23 - 25 July 2017
This section covers the 150k visiting the two Channel Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. This was the last thing I really wanted to experience on this trip, so I was very happy to encounter decent roads, very friendly people and not least good weather – the latter especially because the islands are renowned for rain and strong winds. If overcast it would have been cold and the views poor/mediocre but with the sun, it was pleasant and beautiful riding.
Small islands combined with expected difficult camping, I decided to make it short visits – 24 hours in Guernsey and 40 hours in Jersey. As the prevailing winds are western, I rode clockwise around both islands hopping for side-/tailwinds on the more exposed western and northern coasts – it turned out to be irrelevant as it wasn’t very windy (except in evenings and nights). For small islands, they offered a remarkably diverse nature - rough coastlines