 years of living in Jersey, when walking I had to walk on a compass bearing to ensure that we found our planned destination, Icho Tower.
Icho Tower appeared out of the mist, when we were less than 100 metres away, according to the GPS. The tower was built in 1811, part of the coastal defenses designed to protect the Island from possible French invasion. It is easily seen whilst driving along the coastal road at Le Hocq but visiting on foot is restricted to the larger spring tides. We decided to have lunch in the hope that the water retreated from the deeper gullies before we headed east towards Seymour Tower.
Seymour Tower is unique among the defensive towers, which are found around the coast of Jersey, in that it is square. It was built in 1782, a direct consequence of the 1781 invasion, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey. Today it is a unique place to stay overnight, with bookings available through Jersey Heritage. It lies at the heart of the RAMSAR site, situated off the south east corner of Jersey.
The screen shot above, really does indicate that we were walking on the sea bed. As the tide drops, particularly on the larger spring tides, a unique coastal environment is exposed. A great place to explore but somewhere, which needs accurate planning to avoid being cut off by the tide.
Fort Regent overlooking the town of St Helier is a 19th century military base, which was converted into a leisure and entertainment centre in the 1970’s. It occupies a unique place in the nautical history of not just Jersey but the in the UK because it still has a working visual Signal Station.
The first signal station probably dates back to 1708 and was used to warn Islanders of the threat of invasion. Over the years a number of signals have been flown from the mast above St Helier, including such useful information as the fact that the mail had arrived in the Island etc.
Sadly financial cuts and changes in technology meant that in December 2004 the Fort Regent Signal Station, which was the last manned station in the British Isles closed down.
Fortunately in January 2007 it proved possible to hoist flags again, in a limited fashion including the T-flag, which signifies high tides over 38 feet (11.6 metres) and the strong wind and gale warnings. It was also possible to re-introduce hoisting a few other flags when appropriate such as Trafalgar Day.
Today’s high tides and strong winds meant that this morning the Signal Station was flying the flag and the ball and cone indicating potentially difficult conditions for those at sea and for people living along the coast. Driving into St Helier you very quickly get into the habit of looking up towards to Fort, treasuring our own slice of nautical history, and seeing if any flags are flying.
The signal station above Fort Regent at approximately 12.00 today. The T Flag is flying on the left hand side whilst the cone and ball indicates strong winds from the north.