A Walk Around St. Brelade

Island of Jersey, Great Britain

Welcome to my Parish of St Brelade.


                     Red Houses

Please take an E-walk (electronic walk) with me from your armchair, around the twelve miles of the most beautiful and interesting coastline and countryside. (My wife said that I will not have much exercise walking this way )and seafaring stories. 

Legend has it that St Brelade prayed for land whilst searching for the Islands of the Blessed. An island arose from the sea on which he celebrated Easter. As he departed so did the island.  It was an enormous fish sent in answer to his prayers.

La Corbiere Lighthouse

I took the photograph above when I was accompanying the BBC film crew in 2003 as the parish's floral coordinator.  They were at La Corbiere in Jersey  filming an episode for the BBC's 'Gardeners World' programme and the film was shown at the Guild Hall in London in front of our hosts, the Britain in Bloom national floral competition, organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. Max de la Haye,  the constable of the parish, and I collected the Bronze award for our class, 'Small Coastal Resort',  from BBC's Gardeners World  Monty Don. 


I have enjoyed taking these photographs, please enlarge them by clicking on them. 


Take a walk clockwise around the coastline and inland of the Parish of St Brelade


Starting at La Haule 

La Haule is situated in a sheltered bowl.  Looking inland, you can see magnificent residential homes through the trees. Looking towards the sea when the tide is out, the golden beach with dozens of sunbathers reaches right down to St Aubin's Fort. When the tide is up, La Haule Bay, because it is so sheltered, is like a mirror and is transformed into a recreational area. Speed boats and ski boats are  launched, water skiers prepare themselves and the whole area becomes alive. 

Boats must be kept at a safe distance from the beach at all times. Sit on the sea wall and be amused by the activities.  Look out to sea where, on the horizon, there are dozens of fine motor cruisers, sailing yachts and water skiers.The start of our walk at La Haule is along the newly-laid brick-paved promenade 

There are a few guesthouses of excellent quality, whose owners will have spent a lot of time and money making their property very attractive.  Their gardens will be covered with hanging flower baskets and boxes.  Much credit must be given to these people as they give a great deal of pleasure to the many who pass by. 


St Aubin


St Aubin hosts a string of smart bistros, restaurants, pubs, cafes and kiosks.

To be continued


St Aubin's Bay

St Aubin's Bay covers the central part of Jersey's south coast and has a long, unbroken sweep of sandy beach stretching from St Helier's Harbour to St Aubin's Harbour. Only the highest of tides covers all its soft and golden sand and, at low tide, the sea retreats several hundred yards to open up an enormous expanse of beach. South facing, it is in full sun along virtually its entire length from sunrise to sunset. The bay is very sheltered from prevailing westerly and easterly winds.  Although the last few hundred metres of sand between  La Haule and St Aubin's Harbour are permanently wet, the remainder of the beach dries out rapidly.  Bathing is safe at all states of the tide but care is needed when it is high and reaches  the sea wall.  The beach slopes very gently and rough conditions are rare during the season.

 The Bay is popular with local windsurfers and hobie cats. 

Water skiing and jet skis are available from La Haule, as are wakeboards, banana rides and beach volley ball. 

These are also popular at Beaumont.  Although close to a densely populated area, the beach is so long that it rarely becomes crowded, except close to the main car parks in high season when a short stroll will lead to an uncrowded stretch of sand.


St Aubin's Fort



Steam train

Road train

Le Petit Train

Le Petit Train from St. Helier to St. Aubin during the Summer months and is powered with a petrol engine that pulls four carriages along the promenade around St Aubin's Bay. It is very popular with both visitors and residents of the Island.


Reclaimed Land

All of St Aubin's harbour and most of the village has been reclaimed from the sea, from what is now the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club at the south west corner of the harbour right through to the top of the slipway at La Haule. Without reclamation there would not be anything along that stretch except a sandy beach such as there is along the coast between La Haule and Beaumont.



Walking has become one of the most popular means of recreation in recent years. 

St. Brelade offers walkers many miles of safe, scenic pathways, both along the coast and inland. Many of the pathways around our coast are maintained by hard working inmates of our local prison and Public Services.  They keep them clean and clear of over growing vegetation. Due to the warmer  climate in Jersey, this is year round work. 

To be continued................


Railway Walk/Corbiere Walk.

This walk will take you through the heart of our parish. Starting at St Aubin, it leads you through a pretty valley with small houses and cottages, many adorned with climbing plants and hanging flower baskets. You will pass beneath small granite bridges and wonder at the variety of flora and fauna along the walk, noticing how the plants change from the shaded area, where they are tall and broad leafed, to the small, thin leafed plants found in the dryer, sandy soil as you continue towards Corbiere.


This walk is excellent for wheel chair users.


Running alongside the sea wall at La Haule is a cycle lane, wide enough for cyclists and walkers


Whether you are a keen cyclist or just prefer to see, hear and smell the environment around you in a way that only pedal power can offer, Jersey is an island made for cycling. There are hundreds of places to visit in St Brelade, whether along the coast or inland and, although you may find it extremely hilly, you will be rewarded with beautiful views that you may never have seen before. Set out from the the Parish Hall at St Aubin, with its 18th century harbour, the fine merchants' houses along the Bulwarks and the Old Court House, where privateers shared out the spoils from plundered French shipping.



Proceed from the Parish Hall up the Corbiere Walk, until you reach the point where the walk passes above a lane (past a small farm on the right). Wheel your bike down the steps onto the lane and, leaving the farm to your right, turn left at the top of the lane and ride up the hill. Notice the unusual direction stone on the corner. At the next T-junction, turn left and immediately right into Rue des Fosses a Mortier, then turn right by the farm walk. Take the first left, Rue des Landes, sign-posted to St Peter . Cross the main road by the Rugby Club, and into the road marked 'No Through Road' which leads to a track passing behind the Airport runway. Jersey Airport is one of the busiest in the world.


This is a bit of advice that I would like to pass onto you when you are cycling:



• Stop at yellow lines • Do not ride on pavements • Do not ride bicycles off road or on any of the cliff paths.

• Do not disobey ‘One way’, ‘Keep left’, ‘No entry’ and other road signs • Children must wear a helmet and adults are advised to wear one

• Remember, you need lights to ride at night — it is the Law.


When approaching a pedestrian, use your bell to warn of your approach — particularly if the pedestrian is elderly and may not hear you coming • Keep to speed limits, particularly on cycle tracks which are used by walkers • Ensure that you and your child can be seen by other road users, particularly at night • Do not cycle on the beach, particularly if you have hired a bike.

The sea and sand can damage your bicycle and you will lose your deposit if you do nor comply.

• Always lock your bike (or lose it!) • Where possible use cycle parking • If you have a mechanical problem, pull clear of the traffic before attending to it • When overtaking another cyclist always ring your bell, check behind you and signal • Always signal your intentions well in advance of turning, overtaking, slowing down or stopping.


Green Lanes.



15MPH. Can you imagine being able to walk, cycle and drive around our beautiful parish lanes at such a low speed? Some of our roads have been designated as 'Green Lanes'. The charm and historical interest of many of the Island’s minor roads is derived from their ancient origin. 


We know from early records that all roads above four feet in width were under Royal supervision and that Jersey had adopted the Norman custom of classifying roads by width so that we find them variously called via regia, cheminium regis, semita regis, in other words ranging from the King’s Highway to the path or sentier. There were also certain ‘rights of way’, sometimes across fields such as the Chemin du Moulin and the Chemin des Morts (used for carrying a coffin from a house to a church).


To protect these quiet country lanes, Jersey has introduced a network of over 45 miles of ‘Green Lanes’.  These quiet country lanes have a speed limit of 15 mph and give priority to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. ‘Green Lanes’ exist in all but two of Jersey’s twelve parishes and can be identified by a distinctive ‘Green Lane’ road sign.


St Aubin's Harbour 




Belcroute Bay



The text below, say half of it, has been copied by kind permission of Jersey Tourism


From St. Aubin, climb the hill by way of the Grande Route de St. Brelade until the left hand turn to La Route de Noirmont. Follow this road for about a mile until you come to another left hand turn to Le Chemin de Belcroute which is a very winding road that takes you down to the bay itself. There is parking for a small number of cars close to the slip, but turning room is restricted.



Belcroute Bay


Belcroute Bay is fine for fishing. It is West of St. Aubin’s harbour and it lies in the pretty bay of Belcroute where there is a small slipway giving on to clean sand, but to the right of the beach the shoreline becomes rocky and extends right around to Noirmont Point. At low water it is possible to fish this area on a mobile basis, but great care must be taken to avoid being cut off by the incoming tide as the cliffs above are a dangerous climb. Spinning with plugs and artificial lures is very successful here, with clear water conditions at first and last light the best times to try. 


Species of fish.


To the left of the slip are some rocks that provide a good fishing platform for flat fish, Bass, Pollack, and several other species, particularly at night. These rocks will become cut off by the high tide, so a close watch is needed to guarantee a safe exit. 


There are many species of fish. Bass are the main target for those fishing the rocks to the right of the beach. From the slip itself and the rocks to the left, a number of species follow the tide on its way to St. Aubin’s bay including Sole, Bass, Mullet, and Dogfish. 


Fishing tackle


Standard spinning rods and reels should be used to cast shallow diving lures from the rocks where fish will be feeding in the gullies. Surface poppers work well in settled conditions, and can often induce vicious takes from hungry Bass, as well as Pollack and Mackerel. 


Fly fishing with sand-eel imitations and Clouser Minnows is particularly effective in this area, and can produce great sport on light tackle. Worm baits, and frozen sand-eel, work well from the rocks to the left of the slip for several species. Good luck fishing! 




Noirmont Point 




To go there from St. Aubin take the A13 towards St. Brelade. Look for a left hand turn, the B57, at the top of the hill above St. Aubin, which is the Route De Noirmont and will lead right to the headland itself. Parking is in the car park on top of the promontory, and this also provides an excellent picnic spot for any non- anglers. There is a track that leads down to the lighthouse, which although quite steep, is relatively safe. The rocky platform of the light is best for bottom fishing, with the rocks and gullies either side of the mark suitable for float fishing and spinning. The stunning views ensure it is a favourite for locals, walkers, historians and ‘twitchers’ alike. 


This massive headland dominates the western end of St. Aubin’s Bay and is guarded by a lighthouse below to warn shipping of the dangers that lurk there. The powerful tidal flow passes very close to the outcrop of rock at the foot of the mark and allows the angler to place his bait in a prolific feeding area that is frequented by many species. 


The mark is fished two hours either side of low water to allow one to reach the outer platform and return before the tide cuts it off from the shore. The rock that provides a base for the light also provides an excellent fishing platform for the angler who can either bottom fish, or cast plugs into the turbulent flow. From the headland above the climb down to the mark looks quite daunting, but in truth it is easily attainable by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. The area is subject to occasional rogue swells, and the angler should remain alert at all times to the prevailing conditions and the sea state.The rocks that stretch away from the point in either direction are excellent for plugging for Bass, but access and egress can be tricky. Fishing from low tide up can be tremendous with very large Bass always on the cards, but particular attention should be paid to the incoming tide to avoid being cut off. 

 Situated as close as it is to the main tidal flow, Noirmont hosts a whole variety of predatory species that feed on the bait that gathers there to shelter. Bass, Pollack, Mackerel, Garfish, Bream, and Conger canal be targeted with confidence, and Wrasse and Mullet are also on the cards in the gullies.


Fish bait

Fish baits such as Mackerel, Pouting, and Sand-eel will catch most species, with worm and green shore  Crab best for the Wrasse. Float-fished fish strip will account for Gars and Mackerel, especially when  combined with minced fish ground bait introduced regularly. Mullet will also be attracted to this ‘shirvy’ as it is locally known,  and can be caught on bread flake or Mackerel strip. Two and three hook  paternostered squid strip is the best option for Bream that can run to well over three pounds. Bass and  Pollack will take medium to heavy lures and spinners cast into the flow, with plugs and ‘Yans’ of  around 150 grammes working well.


