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Title: The Islets of the Channel

Date of first publication: 1858

Author: Walter Cooper Dendy (1794–1871)

Date first posted: Dec. 30, 2014

Date last updated: Dec. 30, 2014

Faded Page eBook #20141258

This ebook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Cindy Beyer & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net





  “We have the greatest pleasure in recommending the elegant and

laborious work of Mr. Dendy.”—Times.


  “Drawn with fancy and elegance.”—Athenæum.



A Discourse on the Birth and Pilgrimage of Thought.






Illustrated by 45 Woodcuts.

  “We are delighted to join Mr. Dendy in his trip.”—Athenæum.





















“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”—Endymion.



Described and Illustrated from Sketches on the spot

by the Author.









From Southampton (Mail), Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11 p.m.

Fare from London, 1l. 11s. and 1l. 1s.

  "        "   Southampton, 1l. 1s. and 14s.

From the Islets on same days, at 8 a.m.

Other Boats, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Return from the Islets, hour uncertain.

Fare from London, 1l. 5s. 6d., 17s., and 11s. 6d. Steward, 2s. and 1s.

  "        "   Southampton, 16s. and 11s.

Half-fare for children from two to twelve.

Return tickets, 1 Month, 45s. and 35s.

From Weymouth, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 8 a.m.

Return Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at 7 a.m.

Other Boats, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at half-past 8 a.m.

Return Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at half-past 7 a.m.

Fare from London, 1l. 11s. and 1l. 1s.

Boat from Jersey to St. Malo’s, in 3 to 5 hours, Tuesday about noon.

Boat to Granville on Saturday.

Excursions from Jersey to Sark and Alderney and round the Islet.

In Guernsey, chiefly French money: Jersey, chiefly British. Chief circulation in Island one-pound notes. 12 British shillings equal to 13 Jersey.

Hotels of all grades. Lodgings in town-houses and garden-villas. Poultry and Fish cheap, especially in Guernsey. Tobacco and Tea moderate. Milk plentiful, even in many cottages.

Wine, per doz.:—Port, 18s. to 40s. Sherry, 18s. to 36s. Madeira, 50s. Marsala, 15s. Claret, 16s. to 75s. Burgundy, 30s. to 55s. Champagne, 30s. to 60s. Mountain, 20s. Hock and Moselle, 35s. to 55s. Muscat, 25s. Chablis and Barsac, 20s. Sauterne, 12s. to 15s. Grave, 18s. Champagne Brandy, 49s.

Horses, 6s. or 7s. a-day. One-horse carriage, 8s. Two-horse carriage, 12s. to 15s.

Table of Contents

1. Alderney.

2. Guernsey.

3. Sark.

4. Jersey.




It was in the tenth century that the French King, Charles IV., granted to Rollo the Pirate, who had married his daughter, the Dukedom of Normandy, together with the islets of “the wide bay of St. Michael’s;” a guerdon for his conversion to Christianity. When William, the descendant of Rollo, won the field of Hastings, the islets became an appanage of Britain, by the right of being conquered, and so they remain to this day politically subject to Britain, although geographically a parcel of France. The discovery of Roman, Celtic, Runic, and Gallic relics and coins, and the ruins of temple and fortress throughout the islets, reflect their history on the olden time. Jersey, it seems, was the isolated retreat of Ambiorix, a rebel to Julius Cæsar, if we rightly interpret the sixth book of the “Commentaries.” These Norman rocks, however, have not been held unchallenged. The French descents date from Henry I., through the reigns of John—who established the “Royal Courts,” on a visit to the isles—of Edward I., Edward III., Henry VII., Edward VI., George II., and George III., but they were all failures, although Du Guesclin, who was commissioned by Charles the Wise, seized and held Mount Orgueil Castle. In the dilemma of “the Roses,” the Norman Pierre de Breze assumed the title of “Lord of the Isles” until the blending of these royal emblems. The last attempt was on Jersey, in 1779-80, by the Duke of Nassau, when Pierson fell in its successful defence.

During the joyous months of summer and autumn, this fair group of islets will become more and more attractive as the facility of communication increases, especially as they possess the elements both of the salubrious and the beautiful in a very high degree. Soft and health-breathing gales are wafted along their very lovely and bloom-spangled valleys; they are belted by magnificent cliffs, indented by sheltered coves and deep and darksome caverns, and by outlying rocks of the most fantastic forms, and they are enriched, moreover, by quaint and antique structures, emblazoned in remote history and romantic legend.

There is a charm, also, in feeling that they are our own, and that the genial atmosphere and the luscious fruits and the light wines of France may be so perfectly enjoyed without the inquisitorial annoyance of the system of Passe-porte.

There are hotels and lodging-houses adapted to the most economic purse, the direction to which may be learned on board; and the markets will supply all the delicacies an island appetite can desire. For the votaries of health and joy the islets are thus exquisitely fashioned by the bounty of the Creator, and the invalid and convalescent may with confidence adopt them as a resort, especially as the facility of sailing and boating on genial waters offers delightful recreation without the exhaustion of fatigue and the consequent evil of reaction.

The islets are fanned by southern breezes, yet the tidal currents in their rock-bound channels, often running seven knots in the hour, foam over the breakers in very wild magnificence. The floods of the Race of Alderney, Les Ras de Blansharde, between that islet and Cape la Hogue, and even those of the Swinge between the islet and the porphyritic rock of Berhou are proverbial, and in very foul weather the boat may roll and ship heavy seas in the passage of the Ortac within the crags of the Caskets.

Through the Race run the boats from the Thames: those from Southampton chiefly through the Swinge or the Ortac: those from Weymouth direct in the open channel to Porte St. Pierre in Guernsey, the most rapid and pacific course for the languid and the delicate.

The geologic arrangement of the islets is in three pairs. Jersey and Guernsey are inclined planes, shelving from magnificent cliffs to a flat beach studded with rocklets; Jersey trending southward, Guernsey northward; the granite rocks of Jersey enclosing one-half, those of Guernsey one-third.

Alderney and Serque are table-lands, raised on bases of rock; Alderney irregularly belted—Serque completely framed. Herm and Jedthou are mounds isolated by the waves. Satellite blocks and ledges are lying in profusion in the channels, some overwhelmed at high water. These groups are exquisitely bold in outline and deep and rich in colour, from the incessant play of wind and wave, the pencils and the washes with which elemental art is still heightening the wildness and the beauty of the creation.

The valleys and downs are prolific in bloom, and flowers of the brightest and deepest colours adorn the more cultivated parterres. In the deep, deep caverns, with which the cliff and the bays are darkened, sport in their almost sacred solitude the acephalæ and the actiniæ. In the watery bosom of the cave, the male syngnathus may nurse its infant brood in safety, and the delicate comatula unfold its feathery tentaculæ. In the hollow cups scooped in the granite and glittering with brine, the daisy actinia, that Clytie of the rocks so loving of the light, may unfold her enamoured florets to the sun. Then what profusion and what variety in form and colour of deep sea-weeds are thrown by the billows on the pebbles and the sand; a spot richer both in these cast-away treasures of the deep and in the living botany of the ocean, may not be found than the caverned bays of eccentric Serque.




This lies nearest to the shore of Albion, within its belt of shoals, and difficult of access in stormy weather, even in its new haven of Braye la Ville, or Brayer. The access was still more perilous in Crab Bay, or in the more ancient port of Longy. We are landed. How quiet the people, how social and primitive, how wedded to old customs. It is probable, however, that in a few years the harbour of Braye will display a busier scene, much of the sterile land of the Giffoine be fertilized, the petty farms multiplied, and the treasures of its fisheries realized: but Alderney will never be admired, for dulness reigns around, and the sea spray seems to excite cutaneous maladies, and the salt and fish diet to induce dyspepsia. There is, however, with its sterile aspect and its dearth of foliage, a prominent and novel character in Alderney. About its elevated centre is the quaint old ville of St. Anne, possessing a new church (the ancient fane being despoiled), a new court house, the Government house, the gaol, the female school, and chapels of dissent.

Of the ancient town on the south-eastern coast, of which the oblong granite blocks of Les Rochers, near the cemetery, are believed to be the debris, very solemn legends are recorded. Its destruction is referred to the judgment of the Deity on the crimes of a gang of wreckers, who plundered and murdered the crew of a Spanish vessel wrecked on the coast. This infliction, according to the record, had its parallel in Jersey.

The Court consists of judge, jurats, attorney and solicitor-general, greffier, sheriff, and his depute and serjeant.

