Three Bunkers Outside Saint Helier, Jersey

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February 27th 2018
Published: March 1st 2018
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There is a familiarity about Jersey, even though we've never been. It has that same feel you get in Los Angeles. I mean by that, you have seen it before on the TV. Jersey was the backdrop for the 1980s detective series, Bergerac. Think Death in Paradise of the day, transferred from the Caribbean. Jim Bergerac - divorced, recovering alcoholic - solves crime on small island, accompanied by a succession of ever changing female co-stars. At least, he kept the same car - a 1949 open top Triumph Roadster 2000. Well he didn't actually - during the rigours on TV filming, the producers went through 3 identical models between 1981 and 1991.

We circled over the azure blue waters of St Ouen Bay to land from a westerly direction. The North Sea never looks this blue. There were lots of other areas of the island covered in water or so it seemed. It was actually fields covered in sheets of bio-degradeable plastic. The plastic was protecting the new season of vegetable crops. We landed at the splendid art deco terminal at Jersey Airport in early afternoon. Formalities are limited. Bright sunshine greeted us, although the very low temperatures weren't in the plan when we booked the trip. It was above freezing, but was well below with the wind chill. The cold air blast from the east - the so called "Beast From The East" - was having an effect even in the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands - Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark - are a small enclave of little Britain tucked in off the Brittany coast. The name implies they are in the English Channel, but on Jersey we are a mere 14 miles off the French coast. The nearest large town to St Helier is St Malo - 70 kilometres to the south. There are palm trees and roads with French names. We have made a few changes on key streets - King Street has replaced Rue Derriere. All else, is British and has been so, since 1066. The Dukes of Normandy included the Channel Islands in their lands, so with their acquisition of England after the Battle of Hastings Jersey aligned with the British crown as a dependency. The exception of course was the Germans occupation in World War 2, the physical signs of which remain very much in evidence today. We will come back to that later.

We purchased our £2 single tickets to St Helier and received my first Jersey £1 note as change. The view from the top deck of Liberty Bus 15 was one of prosperity. The white washed houses looked pristine in the afternoon sun. We spied on to swimming pools, sun decks, outdoor entertainment spaces and neatly manicured gardens. Jersey was doing very nicely, thank you very much. The main business these days, as well as tourism, is finance. The States of Jersey lie outside the United Kingdom and British tax system and as such, is a tax haven without the inconvenience of serious travel. We swept along from the neat little harbour at St Aubin. The beautiful houses looked out over the bay. The local dogs were having fun running around on the 4 mile sweep of white sand. The majority of traffic stuck to the coast, whilst the bus cut through Bel Royal and First Tower. As well as the German fortifications, a series of "Martello" towers line the coast. They were built all around the British coast to dissuade Napoleon from adding the Channel Islands to his empire. A beautiful art deco garage is emblazoned with The Mansell Collection. The upper floor apparently tells the story of Nigel's journey from karting to Formula 1 World Champion, although the lower floor housing a Mitsubishi dealership throws a bit of confusion on proceedings. We arrived soon after at the Liberation Bus Station in downtown St Helier. Everybody else we spoke to thereafter referred to it as "town". "Town" is dominated by the offices of finance companies - some familiar names, others not - all keen for a foothold to be able to offer some generous tax advantages to their customers. There is a lot of new construction by the waterfront, although some of our common UK business institutions seemed to be housed in less than distinguished looking buildings. I suppose it is the address that counts and not what it looks like. We set off in search of the hotel.

The initial observations were not that promising. A small car dealership seemed to be housed in the front of the building. However whilst a bit dated, all improves inside. The central quadrangle was occupied by an outdoor swimming pool and water slide. A sun trap, but an air temperature of 1 degree suggested we wouldn't be using it. The room was spacious, the bathroom recently refitted and what a breakfast. I couldn't rate it more highly. The black pudding secured a "10" rating. After checking in and a bag drop, we headed out for a wander. The shops and businesses were in the main as you would expect in a UK high street. The coffee market had been cornered by Costa - what no Starbucks? There was a Boots, M & S and the usual suspects. A cow stared out of Jersey Telecom on Queen Street. We would have expected to see more cows in this diary product stronghold, but he would be our only sighting for a couple of days. Our mobile phones had switched to the JT network, but as Jersey is technically outside the European Union it was like the old days when overseas - expensive mobile phone calls. The States of Jersey have one of these special relationships with the European Economic Community - access to free trade, but with quirky rules. This is perhaps what Boris and gang are dreaming of with their current Brexit negotiations and perhaps they have shares in mobile phone companies?

