La Rocco Tower Thursday, Jul 28 2016 

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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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Fishy Phenomenon of 2014 Wednesday, Oct 14 2015 

Fishy Phenomenon

Fishy phenomenon

Reading a recent article on fish stranding in Kerry, Ireland and being interested in our marine life past and present, I thought it about time to report on something similar I was lucky enough to see, that I had not seen before in many years of being by the sea, on the 26th and 27th of August 2014 with the usual spring tide that occurrs then, there occurred great shoals of whitebait, I have seen these before but not on such a scale and the mackerel chased them into the shallows of the stone bank on the Taille at Les Ecrehous, leaving large amounts of whitebait stranded and even a few mackerel went to far, I took advantage and scooped some up and had whitebait for starters two evenings on the trot.

This phenomenon also was happening in the UK with it making the news on the BBC and filmed earlier that month in Dorset  and photographs published by the Ecology Consultancy, and reported in the Plymouth Herald and noted at Carlyon Bay. It also made the national papers being reported in the Sun

Whitebait under attack from Mackerel

Whitebait under attack from Mackerel

Stranded on the Taille

Stranded on the Taille

whitebait3Not as dramatic as sardines stranded as reported in the Siberian Times

These and other reports are seen by some to be some biblical end of the world prophecy which when compiled together do make grim reading,

Minister fails to protect rare St Helier granite arch Wednesday, Mar 5 2014 

17th century Jersey arch

17th century Jersey arch

It has just been announced that Planning Minister Deputy Duhamel has passed the plans for the building of a modern six storey office block on the former works site of my building ancestor Thomas Le Gros and sons who built a number local harbours and undertook the hospital rebuild after a major fire, these I documented in a previous post

The following is part of my submission to the original plans:

I strongly agree and support the learned comments submitted by Mrs Kerley on behalf of the National Trust and Mr Ferrari regarding this and the other related buildings and so will not repeat their statements, and I add the following:

My concern is regarding the fine and very significant granite Jersey arch within No.70 Esplanade a proposed listed building which will end up in “storage” under the current plans and one presumes with an uncertain and probable insignificant and unprotected  future, which I feel is contrary to 3.1, 3.2,3.5,3.6,3.7,3.20,3.21,3.22,3.23, of the “Historic Environment” of the Island Plan. The later initials on the arch T.C.L.G. 1879 stand for Tom Charles Le Gros 1825-1885 an ancestor of mine whose building works were on this site, the 1861 census has him as a building contractor employing 100 men.

The following statement in the applicants supporting documents EIS 2, the site and the proposed development: 2.1.9 “features an impressive semi-circular carriage entrance and reused date stones from an earlier building” this comment has not been substantiated in any way, the date stones may well be from the existing building and have certainly been part of it for over 130 years if not more, it may be possible that these stones have been used from somewhere else but there is no mention of this, and one possible connection is that the father of T.C. Le Gros as initialled on the Jersey arch may have come from Mont au Prete a property once owned by his father Thomas Le Gros 1797-1881 which does have columns missing the voussoirs these have a slight resemblance in design to those at 70 Esplanade. If this was the case I would suggest the arch does then have even more cultural and heritage significance. There is also no comment on the other initials on the arch: PLS (Le Sueur?) 1674 inside a shield, IN CB on either side, and another PLS.  Before any decision on its future is made I propose that the history and providence (provenance) of the arch be fully and properly examined. It is worth noting that the adjacent seawall that recently gained a great deal of media and public attention most notably from “Save our Shoreline”  was rightly given protection as a listed building and saved was in fact built by Tom Charles Le Gros.

Old Jersey Houses Volume 1, Joan Stevens: Page 92 Listed as a surviving arch of what would appear only one of four in the south of St Helier. Page 87,89 “the vocal point of the local house, and its most spectacular feature, the round arch…the round arch usually called Norman, and shown on very small houses depicted in the Bayeux tapestry, is the very epitome of the early farmhouse in Jersey, and there is infinite variety in its details. It appears in different forms in both Jersey and Guernsey, and both spring from a common ancestor in France, but in each island a distinctive form has developed. It is sometimes claimed that the Guernsey arch came from Brittany, and ours from Normandy. See also images from pages 112 to 113. – which includes Mont au Prete where Thomas Le Gros senior lived, or near to and what appears to be an altered road side arch without the voussoirs.