The ecclesiastical history is not without interest, and there are seriously romantic legends of the mission of Geunal, Vignalor, or St. Vignalis, the patron saint of Aurigny. He was a scion of a noble family in Bretagne, a proselyte of St. Magloire, and he resigned his abbacy of Landenec, and became a missionary to Sark. From thence he wended to Alderney, and converted the catchers of fish and the tillers of ground, before this the most desperate wreckers in the Channel.

From the outlying rocks on the eastern height stands the ruined castle (La Chatte) of Essex, built, it is said, by Robert Devereux, for the detention of his queen. Below it, on the lower shore of Longis is a Roman cist, noted by Holinshed; and Castrum Longini. Les murs des bas, or the Nunnery, is a very antique square, with corner towers, constructed with the Roman tiles of the dilapidated ville. Here and also at Corbelets were discovered antique vessels and coins and relics, and monumental stones of porphyry and sienite.

On the coast heights there are batteries and watchtowers and beacons, and a telegraph for Guernsey, all dismantled in time of peace.


The coast is one of the wildest belts of cliffs and rocklets; those eastward of a line from Braye to L’Etat are of ruddy grit, those westward of porphyry or hornstone. The eastern group, more exposed to disintegrating forces, assumes the columnar form, or that of hanging blocks, as at Pendente; but the porphyry of the west is of the wildest fashion. Between these strata is a narrow black belt of hornblende and quartz, running north and south across the islet. On the south-west point is La Nashe Fourchie, the cones of Les Rochers des Sœurs, and the secluded Chaise de l’Emauve, the Lovers Chair, a record of the passion of Jacquine Le Mesurier for one far lower than herself in rank. Of this romance the story and catastrophe are just as interesting as the common run of these love tales. Below the ridge of the Giffoine there is the bold Tête de Jugemaine, and the fine bays of La Platte Saline and La Clanque. On its outlying rock is still celebrated on the first Sunday in Lent, by youths and maidens, the ancient festa of Les Brandons, the wild gambols being peculiar to the islet. After dancing in the ring and kisses round, the corps de ballet return to Braye in procession, waving aloft their blazing firebrands, displaying all the wild gambols of Comus. The islet is most exposed; it is therefore bracing, yet the Cape Alctris and other exotics thrive in the open air. About Longis and La Clanque a profusion of fuci and algæ is thrown on the shore. The Haliotis and Trochus shells lie on the beach, and myriads of the strombiformis on the sterile ground.


In her course from England, whether in the open channel or in the Ortac, the boat closes on the Caskets. From the Weymouth course these lie off eastward. The water is twenty and thirty fathoms deep around these white sand rocks, which are about a mile in circuit, and have two landing-places, with steps in the rock, accessible in calm weather. The approach is perilous in a storm; and it was off the Caskets that in 1120 Prince William, the only son of Henry I., was drowned. The platform is walled and surrounded by three light-towers at triangular points. The sea block of Ortac and the rocklet of Berhou lie between the Caskets and Alderney, the latter rock being the resort of the Stormy Petrel, the Barbalot, and the burrowing bee, one of the most interesting little things in entomology. From this rock the peep at Alderney is picturesque.

We are nearing the little Russell Channel, and surrounded by blocklets: another of the sister islets is looming in the distance.




Passing between the point of Vale and Herm, we are directly off the harbour of St. Peters Port, its fort of Castle Cornet crowning an isolated granite rock, southward of the pier, which now connects it with the shore, and forms the harbour of refuge. The coup d’œil assumes a perfect Norman aspect, and the costume, dialect, and manners are in just harmony with the scene. The marine quarter of the “town,” as it is par excellence termed (and indeed there is no other in Guernsey), especially the old church, the hotels, and wineshops, of dark grey stone, with which the quay is lined, is perfectly continental. The shops and offices, of more modern aspect, compose the streets; the dwellings of the opulent, among which Castle Carey is conspicuous, are chiefly on terraces along the abrupt escarpment; Elizabeth College, the modern church, and the Victoria Tower, by the cemetery, on the new ground, being the most prominent public objects. The old church on the quay, dating about 1120, is crucial, the interior being darkened by its massive columns and heavy galleries.

The marble slabs of the fish-market are profusely supplied with choice fish—turbot, dorey, and very fine crustacea; and the stalls teem in the season with the treasures of Pomona.

The education at the College is economical, about £12 per annum; the cost for living with the Principal not exceeding £60.

The influence of this facility of learning will enlighten the minds even of the unlettered islanders, among whom there is a prevalent superstition. The belief in witchcraft may still be discerned, although it is now two centuries since women were tortured, hung, and burned under this demoniac creed.

The scenic quality both of the interior and of the eastern and northern coasts of Guernsey is mere prettiness. On the south, however, from Fermains Bay to Rocquaine it is buttressed by some of the most magnificent rocks in the Channel, the land gradually descending from them northward. The coast rocks on the east, south-east, south, and south-west, from Saline to Rocquaine, are of gneiss, those of Rocquaine are of schist, and thence they are granitic.

A line from Vagon Bay on the west through Catel to Amherst cuts the islet into two unequal parts, differing in geological character. Much of the bed of the northern portion is alluvial; some, indeed, embanked from the sea by General Doyle. The southern is a more elevated platform, and consists of a series of undulating hills, and sloping bosky lanes, and little glens with rippling runnels, until the highest downs dip at once into the waves their magnificent gneiss cliffs, rounding into beautiful bays, embossed with outlying rocks, and worn into clefts and fissures, or running up into exquisite little dingles. This magnificence is confined to the south; the sea and coast views, however, to the east, are finely backed by the islets of Herm and Jedthou, and the more distant ridge of Serque.

Guernsey is an easy study; it may be coasted and threaded, and its objects of natural and archæological interest analysed, in four or five days. In calm weather, however, the cliff beauty of the islet may be contemplated more perfectly from a boat, surveyed from Fermains Bay to Les Hanois.

The coast from Port St. Pierre to St. Sampson is flat, and studded with rocklets, on which loads of vraich and laminaria and asperococcus are profusely strewn. These algæ are gathered and dried for fuel, at the legal harvest time, in March and July, the harvest home being profusely supplied with vraich cakes and bread. The digging and blasting of the quarries of black stone, and the tiny windmills that drain these excavations, give life to the scene as we approach St. Sampson’s.

Martello towers crown several of the brows, and there is within very old walls to the left a little remnant now styled Ivy Castle. It is not worth the visit, although it is a bit of a castle, built by Robert of Normandy, contemporary with that of Jerbourg.

We are close to the archæological gems of the islet,—the churches of St. Sampson and Braye la Ville, or du Val, within a mile of each other, at each end of a flat alluvial isthmus. The first is dated 1111, its name being derived from Sampson, Bishop of St. David’s, consecrated Bishop of Dol under the Duke of Brittany, and endowed with these islets by Childebert of France. He came to Guernsey, and built a chapel here. There are three aisles, with massive pillars and Norman arches; the old gallery-loft and the tower are in exquisite antique. It is profusely covered by most luxuriant ivy with enormous stems.

The steeple of Braye du Val, dated 1117, is very eccentric, immense granitic blocks lying before the belfry-door.

At low water we cross the harbour of St. Sampson’s, Vale, or Du Val, on stepping-stones. The Castle on the mound was erected as a defence against the incursion of the Danes, and then called St. Michael’s, or the Castle of the Archangel. There is a legend imputing its erection chiefly to a band of military monks, who, in a sort of holy pilgrimage, made a descent on the islet.

A Druidical carn lies on the hill, half a mile northward on the left of the road. There are twelve upright and three immense horizontal stones. The largest of these, fifteen feet long and a yard thick, rests on four uprights, the second only on two, the third on the second and the edge of the pit, so that six uprights are unoccupied. From this brow there is a perspective view of the chief objects in the islet, Alderney lying on the horizon to the north-east.

Forts Doyle and Pembroke are on the northern point on either side of Lancresse Bay, the bay of “Anchorage,” in which the Duke of Normandy landed in a storm, as he was sailing over to England to Edward the Confessor.