War Memorial

Located on the headland next to Portelet Bay, Noirmont has been bought by the States of Jersey as a permanent war memorial. It is easy to see the strategic importance of this headland to the occupying  forces, and it is due to the Channel Islands Occupation Society which has maintained the bunkers and  emplacements since 1977 that this part of the Island’s modern history is well preserved and open to the  public.


Command Bunkers


Portelet Bay 

There's quite a climb down steps from the cliff top to Portelet beach, which helps prevent this very  attractive and popular south coast location becoming too crowded. South facing, the beach is very  sunny and sheltered by the cliff behind. It has soft, golden sand. Well worth the walk down the long  flight of steps and the walk back up at the end of the day. Very safe bathing. Don't get caught on the  Ile au Guerdain in the centre as the incoming tide surrounds it, unless you are confident of being able  to swim ashore. The tower on the islet is known as Janvrin's Tomb.  

Janvrins Tomb 


Portelet Common

Portelet Common presents a mix of dramatic sea views and a habitat typical of an area subjected to the  prevailing southwesterly wind. The common has been managed for nature conservation since the 1980s  and is a proposed Site of  Special Interest.The habitat is a mixture of thick gorse cover, dwarf shrub  heathland and lichen-rich grassland. The Common lies 54-61m above sea level and covers an area of  some 31 hectares. On the reserve’s northern edge there is a panoramic view  over-looking  another  reserve, L’Ouaisné Common, where the habitat is quite different to that of Portelet’s elevated plateau.

 Portelet Common .....The Human History

There is an internationally important archaeological site situated below the slopes on the north facing  side of the Common. La Cotte de St Brelade is one of the major middle Palaeolithic sites in Europe.  Finds from the site confirm  that man has been present here for many thousands of years. The remains  of Neanderthal man, Woolly Mammoth and Rhinoceros have been uncovered by archeologists over the  years. Such is the importance of the site that public access is not permitted. Portelet Common has been  tenanted land for hundred of years. The tenants grazed their sheep, cattle, goats and horses here until  the 20th century. This traditional form of land management has played a major role in forming the  habitat we see today. The tenants no longer exercise their  right to graze the Common, subsequently,  managementis essential in order to control evasive species such as Bracken, Bramble, Holm Oak and  Birch. Granite quarrying prior to the First World war has contributed to the present shape of the reserve  and work carried out by German forces during the occupation, when constructing fortifications, also  had considerable impact on the area.

Portelet Common .... Flora

Portelet Common supports some 125 plant species and at least 30 of these have restricted distribution  either in the British Isles or on Jersey. The dwarf-shrub heath and heath-litchen grassland areas are  particularly rich in plant species.  There are four species listed in the British Red Data book, three of  which are found in these habitats - Dwarf Rush, sand Crocus and Early Sand Grass. Other species of  note include Green-winged Orchid, Heath Pearl wort, All-seed, Autumn Squill and the Jersey  sub-species of spotted Rockrose. Such plants are just part of the wildness of this very special place.

Portelet Common ..... Fauna

Around the perimeter of the common the cliffs provide ideal nesting and roosting sites for a number  of sea birds and waders. Among the most common are  the gulls. Three species breed regularly,  Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls  and the herring Gull. Amongst the crevices and ledges of the  lower cliff faces, Shags, Oystercatchers and the Rock Pipits can be seen most times of  the year.  Ravens will often appear on the thermals in early summer. On the plateau, the thick areas of gorse  provide an ideal habitat for Dartford Warbler, Linnets and the occasional Stonechat. Up draughts of   air from the cliffs also encourage the Kestrel to hunt the steep slopes and heath for a variety  of small   mammals and insects.


Nature Reserve

La Cotte de St Brelade

Ouaisne Bay 


Ouaisne adjoins St Brelade's Bay and is connected at low tide. Access is only from the eastern end  where the car park is situated or from St Brelade's Bay . The beach faces south-west and is sunny and  sheltered. Some patches of lovely  sand, but much remains rather wet after the tide has receded. Very safe bathing at all states of the tide. 



Ouaisne Common 

L’Ouaisné Common is one of Jersey’s richest and most diverse nature  reserves, the area was once a  dune system but, since the construction of a  defensive sea wall during World War II, the dunes have  stabilised and are  gradually progressing to heathland. The area contains large blocks of Gorse, dwarf  shrub heath, open sand, grassland and wetland. The reserve boundary features mature Willow Carr in  several areas and there is a large pond and reed bed on the eastern edge of the  site. To the west the site  is bounded by a sea-defense wall built in World War II.


Ouaisne Common ....... The Human History

A little south of the Common is La Cotte; a cave formed when the sea level was some 18m higher than  it is today. Excavations here have produced traces of human occupation dating back 80,000 years.  Over many centuries the tenants of the  Common held the right to graze cattle, cut Gorse, for fuel and  fodder and Bracken for bedding fuel and thatching. The rights of the tenants of L’Ouaisné Common  were  published as late as 1889. Today the management of the Common helps provide a balance  between the rich diversity of flora and fauna that exists here and the more gentle recreational activities  pursued by the community.

Ouaisne Common ...... Flora

A total of 163 plant species have been recorded on the Common and this may be attributed to the  diversity of habitats. Included are at least 5 species listed in the British Red Data Book. Compared to  nature reserves of similar size in Jersey, its species is unparalleled. Rarities include; Marsh St  John’s-wort, Lesser Skullcap, Cross-Leaved Heath and Greater Spearwort.

Ouaisne Common ...... Fauna

Among the Gorse thickets and Willow at the heart of the Common are freshwater slacks that provide  the Island’s last remaining natural breeding site for the Agile Frog Rana dalmatina. Captive breeding  takes place at a number of compounds around the Island for later reintroduction to other potential sites.  The Gorse provides ideal habitat for Dartford Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Stonechat. Birds of  Prey include Kestrel, Sparrow hawk and occasionally, Peregrine Falcon. Reptiles include the Slow  Worm, Green Lizard  and Grass Snake and, although the Rabbit is the dominant wild mammal, Lesser  White-toothed Shrew, Common Shrew, Bank Vole and Wood Mouse are also present.  


Martello Tower


St Brelade's Bay


This is Jersey's busiest resort beach. But thankfully it never becomes quite as crowded as those  other  places and it's much more beautiful, with its tiny jetty and seaside parish church at the  western end.  South facing, the beach enjoys a long day when the sun shines, although the  western end becomes  shaded in late afternoon.  The bay is very sheltered from everything but onshore breezes. There is soft,  golden sand along the entire length of the beach. Very safe  bathing  at all states of the tide. It is a fun  beach everything from beach volleyball and trampolines to pedalos and other water-borne craft. There  are many cafes of varying sizes at several locations  along the beach, as well as beach kiosks,  restaurants, bars, shops and other facilities

Sir Winston Churchill Park


You will see why we are proud of our beautifully kept parks, especially the public Winston  Churchill Memorial Park from where you can view the whole of the well known St Brelade's Bay.


St Brelade Parish Church

As it appeared before the restoration in 1903     I did not take the pictures of the church above




Fisherman's Chapel


Bouilly Port




Beauport is one of Jersey's most delightful beaches. A veritable sun trap on the south coast it could  easily become overcrowded but the long trek down a fairly steep path from the car park  at the top of  the bay helps keep it from  becoming too busy. South facing and surrounded on  three sides by the  cliff, the  beach is sheltered from all but winds from due south. The beach  loses the sun in the late  afternoon. Soft, golden sand after the initial pebbles makes Beauport ideal for families.  Safe bathing  at all states of the tide. At high tide the beach slopes fairly rapidly. The steep climb down to the  beach, followed by the inevitable climb back at the end of the day deters sufficient people to keep  the beach from becoming overcrowded.


Beauport Battery 1817

Beau Port Cromlech

Les Creux

Les Creux Country Park

Officially opened in December 2000 the park gives visitors the opportunity to experience a special part  of Jersey’s heritage. A smooth gravel path takes you from the hustle and bustle of the main road on  La Route Orange to the quiet of Les Creux Country Park.  Stairs lead down to a wooden bridge, then  the path snakes up to Les Creux bowling green and its imaginative public car park. Visitors to the park  now have two pathway options to choose from as they cross over the headland in the direction of  Beauport. One pathway takes you through strawberry fields towards Mont Es Croix. It runs along  working farmland and at one-point splits a ploughed field, the rich earth starkly contrasting with the  bright graveled path. Woodland will eventually grow in this corner of the park. The second path leads  towards a wetland area, over which another wooden boardwalk has been built to ensure dry feet. The  two paths then combine and reach  Route Des Champs. Over the road the visitor has a network of paths  to choose from – head east towards St Brelades Bay, south down to Beauport or west along to  La  Grosse Tête and La Lande Du Ouest. The coastal paths all connect with existing routes leading out of  the park.  Many paths have been improved in the area and Beauport’s car park has received a healthy face-lift,  complete with benches. The distinctive dry granite walls have been restored and impressive standing  stones confidently point the way.  A green lizard, the parks’ emblem, has been carved into many of  the stones.


Fiquet Bay

La Moye

La Moye Point

La Moye Golf Club

La Rosiere



Cobiere Point



The coast of Jersey’s south-western corner is rather rugged and can be extremely dangerous for  shipping although it wasn’t until 1874 that La Corbière  lighthouse, a quarter of a mile off shore from   La Corbière point, was first lit. The lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the British Isles to build in  concrete and it’s light is visible for eighteen miles in clear weather. The lighthouse is connected to the shore by a causeway that is covered at high tide. The rush of the tide around this part of the coast can be very dangerous although despite this,  it is a beautiful place whether in broad daylight or at sunset  and from there you can look across at the long expanse of beach at St Ouen's Bay. The light is no  longer manned except for maintenance.  It has been changed over to be fully automatic This area is  rocky and can be rather treacherous with its strong swell. Not suitable for bathing. Probably one of  the most photographed spots on the whole of the island, the lighthouse at Corbiere stands guard  over the western  approaches  to Jersey and warns shipping of the dangers of the Jailers reef that lies in wait for the unwary.  Located at the southern end of St. Ouen’s Bay, the point is subject to fierce  tidal runs and large swells and the rock that forms a platform for the light  is cut off at high tide. Either side of low water however, the area is fishable with a large degree of caution, but can at times produce some wonderful sport and  be well worth the effort needed to access the mark. Although other species including Conger and  Wrasse can be caught here, the whole area screams Bass, with most anglers choosing to fish a variety  of lures in the boils and turbulent gullies that surround the light, and the rocks on either side. There is  a slipway out to the lighthouse that is very popular with tourists, who are warned of the incoming tide  by a siren sounded some time  before the area gets cut off. The Atlantic swells that sweep across the  bay can  be huge, but the most dangerous are the rogue swells that can appear in calm conditions and  sweep over the area. Although the actual rock platform itself fishes well, anglers are probably safer  fishing the ground located either side of the start of the slip, which is more easily accessible, and can be  vacated quickly if conditions take a turn for the worse.


Conger and Huss are present in numbers over the rough ground, although very strong tackle is required to stand any chance of landing them. Bass and Pollack provide the main target species, and  can be caught on a variety of lures. Specimen sized Wrasse can be taken from the gutters and gullies  in the area when they become fishable in settled conditions. Standard plugging rods and  fixed spool  reels loaded with ten pound mono, or braid with a mono leader, are  best for spinning and float  fishing. Heavy beach casters required for bottom fishing in the rough ground.


La Cobiere Walk

Petit Port

La Pulente

La Braye


The sand dune system at the southern end of St Ouen’s Bay, is known as Les Blanches Banques and is recognised as a Site of Special Interest. More than 400 plant species have been identified here.  Millions of crushed seashells helped to form these dunes making this a calcium-rich environment,  ideal for a number  of specialised plants. Marram grass is abundant and helps bind and build the  dunes. Burnet rose is a familiar sight, providing a surface fabric, which tends to hold the dunes  together. The dunes also provide an ideal habitat for the green lizard. The leeward side of the dunes  provide protection for plants. The dwarf pansy can be found here and  the lizard orchid presents a  stunning contrast to the tiny ground-hugging species. The miniature marvels of the dunes, the  lichens, mosses and tiny flowering plants are often best appreciated on hands and knees with a  magnifying glass.  

