Island hopping again

June 2007

Anyone who saw where I finished the last walk I wrote about might have guessed I’d be going to an island next. You guessed right there. But it might not be the island you expected – this isn’t a post about Portland (but I have walked there too, so I will be writing some posts about Portland).

Instead, there are some more British islands to which Weymouth is roughly the closest point (and until earlier this year, the main ferry port). I’m talking about the Channel Islands, an archipelago of islands which are in fact much closer to France than they are to Britain. Over the course of history they have been considered both French and British territory. They also have a complicated legal status (which I admit I don’t fully understand), in that they are a crown dependency and not part of the United Kingdom.

They are split into two legal entities, the Bailiwick of Jersey (covering the island of Jersey, and I think a couple of uninhabited islands) and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (covering Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark as well as a couple of private islands). Internationally they are recognised as “territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible”.

This means going to them is stretching my definition of the UK coast a bit but they do have a coastal path of sorts, The Channel Island Way, a 110 mile route which largely covers the coasts of the islands, although this route did not exist when I walked around Jersey. There is a guidebook available, too. Well when I say available I meant that it exists – but with a quick internet search, I haven’t actually been able to find anywhere that has it in stock. Probably the Tourist Information centres on the islands have it in stock though.

Until earlier this year, ferries sailed from both Weymouth (year round) and Poole (summer only), to the Channel Islands (I remember there used to be a service from Torquay, too). Therefore I will write about Jersey now that I have reached Weymouth and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark) when I reach Poole.

Before I start it is perhaps worth getting a few facts and (hopefully) useful bits of information about Jersey if you are planning to visit or just curious.

  • Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom
  • It is outside the EU (it is not an EU Member state). It therefore may not be (I can find conflicting information online) covered by the EU wide health card, so it is advisable to take out travel insurance – there is no National Health Service on the island.
  • Condor Ferries operate a passenger and vehicle catamaran (Condor Liberation) from Poole to Guernsey and Jersey (once or twice a day during the summer, a couple of times a week in winter). It serves Guernsey first (in around 3 hours), so takes around 4.5 hours to reach Jersey from Poole. There is also a freight, car and passenger ferry (Condor Clipper) from Portsmouth which takes around 10 hours.
  • Condor also operate a car and passenger ferry (Condor Rapide) to Jersey from St Malo in France (taking around 1 hour 20 minutes), as well services between Jersey and Guernsey.
  • Manche Iles Express operate two passenger only ferries (Granville and Victor Hugo) from Granville, Carteret and Dielette all on the French coast to Jersey, Guernsey (and sometimes Alderney) as well as some services between Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.
  • Jersey has an airport with flights from many major and many minor UK airports. During the summer more than 25 UK airports have direct flights to Jersey, but routes are a little more limited during the winter. The main airlines that fly to Jersey are Flybe, Blue Islands, AurignyEasyjet and British Airways although other airlines also operate during the summer.
  • The main language spoken is English, but French is widely spoken and many residents speak both languages.
  • Place names are a mixture of French and English names.
  • The British pound is the main currency, but Jersey issues it’s own coins and notes (including a £1 note), which are not legal tender in UK. UK notes and coins are however accepted on Jersey and the coins are the same size as the UK, so can easily (if possibly not legally) be used in vending machines, parking meters, etc in the UK. Jersey bank notes can be changed back to English/Scottish notes at most UK banks (usually free of charge I believe, although your bank might vary).
  • The island is 9 miles wide and 5 miles tall.
  • The coast path is a little under 50 miles.
  • They drive on the left and signs are generally the same as in the UK, although the roads are often quite narrow. The driving style is a little more French than you may be used to! You are required to display a nationality plate on your vehicle (even if coming from the UK) unless it is registered in Jersey (the international plate for Jersey is GBJ). There is a maximum speed limit of 40mph on the island and speed limits vary from 15mph to 40mph. However as the island is only 9 miles wide it is unlikely to take you long to travel anywhere.
  • The major UK hire car companies operate from the airport and ferry terminal.
  • The island has a comprehensive bus service, centred around the capital, St Helier.
  • Jersey is within the UK common travel zone, so you do not need a passport to travel to the island from the UK, but your airline or ferry company will likely still require photographic ID of some sort. A passport is required if travelling from France to Jersey. You might also want to bring a passport to give you the option of a day trip to France.
  • Jersey has it’s own telecoms network, so check with your mobile network for roaming charges. It shares the UK international dialing code (+44).
  • Jersey has it’s own postal system separate from Royal Mail, so you need to buy their stamps if posting anything from Jersey.
  • The island is a low tax economy (but don’t call it a tax haven, you will upset the locals!). There is no VAT and low rates of income tax. In my experience food and drink prices when eating out is comparable or a little more than the UK, but higher value goods are often cheaper due to the lack of VAT.
  • As the island is outside the EU, you can buy Duty Free when travelling there from the UK.
  • Jersey (along with the other Channel Islands), was invaded and occupied by German forces during World War II. They fortified much of the coast with numerous concrete towers many of which can still be seen today.