As it is now only neighbouring residents who commented on the initial plans who can appeal to the Royal Court against the Ministers decision unless the Parish of St Helier arrange a meeting and parishioners decide to appeal, as St Ouen are currently in the process of doing with the Plemont development.

Previous post on the arch and the buildings of Thomas Le Gros and sons: https://jouault.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/esplande-granite-arch-and-le-gros-works/

Ancient peat and clay continued Friday, Jan 31 2014 

Le Port peat square

Le Port peat square

The most significant exposure of peat was at Le Port in the middle of St Ouen’s Bay which stayed in view until a few days ago (it may well uncover with the current weather), I had seen peat in the area before in the early 80’s a little more off the sea wall.

post 2 port

In this second picture of the area you can just see the hoof marks animals on the near and right corner, with a slightly sunken path starting to run diagonally down, but not continuing along the peat. It has been suggested that these are early cattle marks which they may well be, but I do wonder if they also may belong to horses that were engaged in vraicking and travelled along here before the sea wall was built and the shoreline would have been a dune system with paths giving access to the beach.

Remains of tree stumps

Remains of tree stumps

At the northern end of the bay there was an area that I had not personally seen before which was south of exposures I have noted previously, there was a considerable amount of tree remains as can be seen in the picture above and the one below showing a good length of a beech tree a specices that sems to be fairly common here.

Remains of beech tree

Remains of beech tree

flint

This picture is of an area to the south of Les Laveurs slip which showed an area of base grit and a considerable amount of stone flint which is not a local stone.

A couple of days after seeing the area I was contacted by someone concerned that someone had been digging the peat up, on visiting the area it was evident that a digger had driven over and dug up a considerable amount of area adjacent to a groyne that had suffered some storm damage, I have been informed that the incident is being investigated, and BBC Jersey did publicise the damage, as I said to them its lasted for 7,000 years and the local government department (TTS) have destroyed it in a day.

Digger damage

Digger damage

The incoming tide washed the peat and several stumps away

The incoming tide washed the peat & several stumps away

I have browsed the internet for other similar interesting areas and related information and came across this blog Micoburin which discusses the area around the Tees and a possible Tsunami and states the following ” a marine transgression recorded in a single pollen profile at around 8,200 years ago (and see below). A silty-sandy limus (detrital muds) at greater depth nearby yielded a date of 8900-8100 cal BC (89.8% probability). Perhaps this transgression represents the climatic cooling period around 6200 BC (the “8ka event”) that saw the collapse of North American ice sheets, disturbance of the Gulf Stream and rapid sea level rise?”

At Borth, Cerdigion a wattle walkway dating back to the Bronze age has recently been revealed again, it was studied in 2012 and covered in this post by “Heritage of Wales News”

Further north of Borth is Tywyn Beach which has a large area of peat some of which has been cut out, and includes WW 2 tank tracks, pictures on the local photogahic site the area gives rise to the legend of the lost Kingdom of Wales “Cantre’r Gwaelod”

Previous posts on the subject:

https://jouault.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/hercules-reveals-ancient-peat-and-clay-on-the-beaches/

https://jouault.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/peat-bed-at-st-ouen-gorban-of-guernsey/

https://jouault.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/past-lands-and-legends/

“Hercules” reveals ancient coastal peat & clay Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

At the start of the year we had the storm “Hercules” that gave the US severe weather conditions arrive on our shore, coupled with spring tides of 11.7 metres this made from some intense beach movement, this was evident mostly on the west and south coast, the following photographs detail some of the exposure:

Exposed clay with trench of lighter clay in the centre

Exposed clay with trench of lighter clay in the centre

Pictured above is part of a length of clay than lines the south east coast, this bit by Le Hurel slip appears unique in that it has either a drainage ditch or early field boundary (or both), the Societe Jersiaise archaeologist Robert Waterhouse and his team did some excavations on the area and a report will be published shortly.

