End of week two on the #walk1000miles challenge – and I’ve managed to clock up a respectable 27.1 miles this week, to bring my total to just over 50 miles. A good start! How are you progressing? Let me know on the Facebook page – and suggest some walks to cover!
Hidden away in deepest, darkest St Mary is a beautiful gem of a walk – if only you could find it! If you know your way to Devils Holes then park in the car park behind the pub and you are just a few steps always. Les Marrioneaux is a an open headland on the north coast of Jersey, which sits between Devils Hole and Sorel Point.
There are two gated entrances on to the headland, just follow one of the short paths and you’ll soon be there. Les Marrioneaux is managed by the National Trust for Jersey (“NTJ”), partly under their own ownership (the gifts of Le Don Paton and Le Don Hodges) and partly through land management agreements with Jersey Water and St Johns Manor.
Please make sure you close the gate behind you, and keep dogs in close control at all times. A herd of multi-horned Manx loaghtan sheep roam this whole headland. They were brought to Jersey specifically to manage the over-exuberant bracken, part of a conservation grazing scheme to improve the habitat for local wildlife. Since the bracken has been held in check, NTJ & the Birds on the Edge project have managed to re-introduce Choughs after an absence of over 100 years.
I love the open expanse of this walk. Such a simple and stark (but beautiful) headland. Buffeted by the wind, I simply breathed in the cold, damp, sea-salt air and gently walked up the hill on the meandering path through the bracken.
This is the view from the Le Marrioneaux, over Mourier Valley to the NTJ land of Le Don Paton. There has been a huge planting scheme on the eastern side of the valley to extend the woodland, a partnership between Jersey Trees for Life (you can read more about them here) and the Birds on the Edge project (more here). The area had overgrown with bracken, which had smothered the scrubland. The aim of the project is to restore appropriate habitat for native birds as well as invertebrates, reptiles and mammals. Tree planting started in 2013 and continued for the next 5 years, but is still very young and needs ongoing maintenance.
On the western side of the valley a small woodland already exists on the steep slopes to the valley floor. To complement the existing woodland, the new woodland has been planted with 1,200 trees and shrubs – common oak, sweet chestnut wild cherry, scots pine, hawthorn, hazel, elder, crab apple, dog rose and common sallow. As well as an essential habitat for safety, the tree planting will provide a full and varied pantry of nuts, seeds and berries for the wildlife to thrive.
We left the enclosed area for a short while, walking down the winding lane of Le Chemin does Hougues. The word ‘Hougues’ in Jersey often refers to burial mounds, but can also just mean a low rocky outcrop. At top end of this lane there is an old burial chamber – all but gone nowadays, robbed of its stone and overgrown with trees.
We turned off the lane and onto the gravel track down through the woodland of Mourier Valley. At the top end of the valley we are surrounded with mature woodland, thriving in the most sheltered part of the valley. The weather has been little more than rain and wind for most of this year so far, so the walk through the woodland was brimming full of the smell of damp earth and wet leaves – a smell that takes me straight back to my childhood where I grew up in a country park in Scotland – with a 1,000 acre woodland park as my playground.
There is a small reservoir in the valley, managed by Jersey Water. A small dam was erected and a petrol pump installed, according to these papers from 1943 on the Jersey Archive website – details here.
Along the steep slopes are a small number of natural springs, bringing more water in to the valley.
There’s a pretty little copse at the edge of the stream, and behind it you can find the footpath that leads out of the valley and onwards towards Sorel Point.
Too soon the woodland stops and the valley opens up before you. A stream in full flow weaves its way along the floor of the little, steep-sided valley. According to the island wiki in 1292, during the reign of Edward I, there were 30 water miles in Jersey, nine of them belonging to the king. One of the Kings mills was situated here, in Mourier Valley. (You can read more about island mills here).
We followed the path down the right-hand side of the stream, where the sides of the valley get narrower and narrower, and the stream faster and faster.
Until it drops off the edge altogether in a small, but impressive, waterfall!
I didn’t venture down to look at the waterfall from below. I’m not so sure there is actually a way down there, but it was too wet, windy and slippery to try to find out. The wooden post has been there as long as I have been visiting this site.
There is a narrow rocky ledge to sit on, giving me a break from the wind with lovely views over north coast, the sea, and through the haze I could just make out the Paternoster reef.
We doubled back on ourselves back up the valley for a short distance. I stopped here for a mug of tea from my trusty flask, enjoying the view and sitting still for ten minutes, a very rare occurrence for me!
The view from this angle were just as stunning and I was reminded of many happy walking holidays in Scotland and the Lake District. (May have been more to do with the rain??)
I joined the path once more, walking across the sides of the western slope onto Les Marrioneaux headland. There’s a pretty vantage from the path, showing the valley floor, the fast flowing stream, and the remnants of a water mill.
Up and up we walkied on the gentle slope to the top of the Les Marrioneaux headland once more.
Looking back you can see the sheer cliffs at the end of the valley, and nearby a sea cave cut all the way through the granite headland.
At the top of the headland, as you make your way to the car park once more, you come across a large block of granite – The St Mary Millenium Stone and a smaller interpretation stone nearby. As part of the Millenium celebrations in Jersey each parish erected a Millenium stone and a Millenium Cross. The stones were initiated by the Societe Jersiaise as a sort of modern-day megalithic network.
This is the map of the route I took. Please look at it as a figure of eight formation and not the running-around like-a-headless chicken version! It’s a fairly short route at 2.2 miles, but packs a punch in terms of scenery and location.
Please could I ask you do something if you are walking? People are brilliant at picking up rubbish from the beach, especially after the introduction of the motivational ‘take three for the sea’. But rubbish anywhere else, in the countryside or streets around our homes, tends just to get tutted at and left. So I’m extending my ‘take three for the sea’ to mean rubbish anywhere. Because if it doesn’t get picked up then it will probably end up there anyway!
I hope you enjoy the next week of walking – whether you are doing the challenge or not. Jersey is such a beautiful place to walk!