Watching Jersey grow, the green way.

I smiled at the irony of a man in a Panama hat, accompanied by a woman swathed in silk scarves, stopping their convertible vintage sports car to give way to our Number 1 bus as it left Liberation Station in St. Helier. I was taking the green route across Jersey,  travelling by bus, bike and boot power,  not only to discover its eco-friendliness, but also to allow myself a holiday where I truly slowed down. Some might say this is also a vintage approach to travelling, but  with the emphasis on green rather than glam in my case.

My journey began on a train to Poole, where I picked up the ferry to St. Helier.  It may have taken longer than flying, but with time and space to study my maps, create an itinerary, finish a novel, and expose my vitamin D-deprived skin on deck, I arrived rested, with a healthy glow and ready to go. Check out all the best sail rail deals here, on Mark Smith’s brilliant Man in Seat 61 website.

Walking on the Coast Path Jersey
Walking on the Coast Path Jersey

My first morning’s bus stop was, rather aptly, called Green Island, just a few miles east of St. Helier. “Just pop down that lane for the beach” the bus driver said, either seeing me drool over the sight of crystalline waters on the coast road out of town, or perhaps just spotting my towel tucked into the top of backpack. I always carry a swimsuit when exploring as you never know when the calling may come. And boy, did it come. Green Island is, in fact, a peninsula, with soft white sand and gentle waves. At 9am there were a few young families paddling already, with sleepy parents clutching caffeine fixes from the shoreline’s gorgeous Green Island Restaurant. I was particularly impressed by the Homefield Foods delivery van outside, a local food supplier whose displayed motto is “from seed to plant to field to plate”.

After a wake-me-up swim did just that job, I headed off in the direction of Gorey, jumping on the next bus which,  although he was already at the stop, kindly waited for me to cross the road and run down to jump on. This was my experience of bus drivers throughout the island, always keen to help, answer any questions, let me know when my stop was coming, and always with a smile.

Cycling on the Green Lanes Jersey
Cycling on the Green Lanes Jersey

Gorey is a small fishing village with boats of every size and shade bobbing merrily, and where the view of the impressive medieval castle of Mont Orgeuil almost made me miss my connecting bus. In search of the island’s natural rather than cultural heritage, I was heading to St. Catherine’s Woods, just outside the eponymous Bay. Otherwise known as Rozel, the short walk up from the coast road brought the many coves into view, all segueing  seamlessly one into another to create one big mother bay.. She must have been some saint to have got all of these named after her, I thought to myself.

The woods were divinely serene too, with just a couple of families playing on stepping stones and rope swings. With most of Jersey’s trees felled during the German occupation, it was delightful to see not only the remains of ancient ferns and broadleafs, but careful woodland management at work through coppicing and clearing, which was allowing the likes of Sparrowhawks, Red Squirrels, Bluebells and Foxgloves to thrive. I  soon forgot the map I had downloaded of the woodland, and just followed my nose as it adapted to the ever-changing, delicious  aroma of mossy stones, pine, wild Sorrel and dried wood, eventually spotting the azurian shades of sea peaking through the trees.

I could have hopped on another bus back to Gorey but the coastal footpath, which was heading in my chosen direction, was enticing me onto its pink granite walkways along the  rocks and then back onto shaded, woodier tracks. I finally emerged at the Archirondel Tower, where that siren-like sea beckoned one more time. Delicious swims merit delicious lunches, and no better place than the Driftwood Cafe at the top of the beach, with a fresh crab salad to make my morning complete and, indeed, replete.

Hopping on a bus just a few stops back to Gorey, the next step of my bus journey was easy, with about three different buses heading from different directions to La Mare Wine Estate in St. Mary in the north  And after sampling some of its products on the superb tour of the vineyards and distillery, I was very glad that I wasn’t driving. It’s always a treat to drink local wine when travelling, but with red, white, sparkling, cider and apple brandy on the menu here, I really didn’t want to leave. I was particularly struck by La Mare’s commitment to revive apple orchards on an island where, in the early 1800’s, over eight million litres of cider were produced. La Mare is planting new trees every year, just one of many initiatives contributing towards them being the island’s only Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award holders.

Cycling is always a breeze on Jersey
Cycling is always a breeze on Jersey

The most impressive green scheme to have happened on Jersey, however, started in 1987  with the designation of  fifty miles of Green Lanes, a network of country roads where the speed limit is clearly restricted to 15mph and where walkers, cyclists and horse riders are given priority. Keen to explore the west, I had a hire bike delivered to my accommodation, the Best Western Royal Hotel in St.Helier which,  also a Green Tourism Business Scheme member, was more than happy to organise for me.

Following the 3.5 mile esplanade cycle lane  from St. Helier to St.  Aubin, which runs parallel to sandy beach all the way. I then welcomed the shade of a disused railway line, now a four mile cycle and walkway connecting St. Aubin to Corbière, where I picked up the coastal cycling route which clings to the headland round as far as St. Ouan’s Bay. From small, granite bays with children rock pooling, to the massive expanses of kite surfing heaven, I got to see every nuance of this eclectic geological mix, all within an hour of coastal cycling.