It was Friday afternoon and the traffic was quite heavy - in relative terms. The majority of drivers still found time to stop wand wave pedestrians across the road. We walked back into Liberation Square, next to the Liberation Bus Station from we had alighted the bus. A statue in the centre of the Square marks the joyous scenes when the Germans left on 9th May 1945. They had been on the island for 5 long years. The Channel Islands might have expected change to have come earlier, but the Allies turned East after D Day in 1944 leaving the occupiers sitting tight in their heavily armoured concrete bunkers. The area towards the Quay is a mix of the old and new. The Maritime Museum sits in an old warehouse across from a multiplex cinema, gym and entertainment complex. There were some decent size yachts in the marina, but nothing on what was housed in Elizabeth Marina behind the Radisson Hotel. Here, the Abramovich set had their super yachts all safely anchored for the winter. We walked through the hotel reception and out along the jetty. An ingenious hydraulic gate at the mouth of the marina kept the waters of the bay a good 10 foot below where to yachts were moored. The tide was well out and it was possible to walk out across the sands towards Elizabeth Castle. The old Fort Regent stands high above the town. Meanwhile defence of the harbour was in the hands of the Elizabeth Castle. The castle was origin built in 1594, but strengthened and extended over the years largely to deter the French. We walked out across thee white sands towards St Aubin and into the strong, biting wind. The Germans obviously saw the white sand as a perfect landing site for the Allies, so concrete bunkers were constructed at regular intervals to ensure any invaders from the sea would have difficulty getting off the beach. After the first 3, we headed back to the hotel to get a warm and changed for our night out.

My TripAdvisor research suggested the real ale emporium must visit was the Lamplighter pub. However it was Six Nations rugby this weekend and with France v Italy on the TV screens this Friday night, it looked less than inviting. We headed for one of the pubs owned by the Liberation Brewery instead. You can see the "Liberation" theme is quite strong - a Bus Station, a Square and a Brewery already. The White Horse down on what is technically St Saviour Beach was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel. It was a terrace for the summer, but it wasn't really on the agenda for tonight. We managed to get a seat in the gastropub side, where the food was bring served and away from that egg chasing on the TV. The Liberation Pale was decent and the food good enough to persuade me that we should return during our stay. We got a table quite easily, although larger groups without bookings were turned away for a lack of suitable tables.

As always, we were up with the lark. The sun was out. A perfect blue sky. The "Beast From The East" was still blowing the cold air in across the island. The guy working nights on the reception looked suspiciously like Les from Benidorm without the Geordie accent. We were shown to "our" table for breakfast. We didn't know it at this point, but we were the people at Table 15 for the duration. It was
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Liberation Square
fine, although a tree blocked out our view of the pool. It allowed me to concentrate on the serious fry up instead. It set us up for the rigours of the day. The Other Half checked her fitness device and announced we had walked over 10 miles the previous day. On that basis, I anticipated the "Barcelona" record would comfortably go today. We set off for the Bus Station.

