We had spent the night at the now closed Rose Farm campsite. I don’t think there were any facilities for breakfast there, so once we were ready we walked down the road towards the bus stop, where we found a convenience store to buy some food for breakfast and wait for the bus. I think at the time a single ticket for a short journey was £1 whilst a longer journey £1.50. Now it is £1.50 or £2 cash, but there is a smart card with cheaper fares too. The bus arrived more or less on time and we were first heading for the bus station in St Helier, the island capital. From there we had planned to take the bus to La Corbiere on the south west corner of the island.
However on the way the bus got stuck in traffic going into St Helier. I hadn’t expected a traffic jam on a small island. However Jersey is in fact the 13th most densely populated country in the world, with a population of around 100,000 spread over 45 square miles, which perhaps make it a little less surprising. I suspected we were going to miss our onward bus (which turned out to be the case), as we saw it coming the other way. When we got to the bus station we needed to make alternative plans. I had printed out the bus timetables for the main routes before leaving home and was rummaging through them trying to find the correct route on the correct day. Whilst I was doing that Alex decided a better option would be to buy the official bus guide from the bus station instead. With that done we came up with an alternative plan. Of course, we could start anywhere, including St Helier, so it didn’t really matter, but the north coast is more rugged and we were keen to make a start on it early in the trip, as it would likely take longer.
So we settled on a plan to take a bus due soon to L’Etacq which is near the north west corner of the island – you can find a free map of the island here. I think it took about 40 minutes. The bus dropped us off at the north end of St Ouen’s Bay, a large bay on the island which covers most of the west coast.
Ahead was a coastal fort, one of many around the island. I think it had a restaurant in side, but I can’t remember now.
The coast path such as it is initially follows the road around the bay, which had surprisingly high cliffs behind it. The road reached a rocky bay and then turned inland.
However we didn’t have to follow it, because we had spotted this sign (to be fair, it would hard to miss it!)
It was nice to leave the road, not that is was busy, but of course that did mean we had to gain some height, hence a steep zig-zag path up the cliffs. The coast ahead looked quite challenging, with high cliffs and lose scree on the cliffs.
However we were soon rewarded for our efforts with a fine view back over St Ouen’s Bay.
As we gained more height the view opened up further, with La Corbiere lighthouse now visible at the end of the bay and the cliff tops becoming covered in gorse and heather, which was about at it’s best at this time of year.
These islands have had a very turbulent past and have been heavily defended both by the English and French. So there are forts, castles and gun emplacements all around the island and we soon came to out first of these, where the gun barrels were now in place. At the end of World War II many of them were simply thrown off the cliffs into the sea, only to be later retrieved and restored, which I think was the fate of these.
A larger gun had also been restored and painted in camouflage. Here is Alex beside it, which gives you an idea of it’s size.
We carried on along the good path through the heather and gorse. We had a good view back from where we had come now, but it seemed we hadn’t come very far given the time we had been walking already.
We soon passed another old gun emplacement, again from World War II. This time the gun had not been restored and the rusty base along with part of the barrel was all that remained. Now we had reached the top the path had levelled out for a while and so it became an easier walk. Ahead we could see one of the ugly concrete towers that are a frequent sight along the coast. These were built by the Germans in World War II who invaded and occupied Jersey and spent a large amount of money on defending it.
You can also see land in the distance on this picture – that is Guernsey. Before we reached that though we came to another concrete World War II structure which was probably a lookout. Looking out through the windows gives an idea of the views the soldiers would have had in World War II.
Below us the sea was crashing into the rocks, causing a line of foam around the base of the cliffs.
Soon we reached the larger lookout tower and you could certainly see why it had been built here as it offered a fantastic view of the coast and it’s heather covered cliffs.
The coast path now wended it’s way along the cliffs, past large granite outcrops and more purple heather, making for an easy and attractive walk.
Ahead we could soon see another castle, but this one is much older, Grosnez Castle. This was built in 1330 but has since fallen into ruins.
This was quite a popular spot, as there is a large car park here and the castle is freely accessible. There was also a good view back where we had come with the more modern concrete tower now in the distance.
We had a look around the fort. There is also a little signal station behind the fort, but that is a dead end path, so we didn’t go down there. There were rocky gullies up on the cliff here and you could here the sound of the waves breaking in them, it was very atmospheric. This also marks the north west point of the island and so we were soon rounding the corner heading east rather than north. This gave a fine view of Plemont.
At low tide this is a fine beach but as it was near high tide there was no sand to be seen. The Channel Islands have a huge tidal range and in fact Jersey almost doubles in size at extreme low tides. The south east corner of the island is where the difference is greatest. This also means that at high tide many of the beaches have no sand, as is the case here. The coast path wound it’s way along the top of the cliffs above the bay. The heather now had given way to bracken and the sea was a wonderful turquoise colour, hinting at the sand just below the water.
The buildings on the cliff top here are an old Pontins Holiday Camp which was then derelict. This has since been demolished I believe. The bay here was sheltered from the westerly meaning the rugged cliffs were covered in bright green bracken.
