First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Wall-to-wall blue sky over the north coast of Jersey – and an icy east wind, too, cutting across the rocky bay of Rozel. We leaned on the kiosk counter of the Hungry Man, munching bacon baps, fuel for a wintry walk along the cliffs.
Up on the coast path the wind snatched at the tree tops and shoved us brusquely along. A pale mauve haze hung in the north, softening the outlines of Alderney and Sark. A tangle of tide rips cut across the kingfisher-blue sea, a winter view in a million.
In Bouley Bay the gale tore at the sycamores and ilex trees overhanging the rubbly coast path, and the restless sea sucked at the granite cliffs with a curious jingling roar. Credulous folk once believed it was the sound of the Black Dog of Bouley, a monstrous mythic hound with eyes like cartwheels, dragging his chain around the Bouley cliffs. Better to stay indoors by night and not risk meeting the Black Dog – so said the smugglers, and the locals were happy to obey.
The Victorian fort of L’Etaquerel lay in a dramatic cliff-edge location. It was built in the 1830s to keep out the French. They never came, but a hundred years later the Germans invaded the Channel Islands. Round the far side of Bouley Bay, down in the sheltered cleft of Le Petit Port, we found a simple granite monument recorded the death of Captain Philip Ayton, a British commando killed during an Allied raid on the occupied island at Christmas 1943.
From the rock pinnacles on the headland of La Belle Hougue we looked back to see the haze lifting from Alderney. Soon we made out, far to the east, the lonely reef of Les Écréhous, studded with tiny fishermen’s huts, white cubes that seemed to float unsupported on the intense blue of the sea.
On a rock in the bay of Le Havre Giffard a cormorant stretched its neck skyward, attempting to gobble down a fish before a marauding black-backed gull could snatch it away. We passed the pepperpot turret of the promontory fort of La Crête, and headed downhill towards the sprinkled houses and grey cliffs of Bonne Nuit Bay. Here a merman once turned himself into a white stallion for love of a beautiful Jersey maid. So local stories say – and they never lie, do they?
Start: Hungry Man Kiosk, Rozel Bay, Jersey JE3 5BN (OS ref 696545)
Getting there: From St Helier – Bus 3, St Helier-Apple Cottage bus stop (5 mins walk to Rozel). Return: Bus 4 Bonne Nuit-St Helier.
Road: From St Helier, A6 to Maufant; B46 to Durrell Wildlife Park; left on B31; in 150m, right on Rue du Pot du Rocher, then La Route du Cotes du Nord to Rozel. Return, Bonne Nuit-Rozel – Bus 4 and 3, as above.
Walk (6½ miles; rugged coast path, many steps; Jersey Leisure 1:25,000 map): Head back along Rozel harbour. Up road. At Rozel Tea Room (694544), right up Rue du Câtel. In 600m, fork right (691545) to car park. Bear left (west) along coast path (690548). In 4 miles, below La Belle Hougue headland, path splits (656562); both paths leads to La Crête Fort (647560) and Bonne Nuit harbour (641561).
Accommodation: Atlantic Hotel, St Brelade, Jersey JE3 8HE (01534-744101, theatlantichotel.com) – extremely comfortable hotel with wonderful food.