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La Rocco Tower

Last week I undertook a Jersey Heritage guide training for La Rocco Tower, having done Seymour Tower in 2013. The Tower was the 23rd and last and largest of the round towers to be built in Jersey and was started in 1796 and completed in 1801, it was named Gordon’s Tower after the then Lieutenant Governor Andrew Gordon. The name Rocco is derived from Rocque-hou meaning Rocky island. This is one of the islands more iconic buildings featuring on the islands twenty pound note and on the neck of proffessional rugby player Matt Banahan.

The tower under the management of Jersey Heritage offers basic accomodation and sleeps seven including the guide, access to stay is limited to tides under 2 metres at low water, under a metre swell, and force 5 (any direction) these safety limits are in place because of the possible need for emergency services needing to get a caualty off, and the lack of landing facilities at the tower. Which is disappointing as it must offer a spectacular view when a decent swell is running. Fishing is good around the tower with Bass, Mackerel, Wrasse, and Garfish (Snipe) giving good sport, another of the saftey issues is swimming which is not allowed from the tower, which I was disappointed to find out, as there was little or no tide around the steps whilst we were there and from half tide down it seemed very safe. There is a large rockpool which served me well for a dip on both days, given their is no rain water in the tower the wash in the sea was welcome.

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View from the top towards the beach

The views were a novelty having spent a large part of my life looking from the shore side, although views are limited at the base due to height of the wall, the top of the tower offers a 360 panorama, although there is no seating in place as yet. We were treated to a spectacular sunset to the west of Guernsey and one can clearly see the other islands of Sark, Herm,  and Jethou.

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German shell damage above the door

Whilst on the rocks below I noticed the marks pictured above, between the door and window, I thought at first it may have been a sun dial, I posted a picture of it on the facebook page of Unseen Jersey and the general opinion this was this damage caused by German fire, the account of the Tower being used by the Germans as a target has been contested by some, so I hope this picture adds some proof to the accounts. The window coins must have been modern repairs to the tower after it was purchased through the campaigning of the late Reverend Manton and public subscription. The repair work also included pumped concrete supplied by Ronez.

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Row of twenty paired unhewn granite stones, a possible megalithic structure?

There are a variety of points of interest to be seen around the tower and surrounding area: pictured above possible megalithic stones, at La Pulente clay deposits over 6,000 years old with horse hoof prints in most probably from horse drawn vraic carts (19th centur, y?), to the now obsolete vraic mark on Le Bunion de Haut (my appeal to the Privy Council to save this mark and others as part of the vraicking law failed with the Queen dismissing it). On our stay the wooden German defence posts were visible on the beach. I did not have much time to look for marine species but was pleased to come across a couple of Giant Gobies which may be the first recorded on the west coast of Jersey, and a protected species in the UK, I am pleased to say the Societe Jersiaise marine biology section are currently surveying the area, which follows on from the ongoing survey work they undertake around Seymour Tower which has resulted in one research paper being produced.

References and further reading:

Jersey Heritage – Conservation Statement: http://www.jerseyheritage.org/media/historic%20buildings/La%20Rocco%20Tower.pdf

Island wiki : http://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/La_Rocco_Tower

Island wiki – damage: http://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/How_was_La_Rocco_Tower_damaged%3F

Jersey Heritage site booking: http://www.jerseyheritage.org/holiday/la-rocco-tower

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