Les Mielles

This area of coastal plain inland from St Ouen’s Bay stretches the full length of Jersey’s western  seaboard from La Pulente in the south to L’Etacq in the north. The natural history of Les Mielles  occupies a number of different  habitats. Flat, marshy land and thick reed beds surround St Ouen’s  pond, Jersey’s  largest area of natural fresh water. Bird life is plentiful here all year round and just to its north, a small wet meadow is a haven for five species of orchid and their hybrids. Bird hides,  interpretation centres at Frances Le Sueur Centre and Kempt Tower as well as dedicated country rangers all ensure that this ‘national park’ is protected and enjoyed to the full.  

La Rocco Tower


Les Landes

Coastal heathland is the most distinctive and spectacular aspects of Jersey’s wild environment.  Developing largely on exposed cliff tops, heathland stretches for almost the entire length of Jersey’s  northwest and southwest coastline. Located on the northwest coast, Les Landes is Jersey’s largest  single expanse  of maritime heathland. It covers an area of 160 hectares and is bound to seaward  by 3km of rugged granite cliffs. The reserve contains a variety of habitats supporting rarities such  as the Dartford Warbler and the plant life features Cross-leaved Heath, Spotted Cat’s Ear  and many  other rare species. The reserve was designated a Site of Special Interest (SSI) in 1996. Les Landes .....The Human History There is evidence that man has used Les Landes for at least 5,500 years. La Cotte de la Chevre in  the east, is one of the few remaining middle Palaeolithic occupation sites in northwest Europe.  Le Pinnacle, an impressive geological feature was occupied during the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age and by the Romans.  Grosnez Castle, constructed in the 14th century, was designed as a medieval refuge during sea raids. Gun emplacements, bunkers and observation towers were  constructed as part of Hitler’s Fortress Europe (1940-1945). Grazing areas for sheep and cattle and  the collection of Gorse and Bracken by the local  community for fuel and bedding has helped shape the habitats we see here today.

Les Landes ......Flora

Dominant plants include Common Gorse, low-lying Western Gorse, Heather and Bell Heather. In  addition, the reserve supports over 200 species of heathland plants, several of which are considered   rare in Britain. The Gorse is controlled to prevent it dominating the thick carpet of heather and gaps  between the patches of Gorse provide niches in which other plants can thrive. The Heather is in full  bloom at Les Landes during July and August. The rich purple hues of millions of tiny flowers are in  rich contrast to the bright yellow blossoms of western Gorse. Les Landes ...... Fauna

The wetland area at Le Canné de Squez attracts a variety of dragonfly  species and is an important   breeding site for the Common Toad (please do not disturb this area). Look out for Green Hairstreak  butterflies in sheltered  areas and from the cliff path a variety of seabirds can be seen at all time of  the year including the occasional Gannet from the Garden Rocks colony off Alderney. The Gorse  provides cover and nest sites for Dartford Warbler, Linnet and Stonechat. Kestrel, Raven and  Peregrine Falcons  are recorded here regularly too.  

La Lande du Ouest

La Lande du Ouest is an integral part of the dry coastal heathland lying above the cliffs along the  greater part of the southwest coast of Jersey. It was designated a Site of Special Interest in 1996 and  the rich flora and fauna is considered an important contribution to the island’s landscape and  biodiversity. The heathland has developed over millennia and man’s interaction with it, by using it  as a rich source of food, fuel, bedding and cattle grazing, has shaped the landscape we see today.

La Lande du Ouest .... The Human History

There is evidence of early human occupation of La Lande du Ouest. A flint scatter site, where stone  tools were made, has been here dating back to the Mesolithic period (c.7000 BC). There is also  what is believed to be an early Bronze Age burial site, the remains of which can still be seen at La  Tables des Marthes. In the 19th Century the area was a major source of granite and the  remains of  the quarry workings and its magazines can still be seen. There are also the remains of old quarry  cottages, a stone crusher and loading piers. The quarry, where the Desalination Plant now stands  once supplied high quality pink granite for the Thames Embankment in London. During the 20th  Century, a number of German fortifications were constructed on the reserve including two large  bunkers by La Corbiere lighthouse car  park. These are occasionally opened to the public. A large  signal tower  overlooking  La Corbiere now houses Jersey's maritime radio station.

La Lande du Ouest ....... Flora

116 plant species have been identified showing the rich diversity of flora  on the reserve, Many of  the plants are extremely rare on the British mainland and although less so in Western Europe, some  species are at the edge of their  northernmost range in Jersey. In early summer the cliffs are dusted   with Ox-eye Daisy, Thrift and Sea Campion cling to rocky outcrops and the deep yellow flowers of  Prostrate  Broom contrast sharply with the surrounding green-grey foliage. Among the rarer plants  such as Autumn Squill, Dwarf Rush, Sand Crocus  and Yellow-horned Poppy, Look out for Spotted  Rockrose too. This delicate, low-growing flower blooms in the morning and casts its petals by noon.  The  heath  also supports a variety of lower plants including mosses, lichens and liverworts.

La Lande du Ouest .... Fauna

A number of small mammal species throve on the heathland including Rabbits, Mice, Shrews and  Voles. Green Lizards can also be found beside the footpath basking in the sun. For the bird watcher;  Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Raven and Kestrel are recorded regularly in  the reserve. There is also constant activity out to sea, Shag, Cormorant, a variety of gull species and  occasionally Fulmars and Terns can be seen from the footpaths.    

St Ouen

Most Jersey residents and many visitors consider St.Ouen’s beach the best  of its kind. Miles of  beautiful sandy beach, washed twice daily by the waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean stretch for  five miles from end to end. This is a paradise for surfers, but with room and facilities for everyone.  The beach is exposed to the Atlantic along its entire length and the surf can be magnificent - which is  fine for those who are experienced, but poor swimmers should take care. Even the most accomplished  can be swept off their feet by the currents, so obey the warning signs and flags, take careful note of  which sections of beach are restricted.Surfing to match anything in the world, windsurfing, sand  yachting, kite flying and motor racing several times during the summer. This is the action beach. There  is a large cafe at Le Braye, several restaurants and pubs in various locations, ice cream vans in season  at the most popular spots and other beach kiosks. Often the island's busiest beach, but it rarely shows  because there is so much room and such extensive car parking. Popular with surfers and wind-surfers,   this five mile long Atlantic facing beach is a genuine enigma in that it is fished so rarely by local   anglers. The golden sands of the strand lead on to rock gullies and reef formations that teem with bait  of all sorts and divers report regular sightings of large shoals of Sole,  Plaice, Mullet, and Bass close  to shore. Low water fishermen enjoy tremendous catches of Lobster and Crab, and yet despite the  overwhelming evidence in its favour, the beach is subject to virtually no angling pressure. Visiting  anglers well versed in the techniques suitable to this type of mark would surely enjoy consistent catches  of many species, as well as having an un-tapped area for bait gathering. At the northern end of the bay  is the L’Etacq  reef and headland that is popular with Bass fishermen who spin and plug from the slip  and in the gullies close to shore, and at the southern end the Rocco Tower is a Napoleonic structure  that is accessible at low water and can be fished through the night in safety.In short, the beach presents  a wonderful opportunity to anglers who are prepared to experiment with various tactics at different  stages of the tide, particularly at night. Wading is generally quite safe, but there are areas that are  subject to undertow  and cross currents, and fishing alone is therefore not to be recommended. Fishing  at high tide from the sea wall often produces very large Bass, but the wall is subject to swells breaching   over its length in very rough weather. The bay is a nursery area for many species and therefore is subject to the attention of predators such  as Bass and Pollack which take advantage of the massive levels of natural bait present. Flatfish of  several types also feed well on the vast beds of Lugworm  found throughout the whole length of the  beach. Spear-fishermen regularly report sightings of shoals of very large Thin-Lipped Mullet, but as   yet none have fallen to rod anglers in any numbers.              

St Aubin

  St Aubin became the main town in Jersey from around 1680, because it was the  principal port in the island. Larger ships  could now stay here instead of St. Malo.

The island of Jersey is the most southerly, sunniest and warmest of  the Channel Islands,  boasting the best sunshine record in the British Isles. Once part of the Duchy of Normandy,  the islands lie far closer to France than to England, close to the Cherbourg Peninsula  in the Gulf of St Malo. English is the main language although an earlier Norman-French  patois may still be heard in Sark and some country parishes. Jersey has much to offer the  visitor - long, sandy  beaches, rocky coves, country walks and megalithic and medieval  ruins. The island is also famous for Gerald Durrell's Zoo, renowned worldwide for its  conservation work, and the Battle of Flowers festival, an annual carnival held each August  featuring a spectacular parade of floats decorated with flowers. Shopping here is excellent  too with lower rates of duty on alcohol and perfume and no VAT to pay.  The shops offer  a wide choice of goods including jewellery, clothes, photographic and leather, while local  products include Jersey knitwear, pottery and woodcraft, and of course, the delicious  Jersey cream. Eating out on the island is a delight, with fresh local seafood a speciality  together with island-grown vegetables.  

Jersey offers high quality sea bathing waters, special sites of  interest around the island and 45 miles of Green Lanes that give walkers and cyclists precedence over motorists.   Forty-five miles of stunning coastline from sweeping bays in the south to dramatic cliffs  in the north provide some wonderful walking, while inland dense wooded valleys and lush  leafy lanes lead down to deserted coves. Cultivated flowers and gardens can be found  all over the island in addition to the natural flora and fauna. Visitors will enjoy the   nine-acre Lavender Farm and the award-winning Eric Young Orchid Foundation, while  the island's capital St Helier won two Britain in Bloom awards in 2001. Free guided walks  and cycle tours with local experts, together with a year-round programme of festivals   ranging from 'wild weeks' to flower carnivals offer the visitor the opportunity to discover  Jersey's unique natural beauty and wildlife at any time.  




 Jersey, a haven of tranquility, immerse in beguiling scenery, lush meadows and wooded  valleys; surrounded by a rural landscape, astonishing wildlife, beautiful and unspoilt  beaches, has an endless variety of activities and attractions for any taste. There are   fortifications and sites of historic interest on each coast of the island. On the north coast,  there are the Leicester and L'Etacquerel Forts and the North Coast Visitor Centre, housed  in an old British garrison built during the Napoleonic wars.  Further east, beside an 18th  century guardhouse,  in an unusual gallery grave, is the Dolmen du Faldouet  (a Neolithic tomb). Dominating the east coast is Mont Orgueil Castle,which was built  during the 13th century during the reign of King John. Other attractions are La Hogue Bie,  La Pouquelaye de Faldouet. Out from La Rocque is Seymour Tower,  one of the towers   built after the Battle of Jersey in 1782 and three more  towers can be found on the west  coast, La Rocco, Kempt and Lewis, a feature of this coastline.

Jersey's capital, St Helier has sophisticated shops, a varied nightlife and a  mouth-watering  selection of restaurants, but the pace of life  is definitely  leisurely. Amongst St Helier's  attractions are the Jersey Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Occupation Tapestry  Gallery. Overlooking the capital are two historic fortifications, Elizabeth  Castle and Fort   Regent. The first is an imposing fortress, which  withstood Cromwell's forces  for seven  weeks in 1651 and housed the occupying Germans during World War II. The latter, is  now a leisure complex with sports and  conference facilities. Visitor attractions dotted  around the coastline include Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey Zoological Park, Howard Davis  Park and the German Military Underground Hospital. Unmissable are the Bays  around the  island, such as St Aubin's, Portelet, St Ouen's, St Brelade's, St Clement's and Grouville  Bay. So get away from it all and discover  the beauty of Jersey with its lush countryside,  vast expanses of  beautiful beaches and good food.

Places to visit

- Elizabeth Castlerugged 16th century fortress, is reached by amphibious craft or on  foot at low tide. Named after Elizabeth I by Sir Walter Raleigh when he was governor  of the island. The exhibitions in the Royal Jersey Militia Museum explain the part  played  by the castle in the history of Jersey; it also contains relics of the German occupation   during World War II.

- Mont Orgueil Castletowering over the picturesque harbour of Gorey,  here was where  the 13th century islanders watched anxiously for invaders. Later, it became a German  command and observation post during World War II.