La Mare with La Motte in the distance

La Mare with La Motte in the distance

I had been informed that some peat had been previously seen in the Greve D’Azzette area and had a look and only found this small exposure of a tan coloured clay which is similar to finds elswehere in the island and Les Ecrehous.

post1 hdp clay

Pictured above is part of a small area uncovered by the foot of steps at Havre des Pas which was a mixture of tan and grey clay.

post 5 pulente gravelines

I was informed of an interesting exposure at La Pulente and it turned out to be one of the more interesting that I have seen in that it was lower down the beach compared to other exposures, I suppose being part of the headland may have something to do with this. I am not sure if the colours of clays and grits on these base layers as pictured are this colour naturally or have been stained by the rotting kelp that accumulates in the area, but they make pretty images if nothing else.

La Pulente with dark base layer

La Pulente with dark base layer

Also interesting is that this gritty base layer is just that a base and usually associated with start of our early ice age geology, but here we have the addition of another darker gritty layer.

Horse & cart tracks

Horse & cart tracks

I was lucky enough to see these exposure which only showed for a couple of days and had hoof prints and cart tracks which I presume are from 19th century vraicking attivity that the area is well known for, so it would appear this clay has shown little or not at all over the last hundred and fifty years or so.

Peat remains

Peat remains

This small piece of worn peat is part of the La Pulente clay area with the lighter clay just visible below it.

Base grit

Base grit

Further up the beach north of the Bunker a large area of hard base grit was uncovered there was no other signs of any other layers in the area.
I will do another post on the peat found in the bay.

“La Pêcherie à Vraic et à Poisson” Thursday, Oct 10 2013 

This walk takes several miles over mostly shingle and the odd bit of seaweed covered rock so if your decide to go make sure you have appropriate footwear, and check the weather and tides before hand, it does not take in the low water mark so you have some lee way with the incoming tide. You can park at Seymour slip or closer La Rocque harbour.

Head towards the refuge beacon and enter a small gully on the right as you pass (the second one) and after a few metres you will come across this unusual stone which is conglomerate “pudding stone” which is usually found several miles away at St Catherine’s. You can back track or I walk back a few steps then cut across and you may seem some base clay of the land of times past, it is worth looking out for anything unusual as a mammoth tooth was found near the refuge tower several years ago.

Conglomerete "Pudding stone"

Conglomerete “Pudding stone”

We now head down towards Seymour Tower passing a ridge of shingle and sand that forms part of La Petite Avarison a bit further along we come to the first engraved “P” mark this forms the western boundary of the “La Pêcherie  à Vraic et à Poisson” established by a judgement of the Royal Court on the 28th of April 1747 which confirmed the rights to the fishery of L’Avarison to Francis Payn Seigneur of La Maletière (Les Prés Manor) which he and his forebears had long enjoyed. On the 13th May, 1747 the Député Vicomte recorded the meeting when the limits of the fishing and vraicking rights were specified, the Cour de Samedi ordered this to be ratified and for the report of the experts, which names the rocks and “P” marks specified whose engravings still exist today bar one that is presumed to have been lost to quarrying when the tower was built. The area gave the Seigneur rights to collect vraic in the marked area when he wished, this absolved him of the law that we know today as the “1894 Loi sur la coupe et la pêche des vraics”  It appears that the rights were implemented almost immediately with a case being brought to the Royal Court by Centenier of Grouville and Procureur du Roi Thomas Labey against Francis Payn who had claimed a fine against Clement Quérée and five others who had been vraicking against the orders.

 The 1894 law is currently under threat of being lost with a Projet 114 of the States of Jersey so as to allow the questionable interests of those rearing ormers to take seaweed when and where they desire which they say the 1894 law which advocates sustainable use of the seaweed hinders their activities.

West of Roche Forts or Perrots

West of Roche Forts or Perrots

Les Settes Samson

Les Settes Samson

Le Nez Courant

Le Nez Courant

Rock to left (SE of La Petit Avarison) has an engraved "P" on its east face.

Rock to left (SE of La Petite Avarison) has an engraved “P” on its east face.