St. Ouan’s is a hive of activity, but I locked my bike at the Water Splash Centre, and walked just a few minutes inland along a quiet path hidden between marram grasses and wild orchids just behind the dunes known as Les Mielles, where abundant butterflies and birds seemed to be enjoying this solitary, and consolatory spot.. Indeed, I even found a bird watching shelter from where I quickly spotted a pair of Marsh Harriers, elegantly gliding to and fro, as if to show the kite surfers how it should really be done. This area, a haven for Lapwings, Sand Martins and Oyster Catchers is managed with excellent conservation management schemes by The National Trust and, as I looked out on the grasslands, ponds, dunes, ancient potato fields, orchid fields, and seascapes, I thanked the ‘green gods’ that all this has just also been included in a region recently designated as Jersey’s first National Park. There is also a brand new wetland centre opening there February 2014.

Leaving the coast, I turned inland straight onto a Green Lane, clearly marked on my map and also by very visible signs on the lanes themselves. Within minutes I was cycling up lavender lined paths, past flower filled gardens and fecund fields, greeting other cyclists and walkers, all of us reveling in the fact that, for once, we had right of way over cars. I cycled for about twenty minutes to St. Peter’s Village, with the incentive of a reward at the Classic Herd Farm shop, famous for its own cheeses and yoghurts, beef and  pork, so it must have its own ice cream, I thought. I was not to be disappointed, as I tucked into a creamy, vanilla well-earned treat, in the knowledge that it was one big, breezy downhill cycle back to the south coast, for my other long awaited treat of the day. One last swim in the bay at St. Aubin, where the tide was high and, after my quick green hit of this beautiful island, so was I.

National Trust wetland Centre, being reopened with stunning new eco design in February 2014,  St Ouans bay
National Trust wetland Centre, being reopened with stunning new eco design in February 2014, St Ouans bay

An edited version of this article was first published in Pure Jersey magazine. Photos by Matt Porteous.



Jersey’s cream has turned green

Archirondel Tower St Catherines Bay. One of several sustainable accommodations Photo: Catherine Mack

I remember Jersey as the first place I tasted a cherry. About five years old, I picked it off a tree and ate it, revelling not only in its unique perfume and texture but also in the fact that there were endless sweet gems for the picking. What felt like an ordinary family holiday had, in one moment, been transformed into an exotic adventure, an image of Jersey which has always stayed with me.

I didn’t go in search of cherries on a recent trip back to the largest of the Channel Islands, but I was aware of this same sense of excitement as I packed. I was there to explore the greener side of the island, to see if it is possible to discover it without a car – slow down the pace by walking, cycling and taking the bus around an island where, traditionally, local transport means a luxury yacht, private jet or a Bergerac-mobile.

It felt as if the bus service is made for tourists here, however, with drivers going out of their way to smile and proffer information. A family bus pass is £16.15 sterling per day which gets you around what local people fondly refer to as ‘The Rock’s’  74 square kilometres. My first stop on the number 1 bus was, aptly, Green Island, just a few kilometres east of St Helier, the island’s main, in fact only, town. A peninsula rather than an island, it has white sand and crystalline waters, and the perfect beach café serving locally caught seafood.

After a wake me up swim had done just the job, I got back on the Number 1 which clings to the shore as far as Gorey, a pretty fishing village on the East coast, and walked back along the dusty pink coast path built into the rosy granite which links the island geologically to its neighbouring Brittany, just 22 kms away.

Catherine cycling between Corbiere and St Ouen, Jersey

With fine local produce just about everywhere I visited, I realised that this is obviously an island which values its local produce, and with Jersey Royals spuds, Jersey cows, a plethora of fish swimming off its shores, they have everything going for them here. Some of the flavours I can almost still taste as I write include a fresh crab sandwich at the Driftwood Café immediately after a swim in St. Catherine’s Bay; sipping local wine and test chocolates at the islands winery, La Mare Wine Estate, run on a committed green basis by a Cork man, funnily enough; buying picnic ingredients at the Victorian covered Central Market in St. Helier, and the superb ice cream at the Classic Herd Farm Shop in St. Peter’s Village, which has all the supplies you could want if you are self-catering.

The ice cream moment followed a long day of cycling along Jersey’s greatest green coup – the Green Lanes. Launched in 1987, this is an 80kms network of country roads where the speed limit is 15mph (24kph) and where walkers, cyclists and horse riders are given priority.  All clearly marked on road maps as well as by very visible signs on the lanes themselves, drivers also seem to respect the spirit of what Jersey is trying to achieve here. Cycling up lavender lined paths, past flower filled gardens and potato-filled fields, cyclists and walkers all greeted each other, most of us visitors who are new to the notion that, for once, we had right of way over cars.

For green places to stay you can choose between yurts overlooking St. Aubin Bay (, one of several historic forts right on the sea from, a courtyard apartment attached to one of the island’s most sumptuous manors and gardens in St. Clement ( or in converted officers’ quarters attached to an early 18th century military barracks metres from the sea at Grève de Lecq Bay ( Wherever you stay, you will soon see there are beaches and coves at the end of almost every cycle, bus or walking route here. In fact, it’s worth having a couple of sets of togs tucked in your backpack, and more than a couple of days on the ‘Rock’ where there are so many cherries for the picking, their bowl runneth over.

St. Aubin Bay, Jersey Photo: Catherine Mack

An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times in August 2011. For more information on Jersey see