Archive for July 2018

Guernsey and Sark, Channel Islands: June 11th-13th 2018   2 comments

This is my first post since mid May. Apologies for the absence of updates but there have been two very good reasons.

Without going into details I’ve had a episode of ill health which has changed my priorities, but also I’ve had problems with space allocation on my blog. I purchased a large amount of blog space from WordPress in late August 17 but I didn’t use it carefully, uploading photos at far too high a resolution for the sheer convenience of not having to prepare a second ‘low res’ copy. I found out in May that I had used 99% of the space available and guess what, I can’t purchase anymore until the plan renews itself in about a months time.

I have been on two excellent trips this year, to Vietnam and Mongolia, but the uploading of those photos will have to wait. In the meantime here are a few pictures from a short trip we did in June with our granddaughter Amber.

With Amber’s 21st birthday approaching we offered to treat her to a trip somewhere. Options included a weekend in London with a West End show or a visit to the Channel Islands. She chose the latter, but as she was a bit short of leave we had to restrict it to three days away.


Map showing the position of the Channel Islands with respect to France and the UK. Alderney is just above the NN of ‘Channel’ and Sark is just above the ‘se’ of Guernsey. I was taken to Guernsey and possibly Sark as an infant, but remember nothing about it and I visited Jersey in 1989. The Channel Islands form two Crown Dependencies, ie are not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island and as such I treat a visit there as going abroad. Jersey forms one Crown Dependency and Guernsey and the remaining inhabited islands the other.


Of course the great advantage of living in Poole is that it was only a three mile drive to get to the Condor ferry to the Channel Islands. That said, in 40 years of living here this is only my second visit and the one time I wanted to take the boat to Cherbourg the ferry from Poole wasn’t running and I had to drive to Portsmouth. Another advantage of leaving from Poole is that you get spectacular views across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island and beyond …


…. over Studland and the Purbeck hills ….


…. and Old Harry Rocks with Swanage and Durlston beyond.


The Condor ferry is a fast service, taking only 3 hours 15 to reach Guernsey. As we approached the island of Alderney we passed Les Etacs, a rocky stack home to 8000 pairs of Gannets.


In due course we approached Guernsey and entered the harbour of St Peter Port.


We had a look around the harbour …


… and then drove to the gardens at Saumarez …


…. before reaching our hotel in the far south west of the island. We decided it was as cheap and far more convenient to take my car to Guernsey than hire one locally.


The view from our hotel room towards the Martello Tower of Fort Grey.


Another panoramic view at dusk from the hotel.


One of the most charming visitor attractions on Guernsey is the Little Chapel.  Apparently close to total collapse due to the rain damaging its structural integrity it has recently been restored.


The following is taken from Wikipedia: The chapel was originally built by Brother Déodat in March 1914 (measuring 9 feet long by 4.5 feet wide). After taking criticism from other brothers, Déodat demolished the chapel. He finished a second chapel in July 1914 (measuring 9 feet by 6 feet). However, when the Bishop of Portsmouth visited in 1923, he could not fit through the door, so Déodat again demolished it. The third and current version of the chapel started soon after the last demolition, and measures 16 feet by 9 feet. Déodat went to France in 1939 and died there, never having seen his chapel finished.


Again from Wikipedia: The chapel has been described as “probably the biggest tourist attraction in Guernsey”, and “intricate”. In late 2013, there was major work on the overgrowth which was, in places, hiding parts of the chapel. In November 2015 it was closed to allow some major structural work to be undertaken. The works include underpinning the building, stabilising the foundations and weatherproofing the building, and are estimated to cost £500,000. Fundraising is being undertaken. Fully open again to the public in April 2017, the major works such as stabilising the foundations are complete however additional fundraising is needed to finish the final phase of renovation.


We also visited the Occupation Museum. The Channel Islands were the only part of Britain to be occupied by Germany during WW2. The islanders suffered badly especially towards the end of the war when food supplies were in very short supply and starvation seemed imminent.


