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Leisure Cycling Blog

Cycling around Jersey: Part One

World War II Tank

Going offshore for the weekend...

Visiting Jersey has been on my travel wish list for a long time and I used to look at the Condor sailings from Portsmouth to work out a plan of getting there using the limited time I have when I go down to visit my family. The night sailing works out fine, but the long day crossing or return catamaran to Poole takes too long to be practical.

When I saw that EasyJet had a sale on back in June, I knew that I had to go. I just hoped that the weather would be better than my soggy cycle tour around the Scilly Islands!

I booked my flight to Jersey with EasyJet back in June as part of an early summer promotion for only £35 return. The only downside was that I would be flying from Liverpool in mid-October and I would have to cycle to Manchester Oxford Road train station from Rochdale at 0530 to make the connecting train to Liverpool South Parkway in time for the mid-morning flight.

Flying over Guernsey

Flying from Liverpool to Jersey...

The 1-hour flight over to Jersey was full and a mix of people going on holiday, residents of the island heading home from the ‘mainland’ and a loud hen party sat in the seats to the front of me. My time on the island was only short as I was returning on the afternoon flight the next day and I had a full-on cycling itinerary pre-planned to ensure I made the most of my weekend there.

Jersey is a small island under British jurisdiction measuring just 9 miles across and 6 miles long and has long been a popular tourist destination for British and European holidaymakers. In fact, the island is much closer to France as the French coast is a mere 14 miles away.

Liberation Square, St. Helier

England’s south coast is approximately 100 miles to the north and there is an evident blend of both cultures on the island from currency to road signs to architecture. Given the small geographical size of Jersey, it is an unlikely cycling destination, but in my opinion, the island is an excellent spot for leisure cycling.

Collecting my bike from Liberation Square...

After an airport transfer bus journey to reach the island’s main town of St. Helier just 4 miles away, I hired a bike from a local tourism company - Jersey Bus and Boat Tours located close to the historic Liberation Square and offer boat tours in addition to bicycle rental. I was pleased to see that the bike was a modern and well-maintained Raleigh Pioneer hybrid and would be ideal for covering many of the islands official and unofficial cycle routes.

Onwards around the island

I set off around 1330 and planned to explore the western half of the island on Saturday and then do a full loop of the island of Sunday before heading home in the evening. I had been reading up on the history of the island prior to my visit and decided that my main aim of the weekend was to visit all of the remaining German gun towers and defensive positions that formed part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ stretching from Northern Spain to Norway.

The only part of Britain occupied by the Nazis...

In a propaganda coup for the Nazi regime, Jersey and the surrounding Islands were the only British territories occupied by Germany during World War II and life during the Occupation became progressively tougher.

Once the British government had decided that the Channel Islands held no strategic importance and wouldn’t be defended early on in the war, Germany launched an invasion from occupied France in 1940 with almost no resistance. The 5-year occupation brought in a series of draconian laws on Jersey’s residents that even criminalised cycling two abreast.

St. Aubin's Bay

With these thoughts in mind, I left St. Helier by following the smooth, promenade cycle path along the route of the old railway line alongside St. Aubin’s Bay. The weather was lovely and warm with great views over the English Channel.

I couldn’t believe that after leaving drizzly Rochdale only a couple of hours before, I was cycling on a beautiful cycle path in glorious sunshine heading out towards the lighthouse at Corbiere.

From Corbiere and along the 'Five Mile Road'...

Each tower is unique to Jersey and wasn't replicated elsewhere in Europe. A giant hulk of concrete towering over the Channel that has an almost robotic form is perched on the rocky cliff edge. Each 16-metre tower is formed of a smooth curve and despite getting battered by the elements far more than in battle, they are extremely well preserved.

Incredibly, 10% of all the concrete used in the Atlantic Wall construction project was set in Jersey. The island became a fortress for both outsiders and residents. No escape was possible for the locals. No surrender wasn’t an option for the occupiers.

Overlooking the Channel

I cruised along the ‘Five Mile Road’ next to St. Ouen’s Bay which has one of the most impressive beaches I have seen in a long time. Large waves with the full power of the Atlantic crash against the exposed shoreline that is ideal for surfing.

I’d never thought of Jersey as a surfing hotspot like I would Cornwall and there was certainly a disproportionately high number of Volkswagen camper vans zipping around the island. This is always a tell-tale sign of a place being a surfing magnet!

St. Ouen's Bay

As I rode up the coast, I started to climb over hillier roads to St. John. Since leaving St. Helier, I had been following the number 1 cycle route that loops around the island for 40 miles, but took a detour off the route down to St. Lawrence at the village to visit the vast German Underground Hospital.

Jersey Royal Potatoes

Visiting the Jersey War Tunnels...

As the weather was forecast to be nice all evening and the sun was getting lower in the sky, I decided to head underground to make the most of the sunshine predicted for Sunday. I only had time for one museum visit and this was the one to go to.

Jersey War Tunnels

The German Underground Hospital was hollowed out of the landscape by thousands of prisoners of war drawn from other parts of Nazi-occupied Europe. Today, it is one of the best-preserved Nazi built structures in Europe and is a permanent reminder of Jersey's war story.