- German Underground Hospital, excavated out of solid rock over 3 years by slave 

workers, it was used by German soldiers wounded in France after the Allies' invasion in  June 1944. Originally intended for use as an artillery barracks, it was converted to a  hospital. Present are re-created wards, an operating theatre and relics that include wartime   newspapers.

- Devil's Hole, a natural phenomenon where the sea has cut through the rock. At high tide,  the water boils as if in a rocky cauldron. One mile east  of Greve de Lecq, a footpath leads  out to a high peninsula for a head-on view of cliffs under siege from the  breakers. Also, alongside the footpath from the car park, the giant effigy of the Evil One sets a  sinister  mood.

- Corbiere Lighthouse, located on Corbiere Point at the far end of St Ouen's, a barren  peninsula on Jersey's western corner. Jagged rocks and  a causeway lead to the 1874  Lighthouse exposed at low  tide that guard the coastline, which has indeed wrecked a  number of ships.

- La Hogue Biea Stone Age site on the eastern side of the island with a giant burial  mound thought to be 7000 years old. A 33ft passage leads to the central  chamber and  two chapels, one dating from  he 12th century and the other 16th, stand on top. German  forces  set up an underground communications bunker in 1940 and it is now housing the  Museum of German Occupation.  

Marine Life around the island is abundant  especially around the coast of St Brelade

Jersey’s rocky coastline is host to a wide variety of marine life. The seawater around the  island is of a high quality due to the UV treatment Plant, which is reflected in the health   and abundance of underwater life. The shallow rocky bays are home to many types of  wrasse, as well as Pollack, mullet and bass with pipefish hiding amongst the kelp. Green  and purple snakelocks anemones cling to  pebbles, with pink and mauve cleaner prawns  often hiding within their tentacles. Tube-worms, sea squirts and nudibranchs can be found  amongst the rocks. Divers may be able to find  ormers hiding under  rocks and boulders  as well as crabs and lobsters. From summer onwards  cuttlefish and John Dory are a  common sight.In deeper water the rock faces are covered in anemones, fan corals and  dead men’s fingers are also common. Sea urchins and starfish cling to the underwater  cliffs and flatfish, rays and dogfish lie on the seabed. In the summer there are also   occasional sightings of basking sharks, seahorses, sunfishes and dolphins. Although  local game laws prohibit the taking of ormers, lobsters and crayfish to protect stocks,  divers are allowed to bring up fish and crabs and permits can be obtained to gather  scallops.Jersey has one of the largest tidal movements in the world. Care should be taken  at all times and dive centres will give advice and provide dive tables. For the marine  enthusiasts, Jersey’s coastline offers a chance to bathe, discover rock pools, dive, surf,  windsurf, canoe,  water-ski and sail.Beachcombing along Jersey’s shores is excellent  at any time of year, Washed up on the beach are all kinds of sea shells  including cowries, egg cases of whelk and dogfish (mermaid’s purse),  cuttlefish bones, jelly fish as well  as an  assortment of seaweeds from vraic to kelp. The seashore is a unique environment  consisting of a  narrow stretch of land  submerged twice daily by the tides. Jersey has the   third largest  tidal range in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Eastern  Canada and the  Severn Estuary.

Dolphins, Whales and Seals in Jersey.


There is a fascinating world in the shallow seas surrounding Jersey that is never exposed   at low tide and can only be visited by divers or snorkellers. Due to the fact that the island  is almost the most southerly part of the British Ises, summer sea temperatures are usually   higher than elsewhere around Britain. Consequently a good number of species that are  rare in Britain can be found in the clean and constantly flowing waters around Jersey.  We are also lucky to regularly sight large groups of  bottle-nose dolphins from the east  coast of the Island. It is thought that the local population of these wonderful sea mammals  is one of the largest in the British Isles. The Dolphins most frequently seen off the Coast  of Jersey are Bottle nosed Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).  There is a  resident viable group  with an estimated population of 100 individuals.  There have been over the years, in local waters  regular sightings of Bottle nosed Dolphins in small groups with young animals in  attendance. To maintain this  population, clean water and an  abundant of food are needed   these conditions still exist around Jersey. Dolphins have been observed throughout the  Bay of Mont St. Michel and as far west as the  Molene Archipelago near  Brest.   Local  observations are within the area bounded by the Echrehous and Minquiers Reefs and  around the coast of Jersey.

Other Dolphins

White Beaked Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris). These are similar in size to the  Common Dolphin, being up to  three meteres long. They differ in colouring from the Common Dolphin by having a distinctive short thick white beak,  and a single diagonal  grey or white stripe on the flanks. The last record of these was in February 1982 when  100+ were  seen off Archirondel. Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) is also resident in  the Bay of St. Malo, but has only been recorded far to the south  of Jersey.


There have been sightings of Pilot Whales (Globicephala melaena) in Channel Island  waters for many years.  Most of  these are in the winter from fishing boats, but they do  occur in summer.  Pilot Whales are much larger than dolphins and  have a rounded head  without a beak.. They also have a low blunt dorsal fin, distinctive from the erect sickle  shaped fin  or dolphins.  Usually seen in groups of up to twenty swimming slowly near  the surface with their dorsal fins showing. 


Atlantic Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) have been observed mainly at Les Ecrehous, and  Les Minquiers.  Most  sightings are of single animals. Observations have also been made  from the south coast of Jersey, mostly from Le Hocq  and La Rocque.

Drift Diving

With tidal currents often moving in excess of 10 knots, drift diving is very popular in   Jersey although it is not recommended for the faint hearted!


The treacherous rocks and half submerged reefs surrounding Jersey combined with the  swirling tides has brought many a ship to grief over the years. For the keen wreck diver  there are plenty of shipwrecks to explore from the German Occupation of the Channel  Islands in WWII. One of the most visited wrecks is the Schocklands, a Dutch freighter  that sank after hitting a reef in 1943 whilst under the command of the German forces.  225 feet long, she now sits upright and almost completely intact on the seabed about a  mile off Portelet Bay. Depths to the deck vary from 20 to 30 metres depending on the state  of the tide and like all the Island’s wrecks must be dived at slack water. The Kromwijk,  a small-armed coaster carrying bricks, also lies off the south coast at a similar depth.  She is upside down and while most of the hull is intact there is some damage amidships   revealing two boilers. Sunk in 1942 by two RAF aircraft, which are rumoured to have  been shot down and lying close by. The 64 foot long La Mauve sunk by Jersey  Underwater centre is about a mile off Bouley Bay. Sunk in 1993, this ship sits upright on a rocky seabed and is surrounded by a huge shoal of pouting. The wreck of a small fishing   vessel lies within feet of her stern. On the Minquiers reef lies the German M343  minesweeper. Resting in just over 30 metres of water and home to a variety of marine life  including some huge conger eels. Other wrecks around the Island include the tug  Martinique and the Metropolis in St Aubin’s Bay, the Magazan, the “armed trawler” and  the Princess Ena, a passenger ship which sank southwest of Corbière lighthouse in 1953.

Birds of the Cliffs and the Sea.

Jersey's coastal birds can be split loosely into two groups. Those that return each year to  breed on the Island's steep cliffs in the summer and those that spend the winter months  on the rich feeding grounds on the low lying south and south-east coasts. Perhaps the  best loved of the cliff dwelling species is the puffin. each spring a small colony faithfully  returns to burrows on the north west coast to harvest the sand  eel shoals during their  breeding season. Sharing this habitat and master of the thermals rising up the cliff face  is the fulmar. They breed regularly in Jersey and numbers are gradually increasing year  by year. They share the rocky ledges with colonies of resident shags. This is also a place  to hear the shrill voices of oystercatchers echoing among the deep, sea-worn gullies and  caves.The Island's east and south-east coasts  provide a complete contrast to the northern   cliffs. When the tide drops,  huge expanses of mud and sand are revealed, interspaced  with rocky outcrops and shingle banks. This provides a rich feeding ground for thousands  of wintering waders, gulls and wildfowl. When their northern breeding grounds freeze  hard during winter, the birds move south to seek  ice-free conditions in which to feed  and roost. jersey is such a place. This 'fall' of seashore birds begins in early autumn.  Muttering formations of Brent Geese are joined on the foreshore by grey and ringed  plover, curlew, dunlin, sandeeling and a significant number of turnstones. Wader numbers  increase as winter deepens and during high tide every ledge on the off-shore rocks is  filled to capacity.


The forty five miles of coastline around Jersey is arguably the Island's greatest natural  treasure. Unlike many land based habitats, the areas between high and low water mark  surrounding the Island have remained relatively  unchanged since the sea reclaimed the  land around the Channel Islands thousands of year's ago. Even at the height of the  summer, few Island residents venture away from the soft sands of the  upper shore to  explore the huge areas which are exposed at low tide. The seashore in Jersey is subjected  to dramatic change every six hours due to the Island's unique position within the Bay   of St Malo. 

Over the spring tide periods, which occur approximately every two weeks throughout  the year, the tide can rise and fall in excess of 40 feet twice a day. Life forms vary  dramatically throughout the various habitats found on the Island's shores. From the  extreme upper range of maritime  influence - the splash zone- wet only on the highest  spring tides - down to the lower shore - exposed only on the lowest spring tides.  Conditions can be extremely hostile in these areas and many creatures and plants are  well adapted in their own ways to survive the rigour of life on the shore.  Well over 100  species of fish, 80 species of worm, 100 species of crustacean, 30 species of green seaweed,  60 species of brown seaweed and 140 species of red seaweed have been found on Island  shores.

"On the great attractions of Jersey for the naturalist, one word will suffice: there is no such spot in England for marine zoology." George Elliot 1857.

Top of the Shore

At the top of the shore the level of exposure influences the types of animals and plants   found. On very exposed rocky shores the seaweeds can rarely survive the battering of  the waves and so are only found in the relative shelter of the rock pools. Instead, these  rocks are usually covered by barnacles, limpets and mussels, all of which are firmly  attached to the rock surface. Other creatures found here include  dogwhelks, which feed  on barnacles and mussels, red and green beadlet anemones, which retract their tentacles  when out of the water, as well as the tiny rough periwinkles which hide in empty barnacle   shells or rock crevices. In more sheltered areas the brown seaweeds (wracks/vraics) are  able to attach to those rocks more protected from the waves. The movement of their  fronds across the rock surface stops young barnacle larvae being able to settle. The weeds  also provide food for browers and shelter for an assortment of other soft bodied animals  which would otherwise be in danger of drying out at low tide.Further down the shore the  predominant weed is spiral wrack living together with toothed winkles and edible  periwinkles. Towards the middle of the shore there is a mixture of knotted and bladder  wrack. usually found browsing amongst these weeds are purple topshells and a variety  of different coloured flat periwinkles. At extreme low water, the kelps are exposed for a short while. These are home to an assortment of animals such as brittle stars, scale  worms, ribbin worms and blue-rayed limpets.

Rock Pools

The most interesting pools are usually from the mid shore downwards, as having the most  variety of life, they can be extremely colourful with a variety of red, brown and green  seaweeds all living together. The common prawn is usually in abundance sheltering under  rock overhangs or under weed. Hidden under small rocks are brittle  stars, cushion stars,  assorted sea squirts, squat lobsters, various crabs, worms and maybe even several species  of fish. Please remember any upturned stone should be replaced in its original position thus  protecting the animals and ensuring that the seashore in all its splendour can be enjoyed  by others. When the tide is out, sandy and  muddy shores appear almost lifeless but this  could be deceiving for, on closer inspection, there may be many signs of life. Look for  tiny trails, holes and depressions in the sand, mounds on the surface and spouts of water,  all of which show the presence of many animals living beneath the surface. In fairly clean  sand lugworms are common - these are easily identified by their wormlike cast left at  the   surface. Sandmason worms are found mid-shore downwards, the attractive peacock fan  worms are common towards the lower shore, together with cockles and razor shells. At  the water's edge, sand shrimps, sand gobies and sand eels dart about in the shallows.  

