It’s a few years now since I visited Grosnez, a 14c ruined fort at the north-west tip of Jersey. For whichever poor sods were stationed there in its day it must have been Jersey’s equivalent to Siberia’s salt mines, the view being a small consolation.
My run started at Val de la Mare car park and, as usual, I followed the (rather depleted) reservoir anti-clockwise before leaving for the lanes at the dam. On the heights above the dam there is a first encounter with German Occupation remains – bunkers, fortifications etc., all pretty much swallowed up around here by gorse and bracken. It’s invariably hard work, this bit from the dam up into the St Ouen lanes, but it gets easier. St Ouen, the parish that marches to the beat of a different, slower drum. Heading north one passes the site of one of Jersey’s many old attractions that are no more, the Shire Horse Farm. It was plenty of years ago now that, on one of a number of visits, my son Eoin turned to me and said
‘Why are the horses shy?’
But astonishingly the Battle of Flowers Museum is still apparently open. This is run by an old Battle stalwart. I’ve no doubt that it is still frozen in time, as it was on my only visit many years ago. No interactive experience there I guarantee.
Eventually one reaches the Les Landes area and head down the lane past the racecourse which was established here in the 60s. Race goers and ruin visitors alike get a brilliant view of the other islands from this position. Guernsey is only a 10-minute flight away and to its right are Lihou, Jethou and Brecqhou. A little further over is Herm, beautiful indeed. Then, positively massive by comparison is Sark. (Alderney, the other major Channel Island, is too far to the north to be seen with the naked eye.) From the castle ruins you follow a rough path along the heathland over to L’Etacq. This is bleak and barren country but with its own compelling attractiveness. However I don’t encounter another single person on this fine Saturday morning. Here there are many reminders of our German friends, how we miss them. When they were eventually ousted most of the metal they left around the place was grabbed for scrap. Their heavy weaponry was hurled over cliffs, the railways were torn up (again.) Yet whatever else they did they built an enormous amount of military bunkers, watchtowers, fortifications and gun emplacements in heavy, unattractive concrete. I suppose they didn’t have much else to do during their five year stay. This concrete is still mainly in situ. Some of the guns have since been hauled out of the sea and put on display. The destruction of the railways was short-sighted, but who could have foreseen the future in that immediate post-war period?
I was never Mr Nimble even when young and I nearly break my neck descending to L’Etacq. A century or so ago there were sextuplets stillborn to a woman of L’Etacq. The little preserved bodies became a grotesque attraction and were hawked around the Island and further afield, raising money for their owner, hardly creditable in this day and age. Nothing further is heard of them after a while and presumably someone decided a Christian burial was a good idea.
I hear that the Milano Bars site is, at last, to be developed. Indeed the site now seems to have been fenced off in readiness. You can bet that whatever is built (two luxury houses, the rumour has it) won’t include a bar. The population of Jersey has been forced back within their own four walls to watch television rather than enjoy the gregarious company of others over a beer or two. In the rural areas anyway.
Then it’s a pleasant plod along Chemin de Moulin back to Val de la Mare for 11.6 miles.