"P" on the north face of La Petite Avarison

“P” on the north face of La Petite Avarison

 

Seymour Tower or La Grande Avarison where it is said that Saint Samson in the 6th century stayed when passing through the island and is survived in name by the rock Les Settes Samson, to the south you will see more clay remains and is one of the more significant areas to be exposed on the south east coast. The current tower replaced an earlier structure was built in 1782 after proposals from Sir Henry Seymour Conway 1721-1795 to Lord Weymouth in 1778 and received approval and funding from King George III, the States of Jersey purchased the tower in 1923 and Jersey Heritage took it over in 2006. During the occupation it was manned by German troops and when an exchange party was returning they got cut off by the tide and locals raised the alarm and requested they be allowed to go to assist which was delayed and the party were washed away. To the south you usually see several areas of exposed clay which has a similar appearance to that found at Les Ecrehous.

Exposed clay to the east of Seymour Tower

Exposed clay to the east of Seymour Tower

The area is home to a variety of marine life, commercial fishing, and aquaculture and was designated a Ramsar wetland site of international importance in 2005 noted for being one of the largest intertidal sites in Europe, unfortunately this has seen increasing human pressure and decline of species and the habitat. The area is home to a wide variety of shorebirds both local breeding and migrant birds and the Societe Jersiaise ornithology section undertake surveys of the area on a regular basis, the marine biology section has produced a report on the ecological importance of the area, and undertake regular surveys in the area especially on the big spring tides at the equinox.

Empty half of Matra glauca "Five shilling shell"

Empty half of Matra glauca “Five shilling shell”

Some species worth looking out for are the Matra glauca “Five shilling shell” which is very rare in the U.K. but likes the sand banks of the area, it obtained its common name due to the high price that the shell demanded by Victorian collectors who enthusiastically collected and recorded sea shore species, and Jersey supplied a number of scientific collections through the work of Joseph Sinel 1844-1929 and his son in law James Hornell 1865-1949

Symagittifera roscoffensis a small (2-5mm) worm that is found is pools of water or damp areas bordering ridges or sandbanks, it is widely studied by biologists because of its endosymbiotic relationship it has with the phytoplankton  Tetraselmis convolutae which it harbours in its body cavities and so gives it green “mint sauce” appearance.

Notes and references:

One possible meaning of the word Avarison is a dangerous place, there is a place of the same name in South America.

Book “Grouville, Jersey, The history of a country Parish” page 154 out of print.

Jersey Geology Trail – submerged forests: http://www.jerseygeologytrail.net/WWWJGT/Superficial%20Deposits.html

Ice age island – http://www.jerseyheritage.org/ice-age-island

Beach litter Sunday, Jan 20 2013 

St Aubin's Bay

St Aubin’s Bay

Recently I’ve taken to walking along St Aubin’s Bay and picking up some litter on the way, pictured above, it mostly consists of plastic bottles, fishing related debris, there is a variety of plastic, polystyrene, and peoples discarded dog poo bags, how senseless is it to put the poo in the bag then leave it on the beach to cause more harm than if they had let the dog do its business then kick a load of sand over it, dog walkers appear happy enough to let their dogs shit all over the cliff paths when their out of sight of others. Regarding plastic bottles the States of Jersey have started recycling these and placed bins around the island I did inform them and it was noted that a bin or bins should be placed along the beaches for this purpose also, and a Scrutiny report also recommended this, it would also be worth having bins for aluminium cans.

14th January 2013 Molly Ward commented in the Jersey Evening Post about a beach clean at St Clement’s Bay she had been part of run by the local branch of Sea Shepherd, she stated that the group had picked up 122 plastic bottles, and ten black bin bags full of a variety of rubbish including netting and rope.

Jersey Evening Post 9 th August 2010:  “at St Clement and in the 30 minutes it took to walk to Le Marais and back I picked up seven separate items, including two lightbulbs, a florescent light bulb, a large jar of mustard, a large coffee jar and two empty wine bottles. There were more items, but this was as much as I could carry in my rucksack.”

BBC Guernsey 2009: The density of litter on the Channel Island’s beaches is the third highest in the UK and islands, a survey found. About 1,446 items of rubbish were found per kilometre, a 2% rise on 2007.