Cliffs & Headlands

Wild daffodil, thrift, horseshoe vetch and sea campion can all be found between February  and April. In the summer months, foxglove, birds foot trefoil, tormentil, autumn squill,   wild golden rod and sand crocus can also be seen in abundance. In autumn this changes  once again to betony, bell heather and saw  wort. In winter, yellow gorse can be seen. From May to September, inclusive Jersey Tourism offers a number of nature rambles in   some of Jersey’s most  environmentally important areas. In addition, a number of the   floral festivals will incorporate environmental walks as part of the programme. Please  refer to relevant site information.

Jersey Orchid

Le Noir Pre ( known locally as the orchid field) is usually open  every year in May. This  is the field at St Ouen which is owned by the National trust for Jersey where the rare  Jersey Wild Orchid, the Spotted Orchid and the Southern Marsh Orchid are in bloom  usually until the middle of June.    

Jersey Lily – Amaryllis belladonna

The Jersey Lily can usually be found on south-facing granite  walls on the island and is  in full bloom between late August and  early September. The flower is known as the  ‘Naked Lady’, because it produces leaves in April that wilt away to leave the plant  naked, that is, until late August when the plant’s flowers begin to bloom.Jersey Lillies  have been grown outside the island and can be found at the Royal Botanical Gardens  at Kew. The plant is frost tender and enjoys a well-drained, nutrient poor soil. The fact  that Jersey was part of the ‘Cod Triangle’ was the principle reason the lily landed on our  shores. Jersey folk would often travel to Canada to catch and cure cod and monkfish, then  sail to  the Cape of South Africa, where they would purchase exotic plants and herbs and  return to Jersey with their goods.  This was also how Agapanthus and Mesembryanthemeum  (ice plants) came to Jersey.  

Now how about a bit of history!

Cod Fishing - The Trade

During the 17th century both Guernsey and Jersey boats took  equal shares in the  Newfoundland cod trade. However, from the 1690s  Guernsey's share began to diminish   as they began to  concentrate on other maritime activities so that by 1760 the cod  trade was of more importance to Jersey than it was to Guernsey.

The Process

Until the late 18th century fishing was essentially a seasonal activity carried out  by the   migratory Jersey fishermen between late February and October when they returned to  their farms.  Cod live at depths down to 600 metres.  In the summer they move into  shallower waters closer to the coast to spawn and feed on smaller fish.  In Newfoundland  the cod fishing season was  between mid-May and mid-September. The original method was to fish from the boat by long lining over the side and the cod  were then processed onboard the ship.   The establishment of shore bases meant that the curing process  could be done more easily  onshore. The boats went out and brought  their catches to shore virtually everyday.  When  this happened sac boats were dispatched loaded with trade goods and salt to buy up the  fish and bring them back to  the European markets.  This appears to have begun about  1680.In the Gaspé, fishing was carried out from double ended, two masted schooner-rigged  barges about 25ft' long, manned by two men and capable of holding 7-8 quintals of fish.   These left shore every dawn to sail to the fishing ground where they anchored and used  handlines dropped to about 300 ft.  Each hook had to be baited individually with herring,  smelt, squid or sand eels (which also had to be caught daily) each cod then had to be   disengaged by hand.  The barges then returned  in the afternoon and  were offloaded by  smaller boats called flats.  These barges and flats were often owned by the Companies  and crewed by a seasonal labour force of Canadians. It took about five weeks to prepare  the dried salted cod.

Fishing the Cod Banks

Ø The Terre Neuviers left port in March and returned in October.  Each seaman took  his own chest in which the typical contents would be:

Ø 6 or 7 changes of clothes - woollen vest, a cloth shirt and a canvas jacket (le paletot)
Ø socks
Ø 2 woollen shirts
Ø 1pr cloth trousers
Ø 4 prs woollen underpants
Ø 5/6 prs of gloves or mittens
Ø 2 pr laced boots and 1 pr leather sea boots or sabot with leather uppers.
Ø an overcoat (double wool)
Ø a pillow and mattress
Ø a complete set of oilskins - pants, coat & sou'wester
Ø a cap
Ø candles (used until mid-August
Ø candlestick
Ø Statuette of ND and religious pictures
Ø Straw to stuff into boots

Seafarers - Crew

The size of the crew depended upon the size of the boat.  The largest ships of about  1,000 tons needed a crew of about 30 to control them while the smaller barques 250-500  tons had crews of between 15-20.  The 100-350 ton brigs were manned by 8-15 sailors.  The size of the crew also depended upon the function of the boat - a vessel engaged in  the carrying trade needed less men than those engaged in fishing. A terre neuvier probably carried a crew of 20 while an oyster smack carried a crew of 5-7. Onboard ship there were  essentially two types of crew member, seamen and idlers:

Ø seamen stood watches  Ø idlers worked by day and slept at night - carpenter, cook,  sailmaker

Seamen were divided into three groups - able, ordinary and landsman.  As a rule of thumb
Ø landsman was fresh on board;
Ø ordinary after one year;
Ø able after two years.

Younger seamen worked aloft - topmen - while older men handled headsails and anchoring  - fo'c'sle men. Seamen were divided into two duty groups called watches - the starboard  headed by the 1st mate  and the starboard or port watch headed by the 2nd mate. A watch  was 4 hours but the 4pm-8pm watch was divided into two Dog Watches, which meant  that the watches did not work the same hours every day. Merchant ships usually had all  hands on deck from 12 noon until dark except in bad weather. During the Dog Watches  everyone was on deck  with the Captain walking the weather quarter deck and the mate the lee quarter deck. "The crew are sitting on the windlass or lying on the forecastle smoking, singing or telling  long yarns"  "They sang in the true sailors' style, and the rest of the crew ... joined in the Choruses."  "Jack was called upon every night to give them his 'sentimental' song." (RH Dana) At 8 o'clock 8 bells are struck and the watches change and the relieved men go below.   Because of the watch system sailors never slept longer than four hours at a time. Seamen  originally lived in the forward part of the boat the fo'c'sle while officers lived in cabins in  the back. "No man can be a sailor ... unless he has lived in the forecastle" The forecastles of most of our ships are small, black and wet holes, which few landsmen  would believe held a crew of ten or twelve men on a voyage of months or years" (RH Dana) While officers lived at the back of the ship - the aft - the crew lived in the forecastle.  This  was the front of the boat so it received the worst of the waves. The fo'csle tended to be  damp and dark, given over to the crew as it was not fit for cargo.  Later on the crew lived  in a cramped deckhouse but this continued to be called the fo'csle.  The Captain of a ship  achieved his position through experience, influence/patronage and wealth in that he was  often a shareholder.  The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854 introduced a certificate of  competence which was achieved through examination - the Master's Ticket.


  The steward was the captain's servant. The cook, carpenter and sailmaker.

Second Mate

 The second mate is neither officer nor man and was often described as being a dog's berth  as they were unable to mix with the officers and were unable to mix with the men.  

First Mate

 The first mate in most small merchantmen was boatswain, sailing master and quartermaster  and kept the logbook.  


 The Captain is "lord paramount" he stands no watch, is accountable to no one and must  be obeyed without question.   The masters of ships received a salary plus a commission on the sale of the cargo.   In the 1830s this salary could be £100-120 per annum.   Some Captains took their wives with them. 


 A sailor is always doing something while on deck except at night and on Sundays. Master - Jersey £100-120 per year plus commission  - English  £9 10/- per month   half commission and an extra 25/- per week whilst in port. 1876,  Amber Witch per month  mate £5,  bosun £3 5/-,  carpenter £3,  ABs £2 10/-,  ODs £2 5/- Typical crew of a brig would be about 12
Ø Master - the captain
Ø mate/bosun - officer below the master
Ø bosun/2nd mate
Ø AB  - able seaman able to hand, reef and steer
Ø OD - ordinary seaman
Ø boy learning the "ropes"
Ø cook
Ø carpenter Men sleep in small bunks on straw mattresses called "donkeys breakfasts" usually  infested with bed bugs.  Hands cracked from constant sail handling so tallow was  rubbed in.  Urine is the only other form of medication available to the crew. Water  scarce 3 pts per day per man for drinking and washing.When working aloft the old  adage was "one hand for the ship and one for yourself". In the early 19th century the  norm was to crew island ships with islanders.  Non-islanders were employed in times  of shortage or when "foreign".  By the mid 19th century 75% of Jersey ships had a  majority of islanders in their crews. Foreign crewmen in Jersey ships were French,   Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Maltese, West Indians and Africans but the largest  grouping was made up of Guernseymen and British (particularly from SW England)  Manning Jersey vessels would seem to have followed a general pattern - islanders  largely on the fishing vessels and coasters while the larger vessels on the overseas  routes beginning and ending in British ports had a larger proportion non-islanders.   However, about half the oyster fleet at its height of 261 vessels in 1857 were English   with English crews. 75% of island ships had Jerseymen making up the majority of crew.   Amongst the others were French, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Italians, Maltese and  negroes from the West Indies, Africa and the USA.Foreign crew members became  more common as the 19th century  wore on and the size of the Jersey fleet expanded.

Living at Sea 1: Below Deck


The sailor generally had enough food but it was of poor quality.  The main form of  preservative was salting so the bulk of provisions taken aboard sailing ships was salt  beef, salt pork and salt fish.  Meat could also be cured by drying it in the sun - jerked  beef. Salt beef was so tough that it was recorded that Dampier used a piece to plug a  lea in the side of his ship, the Roebuck. Ship's biscuit - a kind of bread known as hard   tack (often baked years earlier) was the other staple of the sailor's diet. Often infested  with weevils it was necessary to tap the maggots out.  Rats infested ships so food was  often tainted with rats urine or faeces.  Because fresh food was rarely obtained, scurvy  was a constant danger. The staple diet of seamen was the ship's biscuit or hard tack which was a very coarse,  hard bread. Records exist which show that some of these biscuits were being issued up  to 40 years after they were baked.  Soft tack was ship's bread baked on board ship for  immediate consumption. Mr Thomas Le Cocq - born in 1874 - of St Martin sailed on board the barquentine Eliza   in 1889. The diet was salt fish, salt pork and salt beef along with ship's biscuits - four to  the pound.(Reminiscences - JEP, 22 August 1968) Other items in the sailor's diet were peas, cheese, butter, raisins and oatmeal.  Often  livestock - chickens, goats and pigs - was carried on long voyages and slaughtered for  fresh meat. Drinking water was kept in casks where it soon went off becoming foul and  slimy.  On Royal Navy ships vast quantities of beer was carried as it lasted slightly  longer  than the water before going off.   Tea and coffee were the main drinks while at sea on board merchantmen. Drunkenness  was unusual on board merchantmen simply because the master controlled access to   rations and the seamen themselves knew that their jobs were dangerous enough when  sober. In the forecastle there are neither tables, knives, forks nor plates.  The crew sat  on  the floor around a kid (a wooden tub with two lug type handles) and each man cut  himself a portion using his own jack-knife; they drank tea from a tin pot which held just  less than 2 pts.  .........  (RH Dana, conditions in the 1830s)   The fo'c'sle was . . . 20' long, 13' ft wide, painted light grey.  Bunks were double banked  around the four sides. . . A fixed table ran the length of the room with secured benches  either side. . . it was lit by some portholes, a skylight and a heavy lantern.  ...........(Erik  Newby, conditions in the 1930s) Caboose was the seaman's term for the cook house on a small vessel which often looked  like a sentry box on the deck rather than between the decks as on larger vessels. A harness  cask was a large cask kept on deck containing the salt provisions for immediate use.   This meat was often referred to as horse hence the barrel was where the horse was stabled  without its harness.


Lobscouse - biscuit pounded fine, salt beef cut up small and a few potatoes boiled  together and seasoned with pepper, salmagundi - a dish served as a change from salt meat  - made of slices of cured fish boiled with onions, gash - a meal made up of leftovers.  chowder - a stew - shark meat being especially common with British seamen.  Derives  its name from the French word for cauldron chaudiere in which it was made. Washing  up was done by one of the crew on rota using warm seawater, sand as an abrasive and  teased out rope as a scourer.