A 3 day anytime bus ticket was £21 each. We caught Service 22 to the terminus at L'Etacq at the top of St Ouen Bay. It took about 20 minutes to walk out of the village up to the point. The Jersey Horse Racing Club track was visible in the distance, but we hadn't come to see that. It wasn't long before the complex that is Battery Moltke became evident. As well as the bunkers covering the beaches, the Germans spent a disproportionate amount of effort on fortifying the strong points of the island as part of their Atlantic Wall. If some of the concrete used here had been placed in Normandy, D Day as we know it might not have happened. Battery Moltke is a series of gun emplacements on the cliff top, linked by a series of tunnels for easy troop movement and reinforcement. A massive observation tower stands on the cliff edge. This is Marine Peilstand 2 tower, or MP2 tower It was meant to be one of a series of eight such towers, but only three were finished before more pressing matters in France distracted. It was a bit chilly out on the cliff, but was probably a nice cushy number for the occupiers - it certainly beat the Russian front. Whilst we perused the remains, the dog walkers and mountain bikers of Jersey went about their Saturday morning in amongst the gorse scrub. The structures are ironically incomplete and the guns - 2nd hand French - utilised whilst more modern equipment arrived. It never did!

The plan had been to get back to the bus terminus to catch a lift back towards the Jersey Pearl shop. The Other Half is a keen collector of jewellery and was therefore anxious to add the Jersey branch of this outlet to her Isle of Wight buys. The Battery Moltke had been an easy sell on the basis of the location near the pearl shop. We walked back down the beach, in lieu of the bus ride. A beautiful house had been built on the edge of the beach, cunningly utilising a World War 2 gun position as the core.The purchase complete, we caught the bus back to Corbiere on the southwest tip. The lighthouse draws the eye, but the gun positions concealed in the point are only given away by the observation tower that was number 3 in the network. This is Marine Peilstand 3 tower, or MP3 tower. A monument stands to the sinking of the fast ferry to St Malo on Easter Monday 1995, when a major operation was launched to save crew and passengers from disaster when the vessel struck rocks coming round the headland. 50 people were hurt, but there were no fatalities. We dwelled for a while on the terrace of the hotel perched on the cliff looking out to sea and had a latte. We admired the house opposite - a huge glass lounge constructed on to the original building gave a perfect view out to sea. If only there wasn't a bus shelter next to it! He should write to the Ministry of Bus Stops. It was time to seek out some football.

The big game of the day was up at St Ouen. The word on the street was that St Paul, their visitors, were by far and away the best side on the island and would therefore comfortably enjoy their afternoon in the north. Graeme Le Saux cut his teeth with them, before being whisked away to the bright lights of SW6. I pondered the game options in the Waitrose at Red Houses. The My Waitrose card worked the same as on the mainland, so a freebie hot drink was acquired with our sandwich. The supermarket prices on the island are rumoured to be significantly higher, but fortunately this did not apply to the Basics egg and mayo sandwich.The football grounds of Jersey outside of Springfield Stadium are best classed as under-developed. Fllodlights are a rare commidity. Seats in a stand, equally so. It was only a brisk walk past the end of the airport runway to find St Peters tucked in behind a garden centre. Floodlights no, but the neat little covered stand of red seats would not have looked out of place at a higher level and would certainly meet the needs of the Northern League. The ground was fully enclosed with adjacent training pitches and clubhouse and a large hedge protected the dugout side from the worst of the wind. A number sat in the cars parked around the perimeter to keep out the wind - I didn't count them in my attendance estimate. St Peters Reserves dominated and only the misjudgement of the wind, seemed to hold them back from the serious scoreline they eventually achieved. The strength of the wind made some expensive looking cars parked behind one goal look a little vulnerable to a wayward strike for goal. The 2 teams tried to play on their football on the ground, in what seemed a good natured match - no nasty fouls or crunching tackles. The ref had an easy game and found time to have a banter with his linesman for the day - a St Peters coach. I decided to relocate for another 2nd half across the road - it wasn't quite Dundee and Dundee United or MTK Budapest and BKV Elore, but easily achievable in the 15 minute break.

Appendix 1

Jersey Football Combination Division 1

St HelierSt HelierSt Helier

Elizabeth Marina
Peters Reserves 6 St Ouen Reserves 1

Date : Saturday 24th February 2018 @ 1430 Hours

Venue : St Peters Football Ground, La Rue des Vignes, St Peters, Jersey, Channel Islands

Attendance : 11

Additional photos below
Photos: 65, Displayed: 32


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St Helier

..view across the bay towards the west
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St Helier

Elizabeth Marina

.....WW2 bunker guarding the sands

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