The Jersey Evening Post ran the following in 2011: On-the-spot fines could be introduced in a new zero-tolerance approach to littering, according to a report out today. The report says that no littering fines have been given ‘in living memory’ and that it should be a higher priority for the police. The report also proposes fixed-penalty fines for dog fouling, and a tax on litter objects be looked into to cover the cost of collecting and clearing of the objects.

Jersey Harbours supply bins for fisherman at the busier harbours for them to put their rubbish, but it would appear many are continuing to throw rubbish in the sea, which is actually destroying the habitat that they rely on for a living.

It would be good if the States themselves led by example and made sure that what is supposed to be inert waste dumped at La Collette does not include a variety of litter and said litter is cleared up and not allowed to spread into or leach into the surrounding sea.

La Collette managed by the States of Jersey & adjacent to wetlands of International importance

La Collette managed by the States of Jersey & adjacent to wetlands of International importance

Surfers against Sewage figures on beach litter:

39.9% from public

5.4% Sewage related debris

11.3% Fishing litter

1.2% fly tipping

3.6% shipping

0.2% medical waste

38.3% non sourced

BBC Guernsey 8 th April 2009: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/guernsey/7989191.stm

JEP 18th July 2011: http://www.thisisjersey.com/latest/2011/07/18/on-the-spot-fines-for-litter/

BBC Jersey 20 th July 2011:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-14214753

La Baguette 2008: http://www.labaguette.org.je/story72.htm

JEP 10th August 2010: http://www.thisisjersey.com/latest/2010/08/10/showing-we-value-our-coastline/

http://www.scrutiny.gov.je Scrutiny Report Policing of Beaches and Parks 18th July 2011
Once discarded litter can remain a hazard in the environment for a very long time:

Cigarette Butts – 1 to 5 years
Do you know that an estimated 2 billion cigarette butts are littered every day, and the concentrated toxins in just one cigarette butt is enough to cause long term environmental damage that can take decades to reverse.

Organics:

Orange and Banana peels – up to 2 years
Paper Bag – 1 month
Wood – 10 to 15 years
These could be composted or mulched

Inorganic:

Plastic coated paper – 5 years
Plastic bags – 10 to 20 years
Nylon fabric 30 to 40 years
Plastic 6-pack holders – 100 years

Items that could be recycled:

Paper & Cardboard – 1 month – many years
Tin Cans – 80 to 100 years
Aluminum Cans – 200 to 500 years
Glass Bottles – 1,000,000 years
Plastic Bottles – Unknown, perhaps millions of years
Styrofoam – Unknown, perhaps millions of years

Petit Port 2, Nourrice Monday, Jan 14 2013 

app25

Due to the interest of others I became interested in the historical storage of shellfish around the islands which probably started seriously with the oyster fishery boom in the 19th century, pictured above is a a nourrice or couge in which lobsters and crabs are stored, I have tried to find out the meaning and origin of the word couge without any succeess. Nourrice is derived from the Latin nūtrīcia, this and the French meaning is nurse, and we also get the word nourish from this.

To the north of the start of the slip at Grouet there are four remains of nourrices two of which have remains of iron rails these were taken from the obsolete railway track at Corbiere, when I first came across these I was fortunate to have an elderly low water fishermen come up and ask what I was photographing and it turned out he knew the history of there use, they were used by the local Le Chalet hotel to store a supply of fresh shellfish for their visitors.

Derelict nourrice with railway tracks

Derelict nourrice with railway tracks

app3

Derelict nourrice with railway tracks

There are some 30 of these nourrices around the island and so far they have been recorded at L’Etacq, Petit Plemont, Bonne Nuit, Rozel, St Catherine’s, Archirondel, Gorey, Grouville Bay, Le Hocq, Elizabeth Castle, and St Aubin, numbering around 30 in total.

From here you can make your way down to the low water mark along one of the old tracks that lead the way.

