Which many prefer to the island already described, is in form, an irregular parallelogram, about ten miles long, and five broad. Its greatest length from south-east to north-west is about twelve miles, whilst it embraces a circumference, inclusive of its many curves and winding sinuosities, of about fifty miles, and a superficies of some 50,000 acres.
Sloping from north to south, in contradistinction to Guernsey, the whole of the northern coast, with the eastern and western projections, will be found composed of rugged and precipitous rocks, while the southern shore, though fringed with crags and undulating cliffs, lies low, and has a considerable portion of that fine sandy beach so inviting to those who come chiefly to bathe-and promenade, by the sea shore. The town of St. Helier’s, where the steam-boat passengers from Southampton disembark, lies on the eastern side of the beautiful bay of St Aubin’s; and if the visitor be fortunate enough to arrive at high water, the first appearance of the island, with its noble bay, sloping shores, and thickly wooded heights, profusely studded with villas and cottages, will be found happily to unite the attributes of the beautiful and the picturesque.
The town itself is very Swiss-like in its aspect, and backed by its lofty stronghold, Fort Regent, which is seen overtopping the houses in all directions, it at once impresses the visitor with a conviction that the elements of novelty are everywhere around him. Though little more than what a thriving, bustling sea-port town may be expected to be, with its boarding-houses and hotels, a court-house and a market, an old parish church and a modern district one – built in what is called the Gothic style – two or three dissenting chapels, a theatre, and shops of quiet respectability – the hand of improvement has been lately much more manifest, and it has now assumed all the elegance and attractiveness of a fashionable watering-place.
The extensive fortification, Fort Regent, which is generally the first object that strikes the eye of the traveller, was begun in 1806, and before its completion cost no less than £800,000. The magazines and barracks are in the bastions and under the ramparts, and are bomb-proof. The powder magazine is capable of containing 5,000 barrels, and the whole fortress, which has certainly been constructed on the best principles of defence, is abundantly supplied with excellent water from a well 234 feet deep, and 10 feet in diameter, bored through the solid rock.
This has completely thrown into the shade the more ancient and picturesque fort called Elizabeth Castle, built on a huge sea-girt rock, passed in approaching the town from England; but an excursion to it which can only be made on foot, by a pebble causeway, at low water — should be certainly undertaken, for the sake of the charming views it affords. Having inspected the town and its environs, paid a visit to Elizabeth Castle, and the rock adjoining, where, according to the legend, the hermit St. Helier lived, who bestowed his name on the town, it is not a bad plan to obtain a distinct bird’s-eye view of the island previous to examining it on a series of excursions, La Hague Bie, or Prince’s Tower, a singular structure, erected on a high artificial mound about three miles from St. Helier’s, affords the opportunity of enjoying this to advantage. From the summit the eye embraces the whole island.
Climbing the heights at the back of the town and passing St. Saviour’s Church, from the churchyard of which there is an excellent view over the town, the adjoining country, and St. Aubin’s Bay, we arrive at this famous tower, which has of course a very romantic, but not at all authentic, legend to account for its origin. From this eminence, to quote one of Mr. Inglis’s most graphic descriptions of the spot,
Jersey appears like an extensive pleasure-ground — one immense park, thickly studded with trees, beautifully undulating, and dotted with cottages. Fertility is on every side seen meeting the sea; the fine curves of several of the bays may be distinctly traced, with their martello towers and other more imposing defences; several of the larger valleys may be distinguished by the shadow which is thrown upon one side, while all around the horizon is bounded by the blue sea, excepting towards the east, where the French coast is seen, stretching in a wide curve towards the north and south, and which, in one direction, approaches so near to Jersey, that the white sea-beach is distinctly seen, and in clear weather even the towns that lie near to the coast.
This view instantly makes you anxious to range over the island, to penetrate into the valleys and ravines, to wander through the orchards, fields, pastures, and gardens, and to descend to the bays and creeks, which one naturally and justly pictures full of beauty and repose. The new roads, that intersect the island in many directions, are excellent and commodious, but the old roads, though dreadfully perplexing and intricate, should be assuredly explored by those who desire to arrive at a fair estimate of the scenic attractions of the island. One object in the construction of the old roads in former days was to puzzle pirates or bewilder an enemy, and thus effectually retard and obstruct their attempts to subdue the islanders. During the heat of summer it is delightfully refreshing to turn aside into one of those bye-paths, that scarcely admit even a straggling ray of the noontide sun; but later in autumn, the decomposition of decaying vegetable matter going on in their shady depths render it advisable, to prefer the new.
Those whose stay in the island is limited will, of course, be glad to make the most of its duration, and to that end we shall suggest how these excursions may be briefly made. The first day should be spent about St. Helier and its environs, with a visit to La Hogue Bie, and then passing on eastward to Mont Orgueil Castle, with its magnificent prospects, and the little village adjoining of Gorey, the seat of the Jersey oyster fishery. The village is built partly close to the sea and harbour, and partly on the height which rises towards the entrance to the castle.