The port authorities in the port of departure signed a document stating that no contagious  diseases existed in that port and that none of the crew was infected with a notifiable  disease at the time of sailing.  This was known as a clean bill of health and was important  for any vessel to have before entering a new harbour. In the Royal Navy each man was allocated 14" space to sling his hammock. In the   merchant ships sailors tended to sleep on thin straw mattresses in a bunk which was set  in tiers in the fo'c'sle. Cramped, dirty living conditions and the infrequency of washing  meant these straw mattresses were breeding ground for lice. Fatigue was a real danger in  merchant ships as the search for more speed to secure better markets pushed men and gear to the limits of their endurance.  In the period in which sailing ships and steam ships  were in competition efforts to reduce costs saw food rations being pared and the size of  crews reduced.  

ScurvyLobscouse - biscuit pounded fine, salt beef cut up small and a few potatoes  boiled together and seasoned with pepper, salmagundi - a dish served as a change from  salt meat - made of slices of cured fish boiled with onions, gash - a meal made up of  leftovers. chowder - a stew - shark meat being especially common with British seamen.   Derives its name from the French word for cauldron chaudiere in which it was made.  Washing up was done by one of the crew on rota using warm seawater, sand as an abrasive  and teased out rope as a scourer.


The port authorities in the port of departure signed a document stating that no contagious  diseases existed in that port and that none of the crew was infected with a notifiable  disease at the time of sailing.  This was known as a clean bill of health and was important  for any vessel to have before entering a new harbour. In the Royal Navy each man was allocated 14" space to sling his hammock. In the  merchant  ships sailors tended to sleep on thin straw mattresses in a bunk which was set  in tiers in the fo'c'sle. Cramped, dirty living conditions and the infrequency of washing  meant these straw mattresses were breeding ground for lice. Fatigue was a real danger in  merchant ships as the search for more speed to secure better markets pushed men and gear  to the limits of their endurance.  In the period in which sailing ships and steam ships were  in competition efforts to reduce costs saw food rations being pared and the size of crews  reduced. - swollen legs, flesh loses its elasticity, swollen gums made it difficult to eat,  breath becomes offensive and loss of strength.  It was often attributed to salt provisions,  want of cleanliness and the over use of grease and fat. On board British ships articles  stated that after 10 days of salt rations the crew were to be given an issue of lime juice to  prevent scurvy. The most common maladies amongst the crew of sailing vessels however  was not scurvy, yellow Jack  or malaria but over-strained muscles  - torn ligaments,  slipped discs, and hernias - and fingers cracked due to handling stiff and wet canvas all  the time


The ship's toilets were called the heads as they were at the front of the ship. Originally  there was a grating in the small deck over the stem known as the beak-head.  Because  they were on both sides they were referred to in the plural and sailors were expected to  use those on the lee side so that all waste fell clear of the ship. From time to time sailors  died at sea either through disease or accident.  When this happened the body was buried  at sea usually in a pieces of weighted sailcloth.  The master conducted the ceremony  before the crew and recorded the fact in the ship's log. In the Royal Navy the dead were  sewn into their hammocks which was weighted with round shot. The sailmaker put the  last stitch through the dead man's nose to ensure that the man really was dead.

LIVING AT SEA 2:  On Deck - Passing Time

When not on watch sailors ate, slept, repaired and washed their clothes and occasionally  washed  themselves.  In addition they had a number of ways to pass the time.  Storytelling  and reminiscing were  favourite pastimes on board ship with experienced sailors being  able to stretch out a well embroidered yarn for hours. During the Dog Watches everyone  was on deck with the Captain walking the weather quarter deck and the mate the lee  quarter deck. "The crew are sitting on the windlass or lying on the forecastle smoking,  singing or telling long yarns" "They sang in the true sailors' style, and the rest of the crew  ... joined in the Choruses." "Jack was called upon every night to give them his 'sentimental'  song." .. (RH Dana) At 8 o'clock 8 bells are struck and the watches change and the relieved  men go below. In the fo'c'sle jigsaws were a popular way of passing time below, in the  20th century gramophones were a common feature in many fo'c'sles.  Seamen also indulged  in fancy ropework as a means of passing time. Carving wood and bone was also popular.  Scrimshaw - carving and creating ink drawings  on whale and walrus teeth, tusk and bones - was practised  and was especially popular  amongst American whalers in the early 19th century although other sailors also used to  do it.  Wood carving often resulted in ship models which were not only beautiful to look  at but which were also accurate.  ". . . He (the Second Mate) was engaged in making a model of 'Moshula' nearly 4 feet long,  with running rigging and brace winches that worked.  His last model had been sold for £60   in Belfast . . . "    Eric Newby, The Last Grain Race, 1956 Music and dancing were a part of shipboard life both in the wardroom and the mess  after-cabins and fo'c'sle Songs not only included shanties or work songs for many songs  classed as forebitters had been drawn from all over the world.  They were known as  forebitters because the men would gather at the forebitts - the double bollards used in   making the ship fast alongside - in the evening.  American sailors called these main-hatch  songs  for the same reason. The rendition of this music was often poor and out of tune but  its accessibility meant that both performer and listener were united by a common  experience.  Music also gave a certain measure of comfort, nostalgia and continuity to  the listener who was sometimes in a strange, new or dangerous environment. In short  Sailor John sang of everything and anything. While at sea most islanders were exposed to English or  French  influences and so it would  seem probable that Channel Islanders would have adopted either French or English  worksongs and kept their own music for the fo'c'sle. In Europe and the Americas shanties died out as true working songs with the end of the age of the sailing ships ending a tradition  which stretched back thousands of years The type of musical instruments taken to sea have  been many and varied.  German ships were renowned for the quality of their shipboard  musicians.  On board many ships a scratch band or foo-foo band was formed by seamen  for their own enjoyment. At sea the fiddle has constantly been a favourite "dog-watch"  instrument.Fiddles, guitars, harmonicas, flutes and trumpets have all been popular.   The reed instruments such as accordion and concertina were less so because they tended  to rust up.

LIVING AT SEA 3: On Deck - On Watch

On board ship time was measured in watches - this was the length of time during which  part of the crew is on duty. Usually this was for four hours, except at the time of the  evening meal which was split into two dog watches of two hours.  The passage of time in  each watch is marked by a stroke of the ship's bell every half hour - eight bells signals the  end of a watch.

On board British ships, this shipboard watch keeping system began at  midnight and the day was broken into seven shifts of work:-

0000-0400:  Middle Watch (graveyard watch)

0400-0800:  Morning Watch

0800-1200:   Forenoon Watch

1200-1600:   Afternoon Watch

1600-1800:   First Dog-Watch

1800-2000:   Last Dog-Watch

2000-2400:   First Watch 

The Dog-Watches meant that the men did not work the same hours every day.   During  the Dog Watches everyone was on deck with the Captain walking the weather quarter deck  and the mate the lee quarter deck. Merchant ships usually had all hands on deck from  12 noon until dark except in bad weather. At 8 o'clock 8 bells are struck and the watches   change and the relieved men go below. Because of the watch system sailors never slept  longer than four hours at a time. Apart from  sail handling and bracing the sailing watch  provided a man and sometimes two for an hour's stint at the wheel, another crewman for  an hour as look-out and another as policeman (runner for the officer of the Watch).  For  the crewman it was important to always climb the weather rigging at sea - and always the  side with the water in port! In addition to sailing the ship there was the day work  -  paintwork to be renewed, metalwork and fittings to be chipped of rust and red lead painted  on, decks to be scrubbed and washed down, running rigging to be overhauled.  The   daymen - carpenter, sailmaker, donkeyman all started work at 6:00am.  The cook began  work at 4:30am and finally retired at 8:30pm.  When the cry went out for "all hands" then  the day men and the cook also had to help on deck.   

A sailor is always doing something while on deck except at night and on Sundays. By the 20th century labour-saving power came to the aid of the sailorman and with it the  donkeyman who was responsible for the workings of the donkey engines, the Jarvis diesel  brace winch, the Jarvis halyard winches and all things mechanical on board ship.  Despite  this it was the ship's carpenter who was responsible for oiling capstans.  The watch leaders - first and second mate - were on duty with their respective watches   while the captain more or worked his own hours.  Mid-day he took sun readings to work   out latitude often with the mate to provide a secondary check.

LIVING AT SEA 4: Below Deck - Personalia

What did sailors pack in their sea chest to take on a long voyage?

What clothes and things, pipes, etc? Because space was limited on board ship sailors tended to have the minimum of personal belongings and these were  kept in his sea-chest.


According to the manager of the outfitter's in the East India Dock Road in 1938, Eric  Newby would need ". . . Pilot coat, heavy trousers, two suits of working clothes (dungarees)  heavy underwear, heavy sea boots, long oilskin coat, oilskin trousers, seaboot stockings, storm cap, knife, spoon and mattress straw. . ." 

The Terreneuviers chest contained . . . 6 or 7 changes of clothing comprising a woollen   vest, a cloth shirt and a canvas jacket, 2 woollen shirts, 1pr cloth trousers, 4 prs of woollen   underpants,5-6prs of gloves or mittens, 2prs of laced boots and a pair of leather sea boots   (or sabot & leather uppers), a double wool overcoat, complete set of oilskins - pants, coat   and sou'wester, a cap,  a pillow, a mattress, straw to stuff in the boots and mattress, and a   statuettes of the Virgin along with religious pictures. 

Cahier de Vieux Cancale CVC No 9 from Cancale Museum  

Bell bottomed trousers was often thought of as being the distinctive mark of the sailor  although they only really emerge when official standard uniform was introduced into the  Royal Navy in 1857. Dana describes the dress of a merchant sailor as being  ". . . loose  duck trousers, checked shirt and a tarpaulin hat (tarred canvas) . . . the trousers, tight  around the hips, and thence hanging long and loose round the feet”- lugging along his  chest - Apollo with his portmanteau! - My man, . . . you can't take that big box aboard  a warship. . . put your duds in a bag, lad. Boot and saddle for a cavalryman, bag and  hammock for a man-of-war's man"  

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Billy Budd, Sailor 

For many seaman a Bible was a constant companion - it may never have been read but  it was there just in case at the  bottom of the chest. All sailors had their jacknife and the   specialists (carpenter and sailmaker) provided tools of their trade - these were kept in a  small canvas bag -a ditty bag. Ditty Box, introduced in 1870 was a small, strongly made  chest in which sailors kept their personal valuables - letters, photographs and certificates. Ditty bag was a small canvas bag containing the gear needed when working on deck  especially by a sailmaker.


Because of the hard life and the uncertainty involved, seafarers have always tended to be   superstitious. It has been suggested that seamen wrapped themselves up in a multiplicity  of talismans to ward off evil. Seamen carried with them an image of a perfect world or  heaven - Fiddler's Green - where the fiddle never stopped playing, there was plenty strong  drink and tobacco and the women were willing.  The reality on earth was more dependent  upon money but could be found in seaports around the world.


. . . that portion of the terraqueous globe providentially set apart for dance houses, doxies  and tapsters, in short what sailors call a "fiddlers' Green".

Pg 16 . . . Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor, 1891

It was often said that fishermen believed that seagulls contained the souls of drowned  sailors. Deep-sea sailors attributed this to the albatross and hence bad luck came to anyone  caught killing one.  In 1830 the herring shoals deserted the island waters - Guernsey fishermen believed it   was because someone had committed sacrilege by fishing on a Sunday.


The two most basic questions seaman must ask themselves are where are we? and where are we going? Where are we? The answer  to  this is obviously dependant upon observation  and informed guesswork.   Today we can enlist the help of satellite transmitters to pinpoint our position to within 5   metres (GPS). Twenty years ago  we could use Radio Beacons and by triangulating the   radio signals a position was obtained (RDF). A much faster version of this in the British   areas was Decca Navigation system. 

For the last 200 years seamen have increasingly been able to use latitude and longitude    hundreds of years.  Sailors have been able to fix their Latitude (position North or South  of the equator) for centuries by measuring the angle of the sun above the horizon at noon  using instruments such as astrolabes, octants and sextants. Longitude can be measured  simply by using two timepieces, one set at GMT and the other set at shipboard time  (Local Time).  The earth revolves 360° on its axis every 24 hours  which means 15° is  equal to 1 hour and 1° is equal to 4 minutes - if your ship's time piece shows  10 o'clock   and the GMT time piece shows it is noon then the 2 hour difference shows that you are  30° W of Greenwich.   However, longitude could only be fixed accurately once a reliable  chronometer was invented.  This was achieved by John Harrison in the 1770s.  

