With the fine weather and the holiday season upon us our band of Jersey Joggers has become rather thin. Five of us set out this morning in the north-west of the Island, in the parish of St Ouen about which I’ve written in the past. Insofar as you can find isolation on a 9 x 5 mile island St Ouen provides it. Times past there were folk that never travelled from here to the bright lights of the capital, St Helier, let alone further abroad. And today in an hour we barely saw a soul.
The land hereabouts rises from the sea up an escarpment to the higher ground on which lies rich farmland. One way up the escarpment is to take one of the well-hidden ‘donkey tracks’ and this is what we did this morning. Steep and sandy, one is soon rewarded when, puffing and hands on hips, the high ground is reached and St Ouen’s Bay glistens behind you in the morning sun. Another barely-used trail follows. One wonders just how old these sandy trails are and for what purpose they were used in years gone by.
Even when one reaches the tarmacked lanes there is little sign of life, just the odd cow or horse startled to see gaily-coloured, sweaty strangers. Lore has it that you need to show your passport at the parish border and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if an old farmer jumped out and demanded we do just that.
Back down the quiet lanes to sea level after a life-affirming few miles.
La Cotte de St Brelade
There is an archaeological fortnight going on and in the late afternoon I took the opportunity to join a guided visit to this well-known site. Well-known but infrequently visited as you need the agility of a goat to access it at low tide across a boulder-strewn beach and and a rocky climb to the site itself. Kudos to the (even older) folk that gallantly struggled and conquered.
La Cotte, we knew, is one of the most important archaeological sites in northern Europe. It has yielded thousands of finds that evidence occupation by Neanderthal Man from 250,000 years ago, up to when the Neanderthals were replaced by modern man.
It was fascinating to have two eminent archaeologists familiar with the site to put it all into context – the way successive ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ periods affected the sea level and therefore the mineral deposits and erosion. The layers of sediment, clearly seen, were explained as was the history of excavation at the site. Despite the importance of the place there remains much which remains to be done. Also there is need of a plan to protect what has been exposed over the years.
Sadly the experts debunked one myth, hereunto held true by every Jersey child. Although mammoth remains have been found in profusion they were not driven over the cliff to their doom. Rather they were hunted on the lowlands at a period where the sea level was much lower.
Truly I live in a wonderful place.