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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“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

Vraic marks in St Ouen’s Bay Saturday, Jan 26 2013 

Grouet

Grouet

At the start of the 19th century we see mention of marks for vraicking, these were usually known rocks that when uncovered meant that everyone could start collecting vraic, this enabled everyone to gain equal access in that it allowed those from the inland parishes time to reach the beach area. I have tried to find the areas mentioned in the laws and the following photographs record what I have found. Above is Grouet at Petit Port there is no visible mark but I presume “La Mare Bleue” rock is one of the dark ones most probably the one near the sea.

La Vielle Chaussée

La Vielle Chaussée

“La Vielle Chaussée” which has recently been made into a mooring, as with other marks this has a steel peg which were usual bits of drive shafts from old lorries etc.

La Mare de L’Equipante

La Mare de L’Equipante

“La Mare de L’Equipante” which is also known as  “La Merq de la Charrierre”, this is situated below the slip at La Pulente, there is also a rock to the north of it with the remains of a peg and may well be another mark pictured below..

La Merq de la Charrierre

La Merq de la Charrierre

Le Bunion de Haut

Le Bunion de Haut

Le Bunion de Haut to the south east of La Rocco, there is a line of boulders to the south of here but they may be part of German defences that were placed along the bay and the remains of wooden posts are still visible just above this area.

Le Langui

Le Langui

I am not sure of which marks are what in this area from Secrets to L’Etacq so I could be wrong with this. In the law of 1829 in this area we have mentioned “La Rangée du Nord du Hurel” “Fosse au Bas,”“Les Laveurs” “Charrière du Hurel Vautier” and “Le Hout”

North of Secrets

Les Laveurs

 

La Crabière

La Crabière

Cômier?

Cômier?

At Le Havre du Pulec and Le Havre de dehors when the water was level with the foot path which takes you to Little Cômier.

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

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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.

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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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