By using a method known as "dead reckoning" sailors could make an educated guess about their location by setting the speed  and direction of the ship against a previously  known position such as their home port.  However, this was never very accurate due to  varying tidal currants, leeway (sideways drift), human error all of which adds up  considerably over a number of days. Seamen also knew what signs to look for when at  sea - the shape of the swells, the degree of saltiness of the water, the flotsam and jetsam,   composition of the seabed, cloud banks, sea birds  - all these gave an indication of location  and are sometimes referred to as "environmental" navigation and often the only tool used  was the sounding lead. Obviously all of this was only of use if it could be  marked down  on a map and so charts are an essential tool for seamen.  They were also essential for  answering the second question:-  

Where are we going? 

Today with the aid of accurate charts, Admiralty Tidal Flow Books, Pilotage books and  Nautical Almanacs plus the variety of instruments for position fixing the question of "where  are we going and how do we get there?" are fairly straightforward.  In the past the compass was relied upon for direction. 

However, in the past direction was often given in relation to the prevailing wind, to the sea  swell, to constellations or fixed stars and to the sun at given times such as dawn, dusk or  noon.  The passage of time was estimated in relation to the change in bearing of the sun or  stars. Distances were estimated in "day's sail and relative speeds by a Dutchman's Log   By detailed and perceptive observation of the maritime environment, especially the wind,  waves and heavenly bodies, early seamen "everywhere" evolved simple yet effective  methods of navigation out of sight of land, which subsequently proved to be remarkably  similar throughout the world.

(Sean McGrail)


A chart is a seafarer's map.  It is used to to identify a position; a destination and the best  way between the two.The earliest charts were often referred to as portolanõ as they actually had the lines between ports marked on them and included sailing directions and descriptions  of harbours. In order to create a map an azimuth compass was needed in order to take bearings.  The viewer then moved position and took back bearings on the landmarks.


ways to avoid rocks and wrecks, they way they are indicated with light houses and marker  buoys and bells, and on charts, the use of pilot cutters, local knowledge. Pilotage is usually carried out relatively close to shore and is the art of reading the visible  signs to establish position and the course to take to reach a destination.  There is a variety  of visible signs  - natural or man-made landmarks, geographical features or buoys and  beacons. Should visibility deteriorate then these signposts disappear and it is necessary to  start plotting on charts and so pilotage becomes navigation.  

For the modern yachtsmen pilotage books describing approaches into  harbours and what   to look for are available for most popular cruising grounds. If they are not obviously visible,  hazards are marked by buoys or beacons 70% of the earth's surface is water and fairly   straight forward to move over - the main problems as far as seamen are concerned are   caused by the boundary between sea and land - rocks and the wrecks that surround them are  hazzards to seamen and so are marked.  On charts for navigation and in actuality for pilotage. Lights used to mark hazards vary in size and magnificence from lighthouses such as at  La Corbière to small beacons such as Les Fours buoys off the south west coast of the island. Hazards and channels are marked by a variety of buoys and marks - the colour and shape  of which indicate which side to pass.  When approaching a harbour leave Green to starboard  and red to port obviously vice-versa when leaving. These buoys often have lights for night time recognition and fog warnings for use in limited visibility.   

These fog noises vary from bells to fog horns. In 1977 the International Association of  Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) system of buoyage was adopted throughout European  waters: there are three families of marker · lateral -indicating the sides of a navigable  channel; · cardinal - marking the edges of shoals or other hazards  in relation to the cardinal  points of the compass and · four other marks which fall outside of the above two categories  - isolated danger, safe water, special marks and **** 

A Pilot is an expert in local waters who assists vessels entering or leaving a harbour. As long as boats have been going foreign inward bound boats have depended upon local  knowledge, even before sighting land.  Seeing a pilot boat might be the first indication a  master might have as to the accuracy of his navigation or the safety of his landfall.  Up to  date information was essential when shoals and their marks might have moved, and wind  and tide predictions would help decide how best a sailing ship should make her approach. Because pilots were often independent companies who charged for their services they  tended to use fast seaworthy vessels to reach incoming vessels.  Often they had to stand off  the coast in all sorts of weather and so they adopted the type of vessel best suited for the job  - deep keels which could stand up to a large press of sails and yet lie-to in a gale in  comparative comfort.  The cutter rig was favoured by many as being the best suited for the job - the Bristol Channel cutter and the Le Havre cutters. 

Once wireless telegraphy and radio position fixing became common there was less need for  pilots to be out looking for custom.  Instead they waited for the call and then went out to  meet the "customer". The earliest mention of pilots in Channel Islands water date back to  the 14th century.  Until licensed pilots appeared in the 19th century local fishermen served  as pilots when paid. In Jersey the Company of Town Pilots was set up in 1810.  The two Pilot cutters manned  by five pilots spent three days "on station"  and brought in ships as they were sighted off  Corbière.  If all five pilots were used before the three days were up then they hoisted a  large Pilot flag and sailed for home and the other cutter took up station for three days.


How did people communicate at sea before radio? – Flags, Morse, Semaphore, Bells, Horns  & Whistles Before the introduction of radio communication signalling intention on board  and between ships was done in a variety of ways and used a variety of instruments - flags,  bells, whistles, horns and lights using semaphore or Morse. 

Between Ships

Specific sound signals are set out in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. For identification purposes the national ensign gives nationality. Code Flags when flown singly indicate that the International Code is being used - so each letter has an internationally recognised meaning  - V I require assistance,  P (when  hoisted in harbour - Blue Peter) All persons should report aboard immediately as the vessel  is about to proceed to sea, Y I am dragging my anchor. In fog in addition to the ship's bell  the horn could be used  as a warning.  It was also used to indicated manoeuvring intentions  in confined waters such as the River Thames one blast for I am turning to starboard, two  blasts for port, three for going astern, four blasts meant watch out I am manoeuvring.

On Board Ship

Since the fourteenth century shipmaster's on board English warships and later on on board  East India Company ships have communicated orders via the bosun who used a whistle or  call to pass on the messages.  It was not used om board merchantmen. "Sound the bell,  Second mate, Let us go below" Time on board a ship was sounded by a bell one for every  half hour  of the watch.  So Eight Bells meant it was the end of the watch. The ship's bell  was also used by the look out to indicate to the helmsman potential problems 1 for the  starboard quarter and 2 for the port. Since the 1930s shipmasters have been able to use  microphones and loudspeakers.  Earlier officers had used speaking trumpets.


Voyages - the human experience rather than the economic point of view a summary of the  different types of voyages undertaken? how long were they? what ports did they stop in? Jersey vessels were involved in two different types of voyage - the long deep-sea voyages  to the Gaspé, South America or the Far East usually involving the larger boats such as  ships, barques or brigs  or the short hop, coastal voyages using brigs, schooners, ketches  and cutters to a port or ports on the mainland or France. 

Different cargoes could be carried at different times by the same ship so it was important  that the holds were thoroughly cleaned out before each use. Even the short hop coastal  voyages could last a while as often the cargo was taken to one port where another was  received to be taken to a different port and so on.   Although sea time was measured in  days not weeks. 

Deep sea voyages could last up to two or three years although the majority were seasonal  - out to pick up a specific cargo and back to Europe to get the best prices.  The most  famous were the China tea races of the 1860s -1870s, the Australian wool races of the  1880s and 1890s and the Australian grain races of the 1920s and 1930s.  In 1885 the  Cutty Sark for example raced back to England from Australia via the Cape Horn in 72 days.   Four months was a regular voyage out to China or around the Horn to San Francisco with  the same for the return. 

Jersey ships could be found in ports all over the world. Valparaiso, Buenos Aires,  Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Karachi,  Bombay, Cochin, San Francisco, New Orleans - as well as Newfoundland, the Gaspé,  and New England. Cadiz, Opporto, Malta, Marseilles, Naples, Constantinople and a vast  selection of French and British ports. One of the more exotic locations was Ichaboe, an  island off SW Africa famed for guano.

WORKING AT SEA – Worldwide Trade

What was the extent of the world wide carrying trade at its height?

Why did this evolve and why was Jersey able to take advantage of it?

What was the period we were involved?

How did it operate and who benefited?

What were the good carried on Jersey ships? 

The earliest record we have of a long distance trading voyage undertaken by a Jersey  vessel was for the Janvrin in 1826 when it went to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies In 1864 the 192 ton brig Prospero owned by George Malzard sailed to Iquitos in Brazil,   2,000 miles up the Amazon. In 1864 the Jersey merchant fleet numbered 446 vessels  totalling nearly 49,000 tons.  Of these about 80 were employed in the oyster trade working   out of North Wales or Shoreham.  Of the remainder about half were involved in the coastal  trade this represented 25% of the tonnage while the other half (representing 75% of the  tonnage) were involved deep sea.  About 40% of the deep sea tonnage was involved in the  South American trade. In 1849 the 173 ton schooner-brig Caeserea of Jersey commanded  by 20 yr old  Peter Briard ran from the Tyne to Marseilles with coal, bricks and anchors.   From Marseilles they sailed with a cargo of wine for Mauritius where they landed in  December 1849 before returning with a cargo of sugar to London in May 1850. 

1853 commanding the 337 ton brig Geffrard Briard sailed from Liverpool with a general  cargo bound for Shanghai in March.  She arrived in the Yangtze river in late July  (4 months).  She left Shanghai in September loaded with tea and silks bound for London  where she arrived in January 1854 (4 months).  In February she left for San Francisco via  the Horn and took 131 days (arriving in July).  From 'Frisco she sailed over the Pacific to  Shanghai arriving in late October following a typhoon. Late November she sailed for  England loaded with tea and silks - arriving in March 1855.  In June she left England for  Buenaventura in Colombia round the Horn.  Briard had to go up to the Pearl Islands in the  Gulf of Panama to pick up his next cargo and he completed his load in Valparaiso before  returning to Liverpool in early 1856.   

Throughout the 18th century the Gaspé trade was by far the most important. Jerseymen   were not slow to exploit their bi-lingualism when former French possessions.  In Canada,   the West Indies and India came under the control of the growing British Empire. In the 18th century many trading areas were the exclusive preserves of Chartered companies  - India, the Honourable East India Company, West Africa the Royal Africa Company and  they jealously guarded their privileges often by force and seizure of offending vessels.  By  the 19th century the Free Trade movement saw these monopolies being broken. From the late 1780s until the late 1830s the Honduran hardwood trade was dominated by  the de ste Croix family of Jersey. 

The Jersey world wide trade really sprang up as a result of the expansion of world trade in  the middle of the 19th century which was caused by the growth of the British Empire, the  wealth generated by  and the demands of  the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of Free Trade as an  economic policy.  It was killed by the development of iron steam ships which meant that  wooden sailing ships of the size used by Jersey shipowners became uneconomical and so  were driven out of business.  They were too big for the coastal trade and too small for the  world trade and not fast enough for the premium cargoes.   

By 1900 all Channel island vessels had disappeared from world trade routes apart from  a handful still engaged in the rapidly declining cod trade. The wealth generated by the cod  carrying trade with the Gaspé generated enough surplus wealth for local merchants to invest  in ships which in turn were built in the island.  These were then used in the carrying trade  and the versatility of the wooden sailing ship meant that it could easily be adapted to carry  any cargo. 

In the 1850s and 1860s when Jersey was heavily involved in the general carrying trade a lot  was left to the ship's masters who were expected to find a return cargo or perhaps a new leg  to trade on once they arrived at a destination.  This meant that often sailors would sign off  and on ships at different ports throughout the world. 