Vraic track

Vraic track

Although it is fairly easy to access the low water mark, once down there it is not that easy to make your way along the weed covered rocks and boulders, with Laminaria digitata and Codium tomentosum pictured below:

Laminaria digitata in the foreground

Laminaria digitata in the foreground

Velvet horn - Codium tomentosum

Velvet horn – Codium tomentosum

There are a number of species that can be found on and under the rocks in this area, including rocklings, squat lobsters, numerous Snakelocks anemones, someone did ask me why they had not seen any beadlet anemones I was not sure of the answer, perhaps they prefer higher more sheltered rock pools.

Sea lemon - Doris pseudoargus

Sea lemon – Doris pseudoargus

app8

Ormer – Haliotis tuberculata

There were only a couple of low water fishermen after ormers each day so it was disappointing to see stones upturned and not replaced as good practice,  studies in nearby France have shown that it takes 5 years for a basic growth of sponges to grow again, and a decade or more for some species to re-establish themselves, given that this is the very habitat the ormer relies on, it is a shame these sites are not afforded better protection.

Exposed stone left by low water fishermen, leaving sponges to eventually die.

Exposed stone left by low water fishermen, leaving sponges to eventually die.

Petit Port, St Brelade part 1 Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

aav1

Laminaria otherwise known as vraic venant at Grouet

This is a collection of two walks undertaken this January weekend spring tides, firstly on the saturday with the marine biology section of the Société Jersiaise then a short follow up on my own.

We set off from La Vielle Chaussée where you come to a vraic mark, this is one of many that were placed along St Ouen’s Bay and are mentioned in the law for the gathering of vraic which is one of the oldest surviving laws of the island, it evolved over many centuries of regulations and in 1829 Constable John Le Couteur proposed a new vraicing law and wrote to Sir Robert Peel urging that the new law, drafted by himself and passed by the States of Jersey, should be placed before His Majesty in Council before the coming vraicing season, “in order to put an end to the spoliation and violence which takes place every day”; and he assessed that the vraic of St. Ouen’s Bay alone could be assessed at £5000 annually. His law was passed, and entitled every parishoner to have his share of vraic according to his property. The marks were put in place so as to allow even access to all and vraicking could not commence until these marks were uncovered, thus allowing those from the inland Parishes of St Mary and St John time to reach the beach. Currently there is commercial pressure to scrap the law, I would hope that some sort of compromise could be arranged and collection out of season be licenced, but the public have little or no say in marine management in Jersey which is run by a questionable panel.

Vraic mark at La Vielle Chaussée

Vraic mark at La Vielle Chaussée

In the Channel Islands vraic was a highly valued fertiliser in 1893 it was said estimated that 30,000 loads of vraic were obtained from Guernsey and Herm and probably more than that from Jersey per year. Sir John Le Couteur (the former Constable of St.Brelade ) in his diaries descibes the early 19th century scenes on the beach which must have been most impressive,  he says  “I reckoned upwards of 250 carts and 17 boats. Averaging each 4 loads, would make about eleven hundred loads cut and brought up, besides what was sold as vraic venu. Some of the single horse carts had cut six loads, similar amounts are recorded from La Rocque area. The areas that are now carparks along the bay were originallyhighly sort after places set aside for the drying of vraic, and not that long ago the government were discussing the need to create more areas. Times past vraic was dried and burnt in the household and the ashes used as fertiliser, the amount spread on the land was at least twenty bushels ( there are 60lbs to a Bushel) of ashes were said to be required for one vergée of land, Le Couteur was advised to put a cartload of ashes per acre and leave for a month before ploughing . A load of fresh vraic would give you the equivalent of three bushels of ashes, and four loads of fresh vraic at least would be used on one vergée, this over twice the amount recommended in Brittany where it is known as goémon.

Grouet paved vraic track

Grouet paved vraic track

Moving down the gully we come across tracks carved out of the rock to allow access to areas and they also serve as areas where vraic collects. The first mention of these vraicking tracks being created was in 1545 by Curé Louis Hamptonne who had rights to the fishing at La Vraquière rock to the north west of Elizabeth Castle. The tracks in the west of the island were created and maintained by the surrounding Parishes with the Constables having the right to sell the vraic brought in with the first and second tides of the season, this money went towards paying those who guarded the vraic over night during the tide, this was limited to 3 shillings per person,. and funds for the tracks.