Although I’ve written about this walk from Weymouth I didn’t actually travel to Jersey by ferry but by plane. Unlike my previous walks I went to Jersey with a friend of mine, Alex, and we walked around the coast of the island together.

I picked Alex up and drove us down to Bournemouth Airport, which was then a small friendly airport (it has since been purchased by Manchester Airports Group and has made some rather unpopular and controversial changes, including a compulsory drop off charge, higher parking charges and the blocking up of the pavement and banning of pedestrians walking to the airport). It took a little under 2 hours I think. Helpfully then the long stay car park was just a minute or two walk from the terminal and fairly reasonably priced, so we had just a quick walk to the terminal.

We travelled on Blue Islands who at the time operated the Bournemouth to Jersey route using a little Jetstream plane (which at the time was the smallest I had been on). Since then this route has closed down, although it is once again possible to fly from Bournemouth to Jersey, as Flybe (who used to be called Jersey European Airways) began operating this route earlier this year. It was a quick checkin, although the man behind the checkin desk had to take our photos first. We were camping on the island and Alex had bought the tent (which was borrowed from another friend). Usefully (and unusually) Blue Islands didn’t (and still don’t) charge for excess baggage, so we didn’t need to worry about the weight of our bags.

We went through to checkin and when the flight was called were amused to notice it was the same man that checked us in who was now at the gate. We were beginning to wonder if he was also going to pilot the plane (but he didn’t). We were soon lead out to the little plane.

Plane to Jersey

I was also pleased to see the crew kept the curtain between the cockpit and passenger area open, so we could see in the cockpit throughout the flight too.

Blue Islands

The Dorset coast is one I know well and never having flown from Bournemouth before I enjoyed spotting places I know well. Here is Poole Harbour with the large island being Brownsea Island whilst the smaller island to the left of it is Furzey Island and further left of that is Green Island. Further north you can also see Round Island and Long Island (actually one island). At the bottom is the millionaires playground that is Sandbanks.

Brownsea Island

Soon we were passing Swanage, and you can see Durlston Head and the Isle of Purbeck here whilst if you look closely the dark area near the top is Portland.

Swanage and the Dorset coast from the air

After that we were crossing sea for a while until we reached the first of the Channel Islands, Alderney.

Passing over Alderney

Shortly after we had reached Jersey, only taking a little over half an hour from Bournemouth.

Jersey from the air

We were soon on the ground.

The advantages of flying on a small plane soon became apparent, as we had our bags only a couple of minutes after we entered the terminal. We were staying at the Rose Farm campsite on the island, which is close to St Brelade and St Aubin on the south of the island and helpfully for us on the bus route between the airport and St Helier. Sadly the campsite closed in 2010, although there are other campsites on the island. Plans to build houses on the site were turned down in 2012, so I don’t know what has happened to it since.

I had been to the island before, but neither of us had been to the campsite before so we asked the bus driver to tell us when we were there. Part way along the route he stopped at a stop where no one got on or off. We then carried on and it was only when we passed the sign welcoming us to the next village, St Aubin, I realised we had passed the site – the driver had stopped at the stop but not actually told us we were there! Frustratingly we therefore had to walk back up the hill with all our camping equipment. We had picked up the free map at the airport (which turned out to have the footpaths on too, so we used that map throughout our trip) and spotted an old railway footpath we could follow part of the way back to the site. We soon managed to find the site and were shown to our pitch. Alex set up the tent whilst I filled in the required form at reception (a requirement of the Jersey Government I think).

We had taken a mid-afternoon flight so did not have time to start the coast walk yet, but we did walk down to the nearest beach, St Brelade Bay to have a little preview and for a meal once the tent was set up. It is a beautiful beach.

St Brelade Bay, Jersey

The gardens behind the beach were also very pretty and the palm trees made it feel a little tropical!

St Brelade, Jersey

After dinner we had a little walk along the beach until the sun went down and then headed back up the hill in the dark to our campsite – thankfully Alex had bought wind up torches, so we could find our way back. The next day we started our round the island walk.

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One Response to Island hopping again

  1. snowgood says:

    I’ve only done one day’s work in Jersey – I found the place quite depressing, with a frightful complacency exhibited by the businesses I called on.

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