In the 18th century Gaspé trade the boats sailed to Canada carrying salt, men to work the  fishing stations and European produced trade goods for the settlers - cloth, knives, axes,  hinges, wine, building materials and tools, etc. The dried cod was then transported to Iberia  and the Mediterranean, New England, Virginia, the Carolinas, and the West Indies.   The boats brought tobacco, molasses, sugar, rum and by the late 18th century when the  Honduras was linked into the routes hardwoods such as mahogany. Some vessels went  down to West Africa to trade with the slavers.  While some were actively involved in the  trade such as Jerseyman, Captain Philip Messervy of the Ferrers Galley (1722) and  Guernseyman, Thomas Elsworthy of the Anne Galley (1740) others were involved in the  supply of goods and services -  Jerseymen, John Theodore and John Carter of the Elizabeth  (1736) and Charles Philippe  Hocquard of  the Newport (1854). In the early years of the 19th century Jersey ships developed the South American trade as former European colonies  achieved independence and broke their former ruler's  Chartered Company monopolies.  Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina all received the attentions of Jersey merchant vessels. In the 1830s  a number of local vessels were sailing up to the Baltic to pick up timber as  the shipbuilding industry was booming then.  

By the mid 19th century the Gaspé trade was still the mainstay of the Jersey shipping  economy but shipowners were beginning to look to the general carrying trade, switching  from trade to trade as the prevailing economic conditions changed.  Following the discovery  of Gold in Australia the Deslandes ships ran out to the diggings taking supplies as well as  prospective diggers. In 1855 some Jersey ships noted carrying wool from Australia, tea  from China, rice from Burma and cotton from India and the Cape of Good Hope. 

WORKING AT SEA - Coastal Trade

What was the extent of the coastal trade at its height?

What was the period we were involved?

How did it operate and who benefited?

What were the good carried on Jersey ships? 

During the 18th century the coastal trade with Britain was of more importance to the  islanders yet it concerned relatively few ports.  Coal was brought from Newcastle and  Swansea but Southampton was the main port for everything else and had been since it  replaced Pool in the 16th century.  Although there were some links with other south coast  ports such as Poole, Weymouth and Chichester. The numbers of ports grew as the Industrial  Revolution progressed. The voyage pattern was a combination  Jersey to British ports,  Jersey to French ports, British ports to French ports, British ports to British ports. The 34 ton cutter, Clyde,  arrived in Plymouth from St Brieuc, Brittany in January 1865,  went to Swansea thence to Jersey.  From Jersey she sailed in early March to Gloucester  with a cargo of potatoes, returning with salt.  In April she left with a cargo of cider for  Newport, Monmouthshire from where she returned with coal. In the same period the 58 ton  cutter, Eclipse, made ten voyages between Portrieux in Brittany and Jersey with live cattle  for slaughter and a further two with a mixed cargo. 

Because Jersey has never really been a self sufficient community.  General cargoes have  always been shipped into the island and using their expertise and often driven of necessity islanders have been active in the coastal trade.  Not only bringing cargoes into the islands  but also shipping between  Britain and France especially with the settled political situation  after the Crimean War in the 1850s and the Cobden Treaty of 1860. 

Quite often the coastal trade was operated by the small owner/operator rather than the large  merchant houses.  In the close season many of the oyster cutters would be employed in the  coastal carrying trade. Coal was carried between South Wales and France throughout the  18th and 19th century (when the two countries were not at war)  on board many Channel  Island vessels. 

Until the Industrial Revolution killed it off in the latter half of the 18th century wool was  a major cargo brought into the islands for the knitting industry.Timber, building materials,  textiles and household goods were brought into the island while hides and stockings were  exported. By the mid 18th century glassware and window glass, earthenware and grindstones  were being brought down from Sunderland.  

Between September and April potatoes were shipped from the islands to London. In 1840  nearly 15,000 tons from Jersey alone although only about 20% of the vessels used were  from Jersey, another 20% from Guernsey and the rest from London).  In 1855 this trade  had collapsed and only 25 tons were despatched from the islands to the London market.   After London, Liverpool was the next largest port of call for Jersey vessels and some of the  local companies such as the Robins had their own merchant houses there.  The coasting   vessels took potatoes, apples, wine and cod oil.In the 19th century English lustreware  pottery was exported to France via Jersey through ports such as Granville that it was known  as "Jerseyware" despite the fact that it was made in Staffordshire, Leeds, Sunderland,  Newcastle or Swansea.


what happens when things go wrong, how many wrecks have there been, what were the  chances of survival, what is the story behind the lifeboat? As long as people have been going to sea then there have been shipwrecks,- famous  examples from antiquity are  Jonah in the Old Testament, Ulysses in Homer's Odyssey and  St Paul in the New Testament. 

With wooden ships the fear was not so much of sinking as there would always be something to float on but of fire.  Wooden ships could be broken up on rocks but there was always  something to hold on to. If the ship was holed or swamped and if the pumps could not get  rid of the water quickly enough then the weight of water would take a wooden ship down  and the wood would eventually become waterlogged. Metal ships if  holed seriously enough could and did sink without trace. Death in shipwrecks was common - not only for those  who went over the side and drowned but also amongst those who stayed on the hulk from   hypothermia, exhaustion and starvation. Bring driven ashore by storms resulted in many deaths as the ship often broke up and the rough seas made launching smaller tenders or  lifeboats an impossibility. 

There was always the chance of shipwrecked sailors being picked up if they happened to be  near shipping lanes but as in the case of the Quixote this could take over a week so the  reality was only slight. The time taken for a ship to sink was also crucial - some smaller  boats could be broken up or swamped in a matter of minutes whereas others took three or  four days to break up or sink during which time the crew could be picked up by passing  shipping. Stricken ships had a variety of methods of communicating their distress - flying  flags upside down, firing rockets and flares, sounding bells and horns. 

The chances of survival once wrecked were slim, sailors had to rely on their ship, their  shipmates and themselves. The seaman would only abandon his ship when it was obvious  that nothing else could be done for it.It is impossible to say how many ships have been  wrecked - sunk or broken up - in Channel Islands waters but it will number thousands.  the  earliest known wreck is that of a Gallo-Roman cargo boat which sank in St Peter Port,  Guernsey just after 285AD.  In addition some ships which have been wrecked have been  salvaged, refloated, repaired and brought back into service such as the passenger ferries the  Roebuck in 1911, the Ceaserea in 1923 and the St Malo in 1995. 

Some ships wrecks involve the loss of many lives such as that of the mailboat Stella in  which 105 lives were lost when she ripped her bottom out near the Casquets in fog.  Others  may incur injuries but no fatalities as in the case of the St Malo when she was  holed after  hitting La Frouquie, a rock near La Corbière. It is an ill wind that brings no comfort and of  course the other side of shipwrecks is the opportunity for salvage. Perhaps the most famous  example of this was highlighted in the film Whisky Galore which was a fictionalised account  of the cargo ship wrecked on the Hebrides, off Scotland whose cargo was whisky bound for  the American market. A similar thing happened in Guernsey in 1937 when the French  steamer Briseis ran aground carrying a cargo of 7,000 casks of wine. 

The division of shipwrecked cargoes was subject to a variety of laws to ensure that the  Crown received their share, however, much was spirited away before the authorities arrived  on the scene.  There was also dark stories if ships being deliberately lured onto the rock by  wreckers - the legend of the Five Spanish Ships.  St Helier was killed by seafarers after he  tried to lure them on to the rocks. 

The National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in 1824.  In 1854 it changed its name to the Royal National Life-Boat Institution.  There has been a  RNLI presence in Jersey since 1884 when the RNLB Mary and Victoria was housed in a  new life-boat house built at West Park. 

 With grateful thanks to Doug Ford from Jersey Heritage Trust  for sharing his 'Sea Book' with Jersey Tourism and myself


Jersey's History

Jersey lies in the Bay of Mont St Michel and is the largest of the Channel Islands.  It has been an island for approximately 8,000 years and at its extremes it measures 10 miles east to west and six miles north to south. The earliest evidence of human activity in the island dates to about 250,000 years ago when bands of hunters used the caves at La Cotte de St Brelade as a base for hunting mammoth.  There was sporadic activity in the area by nomadic bands of hunters until the introduction of settled communities in the Neolithic period, which is marked by the building of the ritual burial sites known as dolmens.  Archaeological evidence shows that there were trading links with Brittany and the south coats of England during this time.


Although part of the Roman world we know very little about the island until the eleventh century.  Various Celtic saints such as Samson and Branwaldr were active in the region and Charlemagne sent his emissary to the island which was called Angia in 803. The island took the name Jersey as a result of Viking activity in the area between the ninth and tenth centuries.  The Channel Islands remained politically linked to Brittany until 933 when William Longsword, Duke of Normandy seized the Cotentin and the islands and added them to his domain. In 1066 Duke William II of Normandy defeated Harold at Hastings to become king of England however he continued to rule his French possessions as a separate entity. The islands remained part of the Duchy of Normandy until 1204 when King Philippe Auguste of France conquered the duchy from King John of England.  The islands remained in the personal possession of the king and were described as being a Peculiar of the Crown.

From 1204 onwards the Channel Islands ceased to be a peaceful backwater and was thrown into the spotlight as a potential flashpoint on the international stage between England and France.  Mont Orgueil was built at this time to serve as a Royal fortress and military base.  During the Hundred Years War the island was attacked many times and was even occupied for a couple of years in the 1380s.  Because of the island's strategic importance to the English Crown the islanders were able to negotiate a number of benefits for themselves from the king.  During the Wars of the Roses the island was occupied by the French for seven years (1461- 68) before Sir Richard Harliston arrived in the island to claim it back for the English king.

During the sixteenth century the islanders adopted the Protestant religion and life became very austere.  The increasing use of gunpowder on the battlefield meant that the fortifications on the island had to be adapted and a new fortress built to defend St Aubin's Bay.  This was named after the queen by Sir Walter Raleigh when he was governor.  The island militia was reorganised on a parish basis and each parish had two cannon which were usually housed in the church - one of the St Peter cannon can still be seen at the bottom of Beaumont Hill.  

The production of knitwear reached such a scale that it threatened the island's ability to produce its own food  and so laws were passed regulating who could knit with whom and when. The islanders also became involved with the Newfoundland fisheries at this time. The boats left the island in February/March following a church service in St Brelade's church and they wouldn't return again until September/October.During the 1640s England was split by Civil War and hostilities spread into Scotland and Ireland as well.  Jersey was divided and while the sympathy of islanders lay with Parliament the de Carterets held the island for the king. 

The future Charles II visited the island in 1646 and again in 1649 following the execution of his father.  The Parliamentarians eventually captured the island in 1651 and in recognition for all the help given to him during his exile Charles II gave George Carteret a large grant of land in the American colonies, which he promptly named New Jersey. Towards the end of the seventeenth century Jersey strengthened its links with the Americas when many islanders emigrated to New England and north east Canada.  The Jersey merchants built up a thriving business empire in the Newfoundland and Gaspé fisheries.  Companies such as Robins and the Le Boutilliers set up thriving businesses. 

The eighteenth century was a period of political tension between Britain and France as the two nations clashed all over the world as their ambitions grew. Because of its position Jersey was more or less on a continuous war footing. 

During the American Wars of Independence there were two attempted invasions                         of the island.  In 1779 the Prince of Nassau  was prevented from landing at St Ouen's Bay but two years later in 1781 a force lead by Baron de Rullecourt captured St Helier in a daring dawn raid but was defeated by a British army lead by Major Peirson.  A short lived peace was followed by the French revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars which when they had ended had changed Jersey for ever.  The number of English speaking soldiers stationed in the island and the number of retired officers  and  English speaking labourers who came to the islands in the 1820s saw the island gradually moving towards being an English speaking culture.

Jersey became one of the largest wooden shipbuilding areas in the British Isles building over 900 vessels around the island. In the late nineteenth century island farmers benefited from the development of two luxury products - the Jersey cow and the Jersey Royal.  One was the product of careful and selective breeding programmes the other being a total fluke.


Emotionally, the twentieth century has been dominated by the Occupation of the island by German troops between 1940 and 1945 which saw about 8,000 islanders evacuated, 1,200 islanders deported to camps in Germany and over 300 islanders being sentenced to the prison and concentration camps of mainland Europe.  20 died as a result.  Liberation Day - May 9th is marked as a public holiday.  The event which has had the most far reaching effect on us today is the growth of the finance industry in the island from the 1960s onwards.