The shores and bays are here flat and dull; as we leave the Race Course and pass Portinger and Long Port, the upheaved blocks of gneiss increase in number and proportion. In Cobo Bay stands Le Grande Roche; its veins of rose-coloured feldspar are unique. Here and there we have picturesque glimpses—one of the flat islet of Lihou, once hallowed by a priory built in the reign of Henry I., the grouping of cots and walls still in bold relief. The outlying rocklets are profuse between Le Grand Havre on the north and the bold blocks of Les Hanois or Hanoreaux off Pleinmont Point, the west corner of the islet; they completely stud the bays of Port du Fer, Saline, Long Point, Great Cobo, Vazon, Perelle, Le Rie, Rocquaine, the widest bay in Guernsey. It was in Vazon Bay that the Spaniard Yvon de Galles descended and fought the battle in which the islander Jean de Lesoc performed feats of great valour. The site of this conflict is still named La Bataille.

In contrast to this record of history is a fairy legend. In this bay of Vazon was “Les Creux des Fées,” a cavern haunted by the little people. Why and when and how we know not, but they conquered Guernsey!

A sterile sameness reigns around Pleinmont Point and Mount Herault and Creux Marie, a cavern 200 feet deep, and Le Corbière, until we reach Point la Maye. In the vicinity are the old village churches of St. Peter in the Wood, of the æra of Henry II., 1167, and Torteval, still more ancient, of the æra of Henry I., 1130, which was erected by Philip de Carteret and dedicated to his Saint, Philip, after a vow during a storm in Rocquaine Bay. There is the menhir stone in a meadow by one of the lanes.


The highest peak of the islet is the perpendicular cliff eastward of Maye Point, rising to 300 feet—with offset rocklets and caverns or slits in perfection. After the steep descent to the north-east into the little cove of Petit-bôt, we mount abruptly to a very fine brow, Mount Hubert, the name associated with the chase, and as we are now in the district of Le Forêt, we may believe that we are on the site of sylvan sport in the olden time. The dingle over which we look to the elevated church of Le Forêt, on the opposite brow, reminds us of the ravines of Devon or Man, the road winding in zigzag down a very deep valley with a rippling streamlet at its side. We are now on the brow over Icart Bay, the wildness and breadth of its waters spread out far below us. The sienite rocks are finely chaotic, exactly grouped for the pencil, and among the best studies in the islets; and around us we may discover very luxuriant patches of lichen—among them the Roccella Tinctoria, or Orchel, to which we owe many a bright olive dye and the litmus paper so essential as a test. Another descent to eastward brings us to the most exquisite little cove, Saint’s Bay; the huts and nets and grouping of fishermen are on a ledge of the rock, adding life to the otherwise solitary scene. The martello tower that was to guard the descent of the gorge, like a Border peel in Scotland, is properly perched to carry off the cliffs. Crossing Bon Point, the most fantastic outlying rocks of Muel Huet at once arrest the eye; disintegration has left them at present almost as caricatures. Leaving St. Martin’s on our left, the high brow of Jerbourg rises eastward, on which there is a lofty column to the memory of General Doyle. It is the finest point for a panorama of the isles; Herm and Jedthou beneath us, Serque and Jersey extending their long grey ridges in the distance. The lines at Fort George commanding the road and the port are dismantled; from the eastern bastion we gain a very fine bold view of the harbour and Castle Cornet, with the eastern coast to the Castle of du Val, Alderney, lying on the horizon. And so we accomplish the coast route of Guernsey.


It is early evening in summer: wandering in the interior of this floral islet, we are directly surrounded by pretty quiet hamlets and homesteads: the abrupt lanes are lined and feathered by underwood of very luxuriant yet dwarfish growth. The little gardens are glowing with flowers, and they, as if to shame the forest by a contrast, attain a gigantic height, their colours being exquisitely deepened into perfect beauty. The tree verbena rises twenty feet; camellia, oleander, myrtle, aloe, cystus, blue hydrangea, fuchsia, geranium, magnolia, all blooming profusely in the open air; amaryllis, the Guernsey lily, being here unparalleled. The heliotrope overruns its bed in the wildest luxuriance—a carpet of the richest dyes more beautiful by far than the cloth of gold of Hindustan, and on which Flora might well hold her Court of Blossoms—and the canna indica is now a denizen in the islet. And here on the brow is the village of Catel, looking down and across the flats to Braye. The antique church of the twelfth century, frowning in dark stone, adds subject of high interest to the bright landscape around us. And look at that eccentric daub within it—three knights on horseback with falcons, and three skeletons lying on the ground. It is somewhat tempting to hatch a legend, but we refrain in pity, especially as the ovum is addle. There are, however, real records of the ceremonial magnificence with which these islet churches were consecrated, that are truly entitled to a remembrance. Bishops and abbots and feudal lords, with their trains of vassals and servitors, were wont in days of old to take, we hope, a holy pride in assembling to grace the consecration with their state. Still more fanciful is the romance of the Well of St. George, near Catel, which is fraught with a very potent charm. St. George beats St. Valentine hollow; for a maiden has merely to make a votive offering to this Saint at his well nine days in succession, and lo! if she looks then into the well, she not only sees her lover, but may claim him as her right. So he becomes a Benedict will he nill he.

From the slopes as we walk are the home peeps down the lanes and across the dingles, with the church of du Val, and a windmill, and an arch, and the martello of Crevelt, composing pictures of quiet beauty; and amid such fair scenes we wander along to St. Peter in the Wood, and St. Sauveurs (near which is the Beacon Hill, La Hogue foque,) and St. Andrew, all consecrated by ancient fanes that claim the era of Henry II.

And there in the hall of an old manor house—for we are bold in our peregrination, and assume all the invasive liberty, the freemasonry of curiosity—there, in the hall, we look on a large couch covered with dry grass, fern, and heather; and what doth it import? It is the Lit de Veille. On this bed, during the dreary evenings of winter, assemble the maidens and youths of the isles, and there they sit and huddle or recline often beneath festoons of autumnal or dried flowers, and beguile the hours with song and chat, and thrifty needle too, forming a group worthy of the pen of Boccaccio or the pencil of Watteau.


Are lying along in a lake of molten gold, for so smiles the Channel in a calm evening of July. We are rowed across with sketch-book and wallet and hammer.

Jedthou—Grande Hogue—as it was a famous beacon-hill or watch-tower, is not more than a mile long, offering fair rock subjects for the pencil, with its satellite blocks, Fauconnière, Goubinier, and Crevisou, for every block has a name.

Herm is two miles in length, and is deeply quarried. Rabbits are burrowing among its rocks, and very small crustacea lie profusely around its shore. But there to the north is spread its carpet of sand and its shell beach, on which we may chance to gather very choice specimens: for instance, chiton, lepas, pholas, solen, tellen, chama, cypræa, voluta, haliotis, murex, and sponge and coral. It is a treasury of wrecked shells; probably among the granite there is a lack of lime for the construction of shell, so as to yield a profusion of living shell-fish.

On such a night, and the currents calm, we may row across the Channel by moonlight to Port St. Pierre, as safely as we may float in a gondola across a lagune in Venice. The moon has lighted on our slumber, and at the earliest sunbeam we start from our couch, and we are looking on a long amethystine ridge just coming out of the morning haze, and thither are we bound.




This exquisite little islet is lying before us, eight miles off; yet we may often gaze on it with longing eyes, even from the pier in Guernsey, with boats of all kinds, even the Lady (cutter) of Sark floating around us, without a hope of landing on its guarded rock.