Petit Port

Petit Port

In the above photograph you can make out the the track making a flat V along the bottom area. The slipways around the island were made almost entirely for the use of vraicking and in 1903 60 St Ouen farmers petitioned the States requested that another slip be built.

At the end of a days vraicking the harvesters would gather and have a party drinking the local cider and eating vraic buns.

Loi (1894) sur la Coupe et la Pêche des Vraics le long des Côtes de Jersey.

Jersey vraic facebook page!

Anne Port walk Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

I parked up by Victoria Tower built in 1837, to get to here you drive along the road to and past Haut de la Garenne turn the sharp left hand corner and immediately turn right down a drive which takes you to the tower, on your left is the old naval training school founded by Philip Saumarez which ran from 1860 to 1875 and was the model for the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

Gorey naval school

Gorey naval school

The headland belongs to the  National Trust and it is worth walking around the area which gives you views to the south and north, this areas could do with interpretation boards for tourists and locals to highlight the numerous interesting features that can be seen or are in the area. From here you take a path below and to the right of the tower it is very muddy and slippery in winter so you need some decent footwear.

Path down to Anne Port

Path down to Anne Port

You descend to the main road coming out near the site where the building pictured below was sited, and you are facing the old cafe which is now lying in a sad and neglected state.

Anne Port

Anne Port

I made my way down by Jeffrey’s Leap which involves a bit of climbing so the slip to the beach is a more sensible route. On a low water spring tide you can walk to the stretch of sand below the headland where the remains of what looks to have been some man made structure and possibly part of a fish trap known in French as a pêcherie it is suggested that the line of stones at La Saie is also a fish trap but I am not convinced as they are not in a line for trapping as these are forming an open ended “V” as you can see from some aerial pictures in this PDF of these in nearby France. These stones could also have been something to do with othet practices such as oyster beds, or the collecting of vraic perhaps.

ap3

In the mouth of this V is some Zostera marina or seagrass there are two types in the area the other being Zostera noltii being a thinner and shorter more grass like than the marina which has a flat stalk which can grow up to a metre long, you will see noltii across most of the low water area of the bay, and some small amounts of Zostera marina also mixed in at the northern coves. The whole St Catherines bay is an important area for both species and have been included in a number of studies suggesting they be protected, these areas support a variety of species and considerable number of juvenile fish, it is also an important food source for the over wintering Brent geese Branta bernicla. The grasses once dried were once used locally and in France as bedding material and were known as “Palliasses” (Pallets of straw). On this day I also came across several dead moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita which were fairly numerous alive in the summer months this year.

A mixture of the two Zostera species

A mixture of the two Zostera species

If you make your way across to the far side of the bay to La Crete with one of the old breakwater quarries above you, on the beach end you will see an important geological formation of columnar rhyolite  the area is also a popular one for seabirds as it provides a secluded high tide roosting area and several species of wader can be see here. I did raise these issues with the authorities in the hope it would receive some protection but they never even bothered to reply or just ignored the issues and instead placed a drain onto the area which is part of the Coastal National Park which would appear to be just a paper designation of little or no meaning and it is certainly not acheiving the objective for: “the conservation and enhancement the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of ”

Coastal Park site of geological importance with public drain!

Coastal Park site of geological importance with public drain!

I observed several birds on the shoreline including Oystercatchers, Little egrests, a Grey heron, Brent geese, Redshanks, Sanderlings,  Rockpipits, a what appeared to be a Great northern diver. I left the beach by the slip turning left then right and climbed up the hill road to Faldouet which takes its name from the stream (Douet) some say Fal means foul but I would like to think it might be related to the Cornish meaning Prince as in the River Fal, but this is not certain as it can also mean spade or shovel. The road takes you up to the dolmen which is one of the more impressive passage graves in the island and is one of two aligned with the solar equinox, the capstone which has an estimated weight of 24 tons comes from a short distance away. On leaving the dolmen turn left and you are only a short distance from where you originally parked.

La Pouquelaye de Faldouet

La Pouquelaye de Faldouet

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