Upwards of 250 boats are engaged in the oyster fishery here, which it is computed returns about £29,000 to the island from its annual produce. Besides being itself striking and picturesque, Mont Orgueil has some most interesting recollections in connection with it. It stands upon the summit of a rocky headland jutting out into the sea, and though its origin and architect are alike unknown, it is recognised as having been a fortress of some importance in the reign of King John. In a few places the walls are entire, but it can hardly be regarded as other than an imposing ruin, from the summit of which a view is gained sufficiently charming to repay for the toilsome ascent. Here, for a short time, lived Charles II. in the early days of his wanderings, and here also was imprisoned for three years William Prynne, who, the victim himself of bigoted prejudices, ought to have more zealously curbed his own. He was liberated in November, 1640, not before he had turned his imprisonment to some account by penning several moral disquisitions on the castle and his condition, in one of which we find the following quaint appeal in the preface:–
If thou reap any information, consolation, reformation, or edification by any of these publications, let the author enjoy thy prayers and best respect, and his stationer thy custom. The garrison at Mont Orgueil now consists only of a serjeant and two privates, whose duty is simply confined to hoisting a flag on holidays. From the summit, the Cathedral of Constance, in Normandy, can on clear days be distinguished.
On the second day the tourist can explore, in the opposite direction, westward, and cross from St. Heller’s to St. Aubin, either by a boat across the bay, or by taking a more circuitous land route over the fine firm sand at low water. Once the chief town in Jersey, and now even in its decadence eminently adapted for those who desire a quiet retreat, St. Aubin is beautifully situated. There is one steep straggling street, which drops abruptly down from an eminence towards the sea, but it is remarkably clean, and, though irregularly built, contains many excellent houses. The bay has also the benefit of a good pier, and the high cliffs around afford a shelter from the breezes, which are very prevalent, in Jersey.
A perfectly calm day, says a resident, peculiarly qualified to give his opinion on the subject,
is very rare, even in summer, and generally speaking even the finest weather may be called blowy weather. Between St. Aubin’s and St. Brelade’s many interesting points of view Avill be disclosed, and the bay of St. Brelade’s is considered by Inglis to be the most attractive of all the island bays. He says–
Boulay Bay is grander; St. Aubin’s nobler; Rozel and Grève-de-Lecq more secluded; but in none of them do we find, so much as in St. Brelade’s, the union of the barren, the wild, and the picturesque; and in none of them do the works of men harmonise so well with the natural scenery that surrounds them.
On the western side of the bay stands the old parish church quite at the water’s edge, and only elevated a little above it, for the sea at high tide sweeps over the crumbling monuments in the churchyard. The church itself is exceedingly small, and has neither spire nor tower, but over the nave it is roofed like a house. There is certainly a round turret, which rises from the ground, but it is built in a nook, and ascends only to a small belfry. In the churchyard stands one of the old chapels of the island, built long before the churches, and this is the only one in tolerable preservation. It was called the Fisherman’s Chapel. If the day be now not too far spent, the excursion may be extended to the north western extremity of the island, and the tourist can thus visit Plement Point and Cape Grosnez. The caves adjoining are marine excavations in the lower part of a rocky hill, and are celebrated, like those in the Grève-de-Lecq, as great attractions to strangers.
The northern coast of Jersey may well have one or two days exclusively appropriated to it. There is from Grève-de-Lecq to Boulay Bay a distance of between six and seven miles, and along this circuit objects of interest will be found rife in every direction. The bold scenery hi Boulay Bay has been very much admired, and in fact the stupendous barriers of the northern coast contrast finely with the interior of the island, so luxuriantly wooded and so proverbially fertile.
A favourite resort of pic-nic parties, and one of the sweetest of the island bays, is Rozel, situated a short distance from Boulay Bay, at the north-east corner of the island. Hemmed in by high cliffs and banks, with a few fishermen’s huts scattered along the beach, and deep wooded glens branching into the interior, it is just the place where a cold veal pie would taste most deliriously, or a sentimental ballad produce the most impressive effect.
The climate of Jersey is exceedingly mild, in consequence of the southern situation and aspect of the island, and the temperature being equalised by the vicinity of the sea. Frost never continues any length of time. Snow falls but seldom, and melts immediately, and even with Guernsey, there is a sensible difference of climate. Melons there are raised in hot-beds, but they grow profusely in the common garden-ground of Jersey.
The inhabitants are social in disposition, and few places equally limited in extent enjoy a greater variety of amusement. In autumn and whiter there is a continual round of assemblies, and in spring and summer the military reviews impart a lively aspect to the town. English habits are thoroughly engrafted on the island, the English language has become familiar to all classes, and throughout the whole of Jersey the barbarous Norman French may be pronounced on the decline.
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