First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
For a little island Jersey packs a big punch. Its north coast might have been designed specifically to illustrate the word ‘rugged’. The coves, headlands, cliffs and sea-stacks are of granite that is sometimes dark, sometimes pink and quartz-studded. They fold in on each other in a series of bays carved out by the storms and racing tides of the English Channel. This is a coast made for walkers, its well-signposted cliff path opening up one remarkable prospect after another.
Under high milky cloud we set out from the village of St Mary along a succession of ‘green lanes’ – roadways hardly wide enough for a car, leading us between hedgebanks overhung with oaks, sycamore, sweet chestnuts and beech, all pruned low by the constant wind. The lanes were walled with stout pink granite blocks, and the houses were of granite, too, solid and dignified. The small square fields of wonderfully fertile soil had been tilled for winter, and as everywhere in Jersey there was the sense of a settled, well-to-do community not too fussed by the world beyond the waters.
Jersey cattle cropped the pastures, their large dark eyes as beautiful as those of a Bollywood star. In the lush green cleft of La Vallée des Mouriers a stream went dancing and sparkling beside the path, and we followed it down towards the sea.
Out on the cliffs we set our backs to the blasting east wind and were buffeted along the coast path that rounded a deeply scooped bay and ran out towards the distant rocky neb of La Tête de Plémont. Views on this clear, cold day were astonishing – north-west to the Channel Islands of Sark and Guernsey, the green hump of Herm between them; north-east to the long flat reef of Les Écréhous with its fishermen’s cottages apparently perching in the sea, and beyond them the white beaches of the French coast fifteen miles away.
The Devil’s Hole made a fine spectacle from the cliffside viewing platform, with the sea hissed angrily between its jaws. Whether the Father of Evil ever did inhabit that dark, echoing cave is open to question, but the band of early Christian monks who built their retreat on the perilous rock of L’Île Agois just beyond were real enough. We carried away a vivid impression of the harshness of their lives, sustained by faith and a diet of shellfish, as we took the homeward path to St Mary.
Start: St Mary’s Country Inn, St Mary, Jersey JE3 3DS (map ref 603542)
Getting there: Bus 7 (St Helier–Devil’s Hole). Road – St Mary’s Country Inn is on B53 between St Ouen and St John.
Walk (7½ miles, moderate, Jersey 1:25,000 Official Leisure Map): Left from inn car park; cross B53; ahead down La Rue de la Vallée. In 300m pass ‘Jardin De Haut’ sign on left; left up path to cross B26 (605539). Continue on ‘Green Lane’; in 300m, left at archway. In 400m, right at T-junction to cross B39 (612542). On to T-junction; left, then first right to B33 (610544, ‘La Route de St Jean’).
Right, then first left (‘La Rue Es Abbès’). In 700m, left at junction (613552); in 100m, right. In 50m fork left up lane, soon becoming green lane. At road beside La Vue du Pré house, turn right, then fork right downhill. At ‘Le Hurel’ sign, fork right. In 200m, bend right across stream (613556); left along Le Chemin Des Hougues. In 300m, opposite lamp post by Les Hougues house, fork right along gravel lane down La Vallée des Mouriers. At bottom, through gate by reservoir pump house (608561). Just beyond, fork left/west along coastal path.
Follow ‘Cliff Path’ signs for 700m to road at Priory Inn (606558). Follow ‘Footpath’ signs; then from car park ‘follow ‘Devil’s Hole’ signs for 500m down to Devil’s Hole viewing platform (602561) and back to car park. Sharp right and follow ‘Footpath’ and blue signs for 1½ miles to road just south of Crabbe Farm (592551). Right for ⅔ mile if you want to visit La Grève de Lecq harbour; otherwise left for ½ mile to T-junction (600547). In 150m fork right past Le Ronvillais house; in 600m, left on B33 (602543); in 150m, right to St Mary’s Country Inn.
Lunch: St Mary’s Country Inn (01534-482897, liberationgroup.com)
Accommodation: Atlantic Hotel, St Brelade, Jersey JE3 8HE (01534-744101, theatlantichotel.com) – extremely comfortable and helpful; wonderful food.
Info: Jersey TIC (01534-859000); jersey.com
Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit harpercollins.co.uk and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122
visitengland.com; satmap.com; ramblers.org.uk