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A line that’s often trotted out by our local media, when it comes to sport, is that ‘Jersey punches above its weight’. Our smaller neighbours Guernsey similarly big-up their sporting achievements.
It’s all to do with keeping spirits high and giving encouragement to those sportsmen and women striving to excel on stages rather higher than those at home. And it’s all worthy, tub-thumping stuff for a local audience, but is it true that we’re above average?
Right now it’s difficult to be sceptical here in Jersey as we see three separate sports operating – and not in a flash-in-the-pan way, at a rarefied and unprecedented level.
Up to 20 years ago Jersey RFC was your typical hard-drinking hard-playing club side. The quality varied but Jersey was always a popular destination for touring sides. The game really had no profile outside of the rugby community.
With the advent of a league structure the days of the ‘friendly’ were numbered. To get regular fixtures the club needed to join the league pyramid. Since that time, through both serious sponsorship and private investment, together with enlightened management, Jersey RFC have marched upwards. Three years ago they reached the second tier of English rugby and, in 2014/15, finished as 19th highest club in the English pyramid with no fears at the prospect of challenging in the future for a place in the top echelon.
In 2005 Jersey broke away from the English system to join the International Cricket Council, thereby becoming a cricket ‘nation’ in its own right. (Guernsey did likewise.) With the appointment of a series of professional coaches the standard has risen sharply and the young guns have taken centre stage. The team has since competed in the minor European and world leagues, visiting some exciting places and playing host to many small nation teams from around the world.
After intermittent success their great moment came recently when, on their home pitches, they won the round-robin European Division 1 T20 tournament. This means that they will compete later this year with 14 other nations hoping to become one of six to take part in the T20 World Cup alongside England, Australia etc. next year. The game here is now light years ahead of the one I used to play (badly).
Until fairly recently netball was a keenly-fought domestic affair, often in the rain at FB Fields or Les Quennevais. Then, seemingly from nowhere, a tight and talented group has emerged with the help of good indoor facilities, excellent organisation and terrific coaching by a local lady Linda Andrews who has grown alongside the players. Team Jets, like the rugby guys, suddenly find themselves in the second tier of the English league structure for next season, a remarkable achievement.
And the rest?
Jersey has been amazingly fortunate to have had a supportive government department which has provided top facilities and financial support over the years. For most sports this has meant that they have been able to offer good programmes to youngsters and, vitally, assistance in travelling to the UK and further afield.
But not all sports have risen to such giddy heights. For example football (soccer) has become the forgotten sport at senior level with few bothering to watch league fixtures these days compared with years ago. However their junior programme is reportedly first-class. My sport, athletics, had the opportunity in the mid-2000s to press on to greater things but it has since settled down again to being a good junior set-up with a sprinkling of good seniors, including Britain’s #1 shot putter Zane Duquemin. Basketball, volleyball, tennis, squash, cycling, triathlon, swimming etc. All active and well-run and they have their moments in the sun but are destined to remain mainly domestic sports.
I haven’t forgotten bowls and shooting. Jersey regularly holds its own on the national, European and even world stage and fair play to those boys and gals. But I don’t regard them as in the same category of ‘physical’ sports, though they may argue.
So yes, I guess for an island of 100,000 we DO, on the whole, punch above our weight.
After five years under the jackboot – and at times it must have felt much longer – the end came in something of a rush. Liberation Day was to come on the 9th but from the beginning of May there was acceptance among the remaining, dispirited Germans that it was over. Now at least they could go home. So they thought. For most there were still many months ahead before they could return to their homeland.
And among the population of the Channel Islands there was at last a spring in the step. At first the defiance was cautious but the news filtering through from London and Europe left no doubt. Union flags, musical instruments, radios, even alcohol appeared from nowhere. After so much false hope, especially after the D-Day landings 11 months earlier, this was the real thing.
On 8th May a crowd gathered in Jersey’s Royal Square. Britain’s legendary wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was due to speak at 3 o’clock. Loudspeakers had been installed and the equally legendary Bailiff of Jersey Alexander Coutanche was present together with his wartime administration team. At last Churchill spoke these oft-quoted words:
‘Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.’
The following day the liberating British Force 135 oversaw the surrender and, memorably, the Union flag was hoisted at the Harbourmaster’s Office and nearby Pomme d’Or Hotel to unrestrained scenes of joy.
Seventy years later it seems that the occasion burns stronger than ever in the memory of those, now few in number, who lived through Occupation and Liberation. There was a near revolt this year when the flag re-enactment was to be sidelined in favour of a much bigger bash up the road at the People’s Park. The Bailiff’s office did a smart U-turn and put things right. All will go ahead as generally expected with the now-expected rendition of Beautiful Jersey by local lass Sadie Rennard. Festivities will continue throughout the day with a mega fireworks display in the evening.
After 70 years it might be that Liberation Day might slowly fade away, along with the old folk. But I thought that after the 50th. I doubt I’ll be around for the 100th but I’m guessing the celebrations will be fiercer than ever.
A few snaps taken on a wet and wild St Clement Sunday.
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Hope you like the first one in this 2015 series. I could do a dozen slideshows about St Brelade on its own!
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Jean Tubridy of the Social Bridge blog does these Smilebox thingies brilliantly. This is my first go. For photography technicians all pics are with my trusty Kodak C195 point-and-click 😉 Hope you enjoy.
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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.
Pretty much the same view from my apartment balcony – St Clement’s Bay on Jersey’s south-east coast. The tidal range is pretty huge and can be 38 feet and more at new and full moon. It’s no wonder that, with this ever-changing view, I’m happy enough hanging around indoors much of the time. It’s a perfect backdrop to a day of writing.
This part of Jersey’s coast is one of a few Channel Island locations designated under the Ramsar convention which seeks to protect the world’s important wetlands. The area is rich in sea-life for those clever enough to interpret it.
The area is fraught with danger for the unwary however. It is too easy to wander a long way out on a low tide, not quite aware of what is going on. The tide can race in, cutting off any escape route. People are regularly plucked out of the sea around here and there have been a number of fatalities over the years.
Seymour Tower is a little further around the bay. Not so long ago two women on horseback were cut off by the tide. The horses were happy indeed to clamber up to safety on to the base of the tower. Once the tide had receded though they refused to come down again. A sand ramp had to be built before they consented to come down.
Periodically a few French people sail to the Ecrehous, a reef off the north-east of Jersey, and plant the tricolour there. It is part of the parish of St Martin and the connetable or his deputies have to go over there and reclaim it for Jersey. It’s usually settled over a little drink I believe 🙂 An old guy called Alphonse Le Gastelois lived there in exile from 1961 to 1975 after being wrongly accused of sex crimes in Jersey and he became known as the King of the Ecrehous.
What a brilliant harbour Jersey nearly had! When the pesky French established a naval presence at nearby Cherbourg the British Government commissioned a harbour of refuge at St Catherine on the north-eastern tip of Jersey.
A huge effort was made. From 1847 up to a thousand workers – many of them Irish – caused chaos in the locality for a few short years while the northern arm of the harbour was constructed. Then suddenly the British and French made friends, steam was overtaking sail making the raison d’etre of the harbour redundant. The thing was silting up in any case. The works were abandoned, the southern arm of the harbour barely started.
The Brits tried to sell the breakwater to Jersey who refused, but later accepted it as a gift 🙂
This pic was taken the other evening from the heights of St Martin during a Jersey Joggers run.
A gorgeous Spring morning here in Jersey, Channel Islands. I met the girls for a run but let them head off whilst I returned by a circuitous route taking out the camera whenever I fancied a rest. Which was often.