Much of the museum concentrated on the hardware and other memorabilia left over from the war ….


…. but also had some reconstructions of what life was like then. Here a man listens to an illegal crystal radio set whilst his wife (not to subtly) watches out for German guards. To Amber this must have seemed like ancient history but both Margaret and I had parents who served in the war and these were the sort of stories we were brought up on.


We had a look around the south-east point of the island near Jerbourg. There were great coastal views ….


… and you could see the nearby islands of Herm on the left and the more distant island of Sark to the right..


It was easy enough to get a day ticket to Sark but hard to find anywhere to park in St Peter Port. Fortunately the company selling the tickets is awarded five parking places on the quay and we were able to purchase the last of these. Of course if you are staying in St Peter Port or could come in by bus then that wouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re not then I’d recommend buying the ticket to Sark well in advance and enquiring about parking on the quay at the same time.


We set off mid morning for the 50 minute trip to Sark, passing Castle Cornet in St Peter Port harbour as we departed.


On route we passed close to the island of Herm ….


…. a few Puffins and ….


…. Razorbills enlivened the journey.


Fishing boats attracted a lot of gulls ….


…. including many enormous Great Black-backed Gulls.


Places where a boat can dock are few and far between but on the east side the are two adjacent coves ….


…. this cove is used by inflatables and small dinghies ….


…. and this one by the ferry from Guernsey. Access to the rest of the island is through the tunnel seen on the left.


Famously on Sark all cars and forms of motorised transport other than tractors are banned. Hence tourists can climb to the centre of the island in this contraption pulled tractor.


… but we took the path that winds between through the woods.


We had a choice of horse and cart, bike or foot to explore the island, we chose bikes! I suspect that as cars are banned that there are rather more tractors on Sark than is strictly necessary to farm the land!


We cycled down to the south end of the island enjoying spectacular views of rocky coves …


… and eventually arrived at the narrow causeway known as La Coupée which joins the peninsula of rocky Little Sark to the main island. Until the road was built islanders had to crawl over a narrow track to reach Little Sark and there were a number of fatalities during bad weather.


Mind you the causeway still strikes terror into the hearts of some. Behind Amber you can see Margaret (in blue) rapidly pushing her bike away from the precipice.


Amber and I spent a few moments enjoying the view (and enjoying an ice cream) before heading on …


… to the southernmost part of the island.


From there we met up with Margaret at a cafe in the islands centre and then cycled all the way to the northern point.


For those interested in the magic island of Sark here is the introduction to it’s Wikipedia entry: Sark (French: Sercq; Sercquiais: Sèr or Cerq) is an island in the Channel Islands in the southwestern English Channel, off the coast of Normandy, France. It is a royal fief, which forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. It has a population of about 500. Sark (including the nearby island of Brecqhou) has an area of 2.10 square miles (5.44 km2). Sark is one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned from roads and only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are allowed. In 2011, Sark was designated as a Dark Sky Community and the first Dark Sky Island in the world.


Soon it was time to leave Sark. Some people come here stay for a while as part of a ‘get away from it all’ type holiday, but that’s not my style and I like to see as much as I can in the time available.


On the return we passed rocky outcrops offshore ….


… and the island of Becqhou which is a tenement of Sark. Owned by the Barclay brothers (co-owners of the Telegraph) they are in a long-term dispute with Sark as to whether they are subject to Sark’s feudal law, for example they flaunt Sark law by using cars and helicopters. In a separate issue they have built this monstrous mock castle which spoils the views of an otherwise beautiful island.


Soon we were back in St Peter Port.


Time for some shopping and a meal in St Peter Port’s quaint narrow streets.


Far too soon it was time to leave. A group of Bottle-nosed Dolphins put a brief show as we left Guernsey. Three and a bit hours later we were back in Poole after a very enjoyable short break.