As we reached the eastern end of the beach there was a path and steps down to the beach. It was a little after midday now so I suggested to Alex we sit on rocks near the water line to have lunch. The sea was splashing up on the rocks so I picked an area that looked dry so we sat there to eat lunch. A few minutes after we started a bigger wave came in, sending spray over us. Oops, perhaps it was not such a good idea to sit there, so we moved higher up.
Once we’d finished lunch (now in the dry) we headed back up the hill. The coast path we had been following continued on the cliff tops around to the next bay, Greve de Lecq. We headed around the coastal side of the old holiday camp where the headland at Plemont had almost formed an island.
The coast path now undulated round more bracken covered cliffs. Most of the hills were fairly gentle rather than steep, thankfully. Around Plemont there is a larger bay which is unamed on the map we were using, but Greve de Lecq is more or less in the centre of it, although out of sight from where we were.
We were soon heading down and back up a small valley and then beyond that were passing some quite grand houses indicating we were on the edge of Greve de Lecq. Soon we got a glimpse of the lovely beach ahead. The tide had gone out enough now that the beaches had become beaches rather than rocks.
The path then descended down to the beach where there is another Martello tower. It was a lovely beach and I stopped for a paddle in the sea. Alex preferred to sit on the beach for a rest.
After a break we continued along the coast. The coast path here had now ended briefly, so we had to follow the road out of the bay past some more houses. The architecture here is quite French in style I thought.
Soon we could leave the road and there was a nice view back over the beach.
We had to continue on tracks for a while but we passed a field with cows in of the famous Jersey variety. Soon we could leave the tracks for a proper coast path again and we came to the National Trust of Jersey land at Le Don Perree. This gave a stunning view back over the coast we had walked. We were making good progress now.
The view in the other direction was equally impressive with a view round to the next headland, Sorel. The cave at the bottom is I think called Devils’ Hole.
The path was harder now, with quite a lot of ups and downs, but it was also spectacular. There was another rocky bay ahead, Les Reuses I think it is called. We stopped here for a rest and to enjoy the view.
We now had to head briefly inland again along roads before we could rejoin the coastal path again. There was another steep descent and ascent through a valley and back on the cliff top again, we were now approaching the headland of Sorel.
The white building is a small lighthouse. Beyond Sorel the path again heads inland this time to get around the back of a quarry. Thankfully there is not much traffic in this part of the island so it was not a problem and we could soon rejoin the coast path again, now with views towards the north east coast of the island.
The coastal path was a bit easier around here again as we passed along the cliff tops of the rocky beaches of Mourier Bay and the larger St Johns Bay.
There was another valley to get past and we then returned to the high cliffs again as we approached Bonne Nuit.
This is a pretty little spot with a small harbour and rocky beach. It is also quite a sheltered spot hence a lot of boats were moored up.
We descended down to the beach at the back of the harbour. It was now around 5:30pm and we decided to call it a day here. It had been a wonderful walk and we had made good progress, especially considering the undulating path and cliffs – this is one the harder stretches of the coast path.
We stopped for a rest at the beach and checked the bus times. There was a bus along the road at the back of the beach due soon, which would take us back to St Helier. So after a quick rest, we headed along the road heading east from the beach. As we were walking and a few minutes before it was due Alex spotted a bus coming and went to flag it down. I corrected him and waved it past, as it was going what I thought to be the wrong way . The free map we had picked up showed the bus route and Alex pointed out the arrow on the road – it was a one way part of the bus route so that was our bus, and I had just waved it past. We checked the bus timetable. It was the last one of the day on this route.
So with apologies to Alex, after a long and tiring walk we had another walk of nearly a mile into the town of St John from where we could pick up another bus back to St Helier, which ran later. We could then take a second bus back to our campsite at Rose Farm. I think for the evening we walked down the hill to St Brelade Bay and had dinner in the bar of a hotel, something I think we did a few times, along with a pint or two of the local beer, Jersey Special which we both particularly enjoyed. It was dark by the time we left and walked back up the dark road to the campsite.
It had been a fantastic days walking, with a huge variety of scenery and lots of history packed in too and made a good introduction to the coast of Jersey. I had not been to the north coast before and was impressed with how rugged and beautiful it was. Whilst there are fewer beaches on this side of the island it also means it is less crowded. It had no doubt been helped by the fact that it had been a lovely day weather wise, too, we had both really enjoyed the day.
Here are the details of the public transport needed for this walk :-
Liberty Bus service 22 : St Helier Liberation Bus Station – First Tower – Beaumont – Jersey Airport – Red Houses – La Corbiere – Route de Petit Port – La Pulente – El Tico – L’Etacq. Once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday (approx) and 4 times a day on Sundays.
Liberty Bus service 4 : St Helier Liberation Bus Station – St Marks – Trinity Gardens – Augres – La Nouvelle – La Mere des Pres – Hautes Croix – Mont Mado – Bonne Nuit Bay. Approximately once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday. No Sunday service.