Now this little Serque was the cell of St. Magloire, an Armorican or Brittany bishop, and here he prayed and fasted himself into fitness for the conversion of the Channel islets. This cell, in the reign of Edward III., was still a ruined relic, and the islet was then a nest of corsairs: it still assumes a sort of wild or neutral aspect. In the reign of Edward VI. or that of Mary, the Flemings took it by stratagem, but in 1565 it was securely colonized by Hilary or Helier de Carteret, Lord of St. Ouen’s, under a grant from Mary and from Elizabeth of fief en Hubert, a guerdon for knight’s service. There are monumental stones indicating its association with the Britons, and the Romans we believe were not ignorant of Serque. The plan of this little gem is highly eccentric: a table-land, four miles long, two miles its greatest breadth, and five feet! at the narrowest, spread on a majestic pile of rocks deeply indented with bays and coves and clefts, and fringed by groups of rocklets and ledges, in all the fantastic fashioning of the elements. These outposts, by increasing the difficulty of access, impart a deeper interest to the islet, scarcely alloyed by the slight sense of peril, for we are confident of being safely wafted, D. V., by the superior skill of the Serque boatmen, even among breakers and conflicting currents, into the tiny cove of Le Creux. So our Lady of Sark is safe at her moorings, and we are rowed into this puddle of a harbour, completely overhung by perpendicular cliffs, 200 feet high, and richly clothed with velvet mosses and lichens, a complete study for Salvator or our own Pyne. This is the only point for landing in certain states of current or surf, although in very calm weather there is an available cove to eastward, and the daring may be run ashore in the bays. But even from this beach we have no natural mode of escape. A tunnel in the cliff opens by an arch, over which is the date 1688, the year of its construction by the Carterets; and so we walk out and up between green hills chequered with heath and rock, with triumphant pride at thus carrying the mighty earthworks which the Gnome and the Triton have raised around their granite home. And so we seek our hostelry, and find it in a capital farm-house, and we are soon engaged with Madame Vaudin in a cosy chat, in which come out, so unexpectedly, records of our lamented friend, Sir John Franklin, who years ago sojourned in our very chamber, and slumbered within those green curtains; and all this while the fish and the ducks and the puddings, bathed in exquisite cream, are being prepared for our luxurious and most economic feasting. And then, in the kitchen, we discuss the statistics, the poetry, and the government of the islet with this ancient, clever dame. Of this it is enough to record, that there are about forty yeomen, tillers of the land, in Serque, the magistracy of the isle, quite a Venetian Senate; one of whom, we believe, may try a cause, subject, however, to an appeal to the forty, and to the Seigneur or Lord of Serque, who is of course their president. They are their own law-makers, not subject to the enactments of our legislature, exchequer, or customs; the only duty paid to England being a sort of quit-rent of £2 per annum.

Our hostelry is in the pretty village of Dixcard, a few scattered houses forming the ville of Le Vorsque, the chief rendezvous of the Serque islet, nearly in its centre. The dingle runs nearly across the islet, winding for about a mile between lofty brows down to its bay, and may form a line for our promenading—the northern and the southern walk. The beauties of the coast of Serque, however, should be revelled in; they are worth more than a glance and away, and after a rapid survey of two days, we may wander away in any direction from our central roost, and be sure of descending in a score of minutes to some beauty of the rocks, some cove or block or boutique, the names of which, though sadly mutilated by the islanders, we will essay to record.

Our first walk is by the church and the scattered ville of Roselle and the Seigneury to the northern cape. This house of the lord is in the Tudor style, and boasts a lake, a boat, a bowling-green, a flagstaff, and a belvidere, and parterres and greenhouses of choice and beautiful flowers; and it is near the head of a ravine leading down to the most exquisite cave of the islet.

And here we are on the promontory of Point le Nez, the first cape on our scud from Guernsey. The terminal rocks are insular at high water, but Le Bec du Nez may be reached on a ledge at ebb of tide. On the brow the schist blocks, traversed by porphyry, are upheaved in the wildest confusion, and assume an endless variety of form, more so than the shore blocks, which are washed and rolled and rounded by the waves. It is a fine wild range to begin with. The turf down invites us even to an Olympic race, for the pure air elevates both the will and the power of our frame. We feel our muscular energy almost grow upon us, and when we have revelled on the turf, then down among the white, smooth rocks that lie scattered around in chaotic rudeness, like the thrones of Titanic nobles. But prolific nature has gemmed these blocks for a more charming study than mythological fancies; there is a garden of lichens strewn for our special admiration on their surface; there are the golden studs of squammaria, and the grey and purple bosses of parmelia; and if we peep between these stone giants, we shall light on many a lovely flower and rich green plant, blooming and luxuriating within little nooks, and nursed by their genial shelter. The scolopendrium and hart’s tongue are long and broad in leaf, and the grammitis expands its fronds in profusion; and here we breasted one of the most violent gales of the Channel, not without some peril, for it was often difficult to hang on; but the wind blew into us such a joyous and refreshing energy and power that this clinging to the rocks was no labour. Our sketch-book was not so fortunate, it was whirled from our grasp in a moment, and dashed against a towering block. We rushed wildly to save our treasure, but four or five of our favourite sketches were wafted in a few seconds high up among the clouds, imparting a deeper value to the salvage.


Ascending the ledge to the eastern side of the Corbie du Nez or Grin, we come abruptly on a yawning cleft that nearly isolates the cape itself. Its aspect is formidable but its descent is easy, and it leads down to the mouth or funnel of the largest cave in the islet, La Boutique, par excellence. To reach an inner cave a barrier must be mounted. At high water, the billows, after dashing on the shore cliff, rush in with a thundering sound at two chasms on the north and west. At low water the inner boutique may be entered with a light; it is lofty, and on its surface there are a few stalactitic droppings and a sprinkling of ferns. There are smaller caverns in the cliffs. We come out on the broad bay of Banquette, and in the little cave to southward stand out in the most fantastic beauty the finest outlying rocks in the islet, Les Autelets—little altars: in complete contrast, however, one being a stupendous cube of Grauwacke on a very narrow base, the other a huge pyramid, on the ledges of which a flight of choughs and shags settle and roost in the evening. The overhanging cliffs are nearly perpendicular, and along their base lie around in heaps the most gigantic blocks of very variegated stones, black, red and grey; and unlike the angular blocks on the hills they are mathematically rounded off by the attrition of the waves. Among these rocks are deep pools of water, in which we may discover small crustacea, and rich varieties of the daisy actinia, the nereis, and holothuria, and other anthozoa. There is one flaunting in bright orange, and yonder crawls the hermit crab that seems to have perforated an actinia within a shell, the tissue of the anemone forming a ring round the crab. Many of the blocks are richly clothed with fucus spiralis (bladdervraich) and crithmum (samphire) in all their splendour of gold and bronze. We must be wary, however, in paddling over these slippery carpets, a fall from them is not a trifle. Chondrus membranifolius, and pink and green polysyphonia and dasya are hanging on the cliffs, and the ulva and porphyra, oyster-green, and purple laver on the deeper rocks. The blocks are studded with minute univalves, and the patella shells of the limpet show like bosses on a shield.

Through a splendid arch of dark reddish sienite, marked by horizontal lines of schist, standing nobly out from the cliff, we pass into the next bay, the most magnificent in Serque, Porte Meullin. It is a deep wide cave, overfrowned by cliffs of clay shale 300 feet high, that come down perpendicularly on the beach. On their sides and brow zigzags are cut, by which the summit is gained, and from it we look down on the most splendid grouping of the islet. A cleft on the south side of Port Meullin sets off an isolated rock of very quaint form, and leads to another fine cave with chaotic blocks and pools, a lofty pinnacle towering above the cleft, and a wide cavern yawning in the islet rock. These rocks are bronzed by masses of golden gelatine, laminaria bulbosa, and fucus canaliculatus.

Among these ferruginous blocks, talc and asbestos and agate chalcedony, green, red, and yellow jasper may be discovered, and veins of lapis ollaris running across the islet.

During the western gales—and we now encountered one of the most determined violence—the waves roll into Port Meullin a profusion of the most magnificent algæ or weeds that we have beheld. In a few minutes we selected and displayed on the pebbles half a score of splendid specimens, a complete museum of sea treasure. There was a gigantic flag, six yards long, of rich sienna brown with a fringe of pink, covered with white spots, laminaria saccharina, or sea hanger. There were the fleshy fans of nitrophyllum; long brown ribbon slips six or eight in a bunch, asperococcus and rhodomenia; bunches of golden pods or bladders at the end of narrow leaves, fucus spiralis; huge bunches of broad reddish leaves, like those of the oak, delesseria sanguinea; eight or ten ribbon thongs, six feet long, on a thick brown stem, laminaria digitata (they might be a cat-o’-nine-tails for the backs of the Nereids); filigree weeds of the purest pink and white, polysyphonia and dasya; very long, tough, gelatinous brown thongs in a bow, chorda filum, sea whip-lash, and the purple iridea. The heath brows over this lane are clothed in corresponding luxuriance. There were at least three species of erica, a profusion of spurges, aspidia, and asplenia ferns; ophioglossum, adder’s-tongue, and an adiantum, maiden-hair fern, and dwarf polypodium were springing from the stunted stems, and little tufts, like codium bursæ, green purse-moss, and all these among clumps of thrift and chicory, and dwarf thistles, and wild sage and spinach, and vaccinia. We could not light on the stramonium, wormwood, or canna indica, which we were told now grew wild in the islet.

Couleur de rose will ever gild our memory of Port Meullin. It was the scene of our first grand impression of the extreme beauty of Serque; but it was gilded by a sentiment somewhat beyond mere admiration. From another point, a very courteous gentleman left his islet villa, and his lady and his luncheon, and guided us to the descent, where a bevy of fair girls, in all the romance of elegant deshabille, were gathering weed and pebbles among the rocks. Charming! Look across from Port Meullin to Havre Gosselin; there is a green fissure in the cliff 200 feet in height, as if the rocks had quarrelled and fallen away from each other—it is the Moie du Mouton, and along it sheep are lifted to browse on the green down above.


And there on the right stretches the bold isolated rock, Brechou, or L’Isle de Merchant, a table of rich mould on a belt of flat rock. On its southern side yawns a very lofty chasm. We longed to pore into it; but the currents daunted even the boatmen of Serque. Round the point of Lionee opens the wide bay of Le Grand Grève, divided from the opposite bay by that most eccentric wall of rock 200 feet high and 6 feet thick on its ridge. This coupée, thus pared down for safety and for traffic, is chiefly of sienite or hornblende granite, traversed by a vein of porcelain clay, and it divides the islet into Great and Little Serk. This, perhaps prudent cutting down, has, however, shorn the guide-books of the high-flown epithets of “awe” and “terror,” which they affirm must strike the adventurer from Great to Little Serk. This peninsula, presq’île du petit Serque—wears a dreary aspect on its face; yet parterres of the most splendid ericas here and there adorn its soil—a little nest of cots and some scattered ruins of miners’ huts display a curious contrast of vitality and desertion. The southern point is the mining district; and though they have quite abandoned the search for ore, the superficial barrenness is perfectly consistent with mineral impregnation below. Our research for mollusca was more fertile in the pools about the southern point than elsewhere. As we round the point we come on a little bay, the avant courier of a splendid succession of coves and clefts on the eastern coast, and lying off this southern point peers up the bold rock L’Etat du Serq. Every brow on this deeply indented shore should be rounded and scaled and descended, as far as the worn or stony path can be traced, and then we look directly on the face of the cliff and into the caverns. There is one cave especially, called, we believe, Le Pot, as fine as can be imagined—the boldest feature of Little Serk, and on these rock-brows the lichens are in beautiful profusion, and the grey and yellow cetraria, and the fleshy sycophorus deformis.

We now come round to the eastern cliff of Coupée Bay, its extraordinary wall lifting up its causeway almost in the clouds. Beyond, the next headland opens on us the fine bay of Baleine, or Dixcard, the holiday spot of the islet. It is carpeted by white sand, on which small boats may be pushed in calm weather; it is the bathing-place of the visitors, whose half-mile walk from the hotel is chiefly on the greensward, and there is an arched cave in a pinnacle for our disrobing. Every step on this bold shore displays a fresh picture.


Le Creux cavern, a great hole 100 feet deep, and opening above on the hill, yawns on the beach. At high-water a boat can be pushed into this cauldron, which is a perfect miniature of the famed Buller of Buchan in Scotland. Point Vignette, La Terrible, or La Conchée, lifts its proud pinnacles beyond this. Les Burons and La Moie lie off the cliffs. Then comes a black ridge, looking like porphyry, termed, we believe, La Chateau. It bounds the only little cave, L’Eperquerie—Paregorois—Port Gourey, in which boats may be sheltered and moored. Into this caverned cave of green velvet it was our fortune to descend during one of the severest gales, the rolling foam beautifully contrasting with the black-green rocks. The small boats were dancing high on the liquid mountain, and even the cutters and a lugger were rocking and dipping their bows in the water, and yet at the time the water in this cave, and in Creux also, was the calmest around the islet. The group of fishermen below us on a rock-ledge were seemingly in dilemma for ourselves. It was a most perilous footing; so boisterous was the blast around the rocks, that we were compelled to cling to the rocks, and several of our hapless sketches were wafted aloft in a moment. The sailors seemed to think us wild, and to wonder how and whence we came, and, indeed, why we came at all; and yet this was what we hoped to see—a calm would have tamed the scene down to insignificance. Close to the landing-place and the off-lying rock it is all perfect studies. We have La Chapel de Meuve, a square block of pendant granite, as if momentarily about to fall. The range of rocks on the eastern coast consist chiefly of sienite. We have now well-nigh rounded the islet of Serk, a complete embarras de richesse; one glimpse of these rocks taken at random were worth a day’s journey.

Hark! amid the howling of the wind there is the scrape of a fiddle—shade of Straduarius, a cremona in Serk! A band of wandering minstrels are wind-bound in the islet, and in sympathy they are about to invoke Terpsichore in a stable-loft, approached by a narrow mud path, beneath a dripping hedge and a muck-heap! And there is the fair, the fairest maid in Serk, Fanny, of whom it is the fashion to talk, flirting in very accomplished style, raising flames of jealousy among the juveniles who resort to Mrs. Hizzlehurst’s hotel. It was a very fair bit of romantic burlesque, and took.

We are in Serk four days more than we had contemplated; the pressure of harvest binds us in the islet; all hands to the sickle and the sheaf. Boreas, however, had the credit of our imprisonment; yet we regret it not—almost every waking hour was passed in contemplation of some fresh beauty. The bracing breeze of health, the complete retirement—solitude, if you will—the absence of all mere holiday intrusion, the instant transition from our hostelry into the midst of romantic beauty, to be admired or studied as the fit may work, and, withal, the order of domestic economy, all mark this little islet as the perfect home of the student who is reading or writing—of the romantic wanderer—of the artist—of the geologist—of all, indeed, who love to revel in wild and unspoliated nature.

Adieu! beautiful Sark, we shall not soon forget your perfection; adieu! for yonder lies the “Lady” of the islet, in whose bosom we are to be wafted off to Guernsey with the market-people who wend to St. Peter’s Port to replenish the exhausted stores of the islet. Romance itself must be fed, it cannot live on flowers: and so, at five in the morning, in bright moonlight, amid a bevy of visitors and a group of Serquois peasants, we have passed the portal of the rocks, and wait on the beach to be rowed to the cutter in the cove—wind, tide, and currents dead against us; so, to gain an offing, we make the tour of the island, and by a long tack of three miles run up the Great Russell and round Castle Cornet into the haven of Sarnia.

And now, still further southward, we are nearing the fairest islet of the Channel, and after the circuitous struggles of our voyage from Serque, with all the charm of contrast, we overcome time and space with almost a certainty of progression. We chuckle at this triumph of vapour over the gales, yet with time to spare, and with wind and tide and current in our favour—a very rare coincidence in the Channel seas—we would yet prefer to hoist our canvas, and skim leisurely over the glittering waves to Jersey.



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We have rounded the south-western point of the islet, and are floating into the wide bright bay of St. Aubin’s, steering by the western passage through the narrows between the bold fortress of Elizabeth Castle and the pier, and we wend at once to our hostelry at St. Helier’s.

This Jersey is an oblong islet, about twelve miles from east to west, by about seven or eight from north to south, extending from the Points of Sorell and of Noirmont, and those of Belle Hogue and Du Pas. It is completely escalloped by bays and coves and ravines, with their essential rocks and promontories, and belted with myriads of outlying rocklets of very eccentric forms, composed chiefly of sienite and porphyry. The five Points on the south coast—Corbière, Moye, Noirmont, Le Nez, and La Roque, being nearly in the same latitude. To these natural bulwarks the art of defence has added a circle of martello towers around the coast, and these are now so completely dismantled as even to embellish and add interest to the landscape; for they seem to tell of deeds and people of a feudal age, like the Border peels of the north. The three great bays of St. Ouen, St. Aubin, and Grouville, form the flat shores of the islet.

The area of the islet is about 40,000 acres; its population about 37,000. It is divided into twelve parishes—St. Helier’s, St. Lawrence, St. Peter’s, St. Brelade, St. Ouen, St. John, St. Mary, Trinity, St. Martin, St. Saviour, St. Clement, Grouville—and subdivided into about forty vintaines, an area containing twenty houses.

From each of these churches, which were held sacred as a sanctuary, there was in ancient times a direct road—Perquages—to the coast, by which the criminal might escape unscathed if he kept the direct line.

And these are the chief officers of the islet:—The military lieutenant-governor, the baillie, and the dean, appointed by the sovereign; the advocate, selected by the baillie, and the twelve judges, by the people.

As we step on the quay of St. Helier’s, or “town,” we look on quaint grey houses assuming a Norman aspect; but as we proceed to the interior we are reminded of an English market-town, with neat shops and new wine-houses. There are about 1000 houses in the town; its population being about 30,000.

In the royal square is the court-house, La Cohue, of the date of 1647, around which we meet loungers and gossips, especially during the sittings, and in the centre is a royal statue.

The public library was erected by Falle, the historian of Jersey, and contains a very fair batch of literature, and also the drawings of Capelin, a native artist.

There is a new prison, and a hospital, and a poorhouse.

St. Helier’s is prolific of temples of worship. Amidst French Protestant and Catholic fanes and conventicles, stands pre-eminent in the royal square the mother Church, 500 years old, and of pure Norman style,—a new aisle, in perfect harmony, being lately added. Very grotesque gargouilles and a profusion of ivy mark it as a very eccentric pile. The government stall and pulpit are ancient, and there are monuments and slabs to the memory of Carterets in 1767—Durel, Dauvergues, Gordon, and Pierson, the defender. The gallery stairs are outside the walls. The evening is devoted to the French service.

The several market-places, especially on Saturdays, are scenes of very lively interest. The produce of the Jersey gardens is most prolific, and sold at a moderate price. The grapes are pre-eminent, and the Chaumontelle pear has nearly attained the weight of one pound, and is often sold at five guineas per hundred. In the afternoon the market is a sort of fashion; but the grouping of the buyers and the loungers is not picturesque, the costume being chiefly the formal cut of England, or the sombre colours of Normandy. The colloquial language is a mingling of French and English: the children are taught both, but, whether in truth or in courtesy, several assured us that they preferred the English.

The votary of mere pleasure or the excitement of gaiety, must not sojourn in Jersey: out of the pale of select society St. Helier’s will be most monotonous; it will be indeed a complete blank, and he will quietly fly off to scenes more exciting though infinitely less healthful and happy, leaving beautiful Jersey to us, to those whom the Deity has endowed with a deeper feeling for the charms of Nature’s loveliness.


The visitation of the ancient and modern works around St. Helier’s is worth a day even to the superficial gazer. The eye of the archæologist and the artist is attracted at once by the bold fortress of Elizabeth Castle, isolated at high tide, but approached at low-water on the floor of the bay. Along a causeway track from the “Black rock,” on the shore, we wend with market-women at our heels, and meet a company of soldiers marching on some duty to St. Helier’s. We must not linger in our survey, as the tide will flow in four or five hours, often to the height of forty feet.

The castle stands amidst a group of schist rocks, about a mile in circumference. One of the outermost blocks is crowned by the remnant of a real hermitage, the cell of St. Helier, who was murdered in the ninth century by a band of Norman pirates.

The access to the stronghold is intricate and well planned for safety and defence. It was built in the seventeenth century. Amidst a profusion of modern and debasing architecture, look on the very curious gate-arch, on the ascent to the keep. Above a fleur-de-lis at the point of the ogee of the arch is an escutcheon in stone—the royal shield of Britain, crested by the red and white roses. Over the left feet of the supporters are the initials, E. R., of the maiden Queen, in whose reign the first stone was laid. On one of the arches is a circular disc, displaying daggers and a fret. To this keep Charles II., when Prince of Wales, fled for refuge, with his brother James and Clarendon, the islet of Jersey having declared for him, while Guernsey sided with the Parliament; and here Charles drew a new map of the island, and Clarendon penned part of his celebrated record of the Rebellion. In gratitude for its loyalty the King presented them with a gilt mace on the Restoration, and graced it with a Latin inscription.

Across a deeper water opens the capacious harbour, with its two piers, Victoria and Albert, which, especially in storm and tempest, is often crowded with vessels. The basins were now nearly destitute of craft; but acephalæ are floating around the piers. Crowning the high greenstone ridge above it, Mont de la Ville, is Fort Regent, a fortress, erected at the cost of a million, of stone from the quarry of Medo, on the northern coast. Its area is about four acres. It is bomb-proof, and commands completely the bay and the town. The view from its height compasses the bay of St. Aubin, the government house, the college, a mansion of modern Gothic, erected in 1846, after the Queen’s visit, and the south-eastern corner around St. Clement’s and Grouville, the Banc des Violets displaying a strange group of black blocks among the surf waves. At low tide the bay is a wide stone basin, carpeted with rock and weed. As we looked on it at high water, in an autumn sunset, it was a mirror of liquid amethyst.

On the brows around St. Helier’s many Druidical stones and tumuli have been discovered. The chief cairn, or Poquelaye, very complete, with its circle and alley, was revealed in 1785. It was removed entire by General Conway to Park Place at Henley.

And now there are three classes of subjects that are to be admired and studied in Jersey—the magnificent cliffs, the beautiful bays, and the fair natural garden of the interior, taking up the archæological relics in our way as choice morceaux of historic illustration, adding an interest even to the face of Nature.

In our visitation of the bay and the cliffs we thread the lanes and valleys, scenes of very contrasted excellence, like the picture of a fair beauty within a richly-carved frame. The scenic grandeur of Jersey is between Le Tac and La Coupé, the whole northern coast of the islet, and at the south-eastern corner, from Noirmont to La Rocca in St. Ouen’s, all exquisitely rich in rockwork. The coast from St. Helier’s to Gourey is a mass of button rocks. In the interior St. Peter’s displays the only Devonian valley. But throughout the islet there are very lovely spots, like those of Kent and Surrey, for our rambling, amid meadows enlivened by tethered cows and green hedge-rows, enamelled with flowers, often rich and rare, on which bees luxuriate and gather their luscious stores of honey, and dingles (the Val des Vaux is close to “Town”) feathered with petit, though very luxuriant foliage; but there are no gigantic woods of oak or beech frowning from uplands of chalk or sand. The descent to the caves, however, opens all around us, often with the heightening charm of unexpectedness, dingles of surpassing beauty, as wild as we can wish them. And to all this, the mere holiday folk may be wafted along the military roads of General Don, and they may be lifted from St. Helier’s to St. Aubin’s and to Gourey in public coaches. We, who come to woo Nature—for we love her with all the pure idolatry of a Thomson or a Davy—select the bye-lanes and the meadow paths. Yet even here we loiter not, although these garden meads of Jersey are the very choicest spots for the secluded rambles of lovers and the joyous festa of gipsying, especially when the warm south-west blows over the Atlantic.

But running water is well-nigh a blank in Jersey. As in all small islets, the rivulets are quiet little runnels rippling down from springs on the northern brow, and stealing south straight into the bays; the gulleys of Grève le Lecq and Boullay creeping northward. Here and there the runnels turn a little mill-wheel; and then, in our walks, we often stumble on an old church, and also on a venerable manor-house, of which there are about half a score in Jersey, St. Ouen’s, Rosell, La Hogue Boëte, &c. And now to compass the beauty of Jersey. The walks should be around and across the south-west and south-east corners, from Town to La Corbière, and to Gourey, the northern coast from Le Tac to St. John’s, and thence to St. Martin’s. A pony may carry us to any of the northern villes, from which we may reach the magnificent points of the northern coast, or a carriage may take us along the Devonian valley of St. Peter’s to St. Ouen’s, and await us at St. Martin’s, to bring us back to St. Helier’s, and, in this lovely valley of St. Peter’s, if we are fond of cryptogamic botany, let us thread the bosky cliffs of the glen, and on the stems of the wild rose find the finest tufts of the beautiful golden lichen, Borrera chrysophthalma.

High and low water display contrasted aspects, both equally perfect. At high tide, the full bays and havens, like gigantic mirrors, are resplendent with the reflection of their beautiful shores.

To the botanist, the geologist, and even the artist, low water is far more propitious, for the beach, cliffs, and rocks are profuse in weed and sea-flowers and pebbles and shells, and they thus give up their treasures for the seeking; the outlines and colours present a perfect charm for the pencil.

Let us be off in pursuit of these temptations, scramble among the rocks, creep round the bays, or into the caves; for, like the violet, much of the more enduring beauty of the creation lies hid in the deep shades of the earth.

We are about to make the circuit of the islet. It is high water, and we float over the wide bay to St. Aubin’s, or to Noirmont. It is low tide, and we walk round the shore of this marine crescent on the firm carpet of sand. (At a tiny rill at Doet de Demigrave there is a very sudden transition from firm to soft.) There a group of girls are disporting like Nereids among the waves. It is at full tide, and at evening hour, however, that the bay of St. Aubin’s is perfect to the eye; the setting sun is flinging the most gorgeous colours on the little slate rocks and the walls of the fort: the hue is gold, with a shadow of bronze, while the more distant walls of Elizabeth Castle are bronze with shadows of deep grey, a scene special for the eccentric brush of Turner.


From the brow over St. Aubin’s the view is splendid, overlooking the now poor, yet neat and secluded little village town, its petty haven, and its castle. We are at the entrance of a richly wooded glen, leading up to the peninsular hill (on which stands a tolmen stone), that dips southward to Noirmont, a ridge formed of sienite, rose feldspar, and thallite, striated at the point; ay, and we may gather a wallet-full of ferns—and there is one very rare, if not quite unknown, in England, gynogramma leptophylla. We may creep round the secluded Portelet Bay (enlivened by the Janerim towers or martello) from Noirmont to Point la Frette, or descend from the brow to the broad bright bay of St. Brelade’s, divided by a red rock ledge into two; the cliffs and rocks come out in great splendour, and the out-crops of the sienite groups on the hills are in the finest style. One enormous mass of blocks is a perfect specimen of Titanic arrangement; it looks primeval, antediluvian. It is richly covered by grey and yellow lichen, and deeply festooned with ivy and clematis, amidst the most luxuriant variety of heath-flowers, pink and deep purple, blended with the bright golden pods and deep green of the mountain furze. Around it are the green tufts of the protonoma moss and the adiantum, or maiden-hair fern, and myriads of the dwarf rose d’amour are studding the turf, and amidst all this floral profusion green lizards are creeping stealthily, their eyelets sparkling like diamond points amid the leaves—a perfect study for a Pre-Raphaelite. From the hills we descend to the white hard-soft sand around the crescent bay—it is a luxury to step on it.


The gem of St. Brelade’s is its very quaint little church, the parish fane of St. Aubin’s. It is perched on the edge of the Rock cliff, overwashed by the waves at spring tide, and surrounded by tombs and slabs on the velvet turf, and spotted with cypress. It is of the æra of Henry I., 1111, one of the twenty-five erected at that period, and its history bears a very romantic legend. It was to have been built eastward of the bay, but the fairies of the sward removed from their realm the work and tools of the masons for three successive nights, and dropped them at St. Brelade’s; and at length the people, in a panic, yet warned and directed by this deposit, erected their church on the spot which the fairies had thus selected. On the walls of an antique chapel the form of Herod and the angel Gabriel are rudely figured, and on a scroll from the mouth of the Tetrarch is inscribed, “Herod le Roy,” and before him is the Saviour, bearing his cross.

On the brow of La Maye is the signal-post, and off the cove of Beauport lie the Aiguillons rocks, and off the south-west point the rock of La Corbière, its apex painted white for a sea-mark. From the downs the views are complete.

An extensive district of this south-west corner, Les Quenvais, is a record of the devastation of the hurricane in the fifteenth century. In St. Ouen’s Bay, as in Loughneagh, in Ireland, it is believed that ruins of houses and walls are visible at low ebb. The village was overwhelmed, and all the people drowned, for decoying, by false beacons, some Spanish argosies that then foundered on the rocks. The wreckers plundered and plunged them into the deep. As they were by Bacchanalian orgies celebrating the anniversary of the wreck, the sea rolled in and overwhelmed the sinners and their ville beneath its waves.

And there spreads out its arc of nearly three miles the flat bay of St. Ouen, from the rock of La Corbière to that of Le Tac, or La Crevasse. The bay shore consists almost entirely of round hillocks of mica-quartz sand (the relics be sure of the avenging elements), profusely covered by long marine grasses, to the fine stems of which myriads of tiny univalves are adhering. The sea holly, eryngo, is in the most brilliant flowering; its blossom, of the purest cerulean blue, may rival in Jersey the brightest exotic of the greenhouse. The Great and Little Sandbanks lie off the bay, and nearer are the fine group of La Rocca, and the Gorden tower in the bight.

The quaint ancient church of St. Ouen is on the brow and close by the venerable manor-house, and there is a fresh-water marsh lake, La Mara. And here Sir Philip de Carteret was fishing in the olden time, when he was attacked by a French troop; but he escaped by leaping his horse over a chasm near La Val de la Charriere, the animal falling dead as he reached his home. A giant rock stands alone at Le Tac and La Pinnacle, 100 feet high at the extreme point, both very fine studies. A recluse may lodge at Le Tac, almost out of the world.

The road abruptly winds from the beach over the hill, and on the downs we are at the hamlets of Grosnez and Vincelez. Cape Grosnez, “the great nose,” points half a mile to the left, the boldest cliff of the islet. The rocks are of magnificent proportions, 300 feet deep, and almost perpendicular. The gate arch of the very ancient castle of Grosnez, its origin believed to be Roman, and the home of Le Carteret, in the æra of the Plantagenets, stands alone on its green platform. From it the whole group of islets to the north-west forms an exquisite little picture.

From the “Stone Plank,” lying across a deep rock ravine, a youth fell, and was washed to sea, in sight of his friends assembled at a pic-nic.

A flash, a peal—ay, all in keeping with the scene—the growl of thunder completely around and above us, and the lurid gleam flings a sort of spectral halo over the heavens. There are two intensely black clouds sailing in contrary currents towards each other, like destroying spirits. The flash from the Guernsey cloud charged highly electric streams over to that from Sark. Guernsey comes out in bright light for a moment, and then is lost. Sark is overshadowed, and looms out like a great purple wall, the chiselling of its cliffs and rocks, that a minute since showed like huge bastions and gables, is totally obscured. An awful position, if we linger here, and yet the mise en scène is most magnificent—sublime. The storm instantly bursts on Grosnez, and we brave its wild fury, to look forth on a glory from which Salvator, Loutherbourg, and Turner might have drunk in ideas of elemental majesty. A black and murky cloud settles round yon point of Pleinmont, a bold, caverned rock of sharp sienite, shaking with its thunder the old fort and drawbridge, and driving its flood across the bay of Grève au Laucheon, and far into its caves of gloom, 400 feet deep. One of those sudden transitions of electric storm brings out the brightest sunbeams, and we look across yonder rocky dingle two miles away on the beautiful cove of Grève la Lecq, with its barrack and hostelry. The sea is rolling gloriously at high water over the rocks of Les Deniers, its mountains of milk-white foam breaking on a floor of sand as white as they, and thundering on the deep umber rocks, embossed on the surface, and then rolling with a deeper roar into that yawning cavern on the western cliff. Towering over the shore of the bay hang stupendous cliffs, some 400 feet high. From the eastern mound over the Crab Caves, Catel de Lecq, we look up the two dingles which come down, rich in woodland, to the bay, just about an old grey martello: then by a mere turn on the heel we are directly on the verge of a magnificent cave, closed in by cliffs nearly 500 feet high, huge granite blocks strewed around their bases, and more seaward a belt of white sand and a beach of black pebbles. The scene is wild and rude as the Hebrides, and where the rolling surge on the beach meets the transient flood of a storm-cloud, it displays a picture almost as majestic as a sea-loch in Skye.


On the face of the cliff yawn two deep and dark caverns, to reach which at low water a ledge of rudest steps has been cut diagonally on the perpendicular face of the rock. The descent by this rock-ladder is no puerile feat. We are halfway down, and are checked by a block having fallen from the ledge. There was no turning, so there we lay on the side looking down over the perpendicular 200 feet on the black rocks in the cave. To fall or not to fall, that was the question: if we condescended to drop, that is, to descend rapidly, in obedience to the primal law of gravitation, a fracture of limb or neck was a certainty, and yet we deemed an ascent an impossibility; so as a dernier ressort, or rather a forlorn hope, we turned on the back, worked upwards half on and half off the cliff, when happily a wider ledge by six inches enabled us to turn, and then we stood erect in proud triumph, crowing like a bantam at our really narrow escape, and looked gratefully down on the frowning rocks thus cheated of “an awful catastrophe.” There is a grey kite, too, hovering noiselessly over our head. We wave him off majestically—we are not to be the prey of gleds and corbies be sure on’t.

Silence reigns around, a calm between the storms, save when the sea-bird flutters screaming along, or the beetle wheels around us his droning flight. But, hark! again—thunder is growling like a jealous gnome at our escape and our exalted enjoyment. Twice, indeed, we essayed to leave this accomplished spot, and lingered until the broad evening shadows began to deepen even the gloom of the storm-cloud, and we descend by two dismantled forts, their guns lying rusted on the turf. Les Pierres du lacqthe Paternosters—high above water on our ascent, are now lost in the deep.

The tempest was raging as we were driving down a wooded dingle. A flash and a crash in quick succession—the lightning has struck the rock: a huge block, several tons in weight, rolls thundering down the precipice, crushing trees to atoms in its downward course.

The driver of our carriage is scared from under the boughs and dashes down the valley like a madman. Poor fellow, he was neither a Franklin nor a Faraday; and not reflecting that the storm-cloud travels swiftly, he did not know that this very dingle was now the safest place in Jersey.

The villes of St. Mary and St. John are near us; their churches of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries.

In St. John’s, on its saint’s eve, was once celebrated in all its degraded perfection of orchard-robbing, cow-milking, &c., the wild marauding game of Faire brave les Poeles, a stain on the sporting annals of Jersey. It is now, we hope and believe, nearly obsolete.

The coast is still bold, and there are tiny cascades on the runnels close by, and a ruined mill somewhat picturesque. It is on this northern coast that the scenic contrasts of the islet are so exquisitely displayed. Not far from the verge of a cliff 300 feet high, we are in a leafy dingle, and look over the waters unconscious of our height. Yonder, a mile off, are the Pierres du lacq at low water; the front of Guernsey looming on the left, and Serk rearing its majestic wall of sienite on the right.


The granite quarries of Mount Mado are above the coast, and near the point of Belle Hogue there is a little twin spring of water that is believed to cure blindness, age, and dumbness—and this is the legend of the wells. These little founts were the tears of two fairies—for fays feel like ordinary mortals.—Well, Arna and Aruna were wont to gambol and to chant around the rocks of Belle Hogue. They were at length sanctified, and wafted to heaven by an angel; but the love of their Channel home was still warm in their little bosoms, and once, musing in melancholy mood on the delights of their Belle Hogue, and fluttering with longing hearts directly over the enchanting spot, each dropped a tear of regret on the earth, and from them two little fountains were instantly playing up the sparkle of their crystal drops.

From Belle Hogue to the bold round block of La Coupé, the cliffs are of breccia, or pudding-stone; the rest is chiefly schist, with veins of porphyry, especially about St. Martin’s and Roselle.

Trinity lies about a mile from the shore. In the old manor house, the home of the Carterets, are still preserved the goblet, table, and gloves, presented by Charles II. The lord of this manor presents two drakes before the sovereign who may be dining in Jersey.

Descending along a fine dingle, we open the wide bold bay of Boullay, the landing-place of Strozzi, the invader, in 1549. The panorama, enlivened by its beacon and its pier, is almost as beautiful as that of St. Brelade’s, and it is belted by very splendid cliffs and rocks of thallite, greenstone, and porphyry.

Near Le Nez du Guet are the Roman mound works of La Petite Cæsare.

And now opens the little bay, Havre de Roselle, a beautiful rocky basin, bounded by Le Nez du Guet and Le Couperose, and spotted with three rocklets, and possessing a barrack. A fine rocky dingle, between lofty cliffs and fringed with wood, runs up into the land towards a Druidical Poquelaye above Le Couperose and La Coupé and the bay of Fliquet, with its tower. The road from Roselle to Gourey is scooped in the shore rock. Round the point of Verclut opens the bay of St. Catherine with its insular horns of rock, and one crowned by the tower of Archirondel. Then there is St. Geoffrey’s rock, from which in the olden time criminals were thrown into the sea. Roselle Manor and the ville of St. Martin’s lie on the high ground.


Approaching Gourey, we stumbled on two most interesting bits of antiquity. On the hill near the coast is a very fine Poquelaye in a rough field near the warren. An oval of twenty-one stones—fourteen within, in two rows, supporting three large horizontals, one fifteen feet long and ten and a half broad, and weighing eighty tons. Near the Parc de la belle Fontaine a very quaint old house stands in an orchard. Its turret staircase, La Tourelle, is especially curious, but we cannot find it described.


And here below us on a shallow bay is the quaint little town of Gourey, the third ville of importance; its church perched on the brow—large dark blocks lying around its little haven—one, l’Ecquiercriere, standing out the most eastern point of the islet. Above all, the magnificent, though now dismantled fortress of Mount Orgueil is towering aloft on its rock, fully illustrating its proud title. It is a perfect subject for the pencil, and is replete with historical associations. It was an especial object with King John. In the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV. the Count de Maulevrier seized Mount Orgueil and half Jersey for Henry, while Carteret of Grosnez, Seigneur of St. Ouen, held the rest for Edward. In its dungeon were imprisoned by De Carteret the two Bandinels; one, in trying to escape, was killed on the rocks; the other went mad. It was the prison of Prynne, who here wrote his thoughts and Rhymes on the castle, which he dedicated to—

“Sweet Mistress Douce, fair Margaret,

Prime flower of the house of Carteret.”

As we mount the immense flight of steps, we come on the door through which Charles II. passed to the cliffs where the boat was moored that wafted him to France. He had fled hither to Jersey from St. Mary’s in Scilly, as more remotely secure. Near this is the crypt—one of the most eccentric bits of antique masonry which we have seen—and opposite is the court in which was discovered the effigy of the Virgin Mary; and onwards yawns the tower dungeon deep and dark. There are Roman bits of masonry still in the walls. Near the gate are stone benches, once the seat of judges, and close by beams for the suspension of those whom they condemned. From the keep the Cathedral of Coutances is distinct in a clear atmosphere.

On the rocky beach of Grouville bay, a profusion of vraich is often deposited. The sand hillocks are covered by long grass, and the eryngo here blooms beautifully. The oyster bank, for which Gourey is famous, is spread two miles off the bay. The rocky ledge of sienite which underlies the schist of all this south-east point fringes the whole south-eastern angle, and is defended by a formal range of martellos—La Roque at the point, and Seymour tower stands in the midst of the waves.

And near La Roque, or Rocbert, is the Rock of the Hag, and this is the legend of the rock:—

There was a very beautiful Madeleine and there was a young fisher named Hubert, who loved her; but he was inveigled by the witches, and charmed into aversion to her. The heroine in despair, with a cross in her hand, incurred the perils of storm and billows to save him from these spells, and as a memento of her happy success, there is the Point du Pas, the “footstep of the virgin,” to this day.

Then there is another large rock, once a stumbling-block of contention between St. Magloire and the Druids. The priests engaged the Devil to roll a block from the shore to proselyte the people; but when they tried to roll it back again, St. Magloire laid his holy book on it and it was immovable; he then set the cross on the rock, and the demon fled, the Druids succumbed, and the immortal safety of the people was insured.

And these rocks may be discovered if one will, and pebbles and shells may be gathered, and we may bathe at the favourite dipping-place of Portague, or we may ramble to the nice little church of Grouville, dated 1312.


But we must not overlook the bit of antiquity about midway between Gourey and St. Helier’s—the Prince’s Tower, La Tour d’Auvergne, or La Hogue bie—Hogue, mound, or monument—that crowns a mount on the most elevated brow in the islet. It was built on the site of an ancient chapel, on the model of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and was enlarged by Mabon, Dean of Jersey, about 1750, who, it is said, worked miracles under the Virgin. One of its lords was the Prince de Bouillon, an English admiral; but the legend of De Hambie, as deep as it is obscure, is the illustrative charm of La Hogue. This is the tale in brief:—The servant of this De Hambie murdered his master and married the widow, who, stung by remorse, erected this tower, visible from her chateau at Coutances, to the memory of her dishonoured lord. Another record refers the death of De Hambie to the poisonous breath of a dragon which he slew; but as even the Livre Noir of Coutances leaves the matter undecided, we presume not to fathom the secret.

A blind boy is our guide, who from habit points out correctly the very richly-wooded panorama from the summit. The islet resembles one expanded grove, spire and turret peeping up just where the imagination of a consummate artist would have placed it.

And so we may wander back to St. Helier’s by the elegant ville of St. Saviour’s, the living of the Dean of Jersey, and the largest church in the islet; among richly cultivated grounds and gardens teeming with myrtles and verbenas and fuchsias and amarillidæ, or we may wander yet further afield amidst yet more beautiful nature—lanes fringed with blushing hedges, and knolls of woody luxuriance, and banks and meadows gemmed with floral wildings, and here and there a blossom most rare in England; and we may perchance meet little groups of juveniles on their way to drink warm milk at a dairy farm, and all this at an equable temperature between 50° and 60°, purified by the occasional sprinkling of a genial summer shower.



Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in punctuation and the use of hyphened words have been maintained.

Some illustrations moved to facilitate page layout.


[The end of The Islets of the Channel by Walter Cooper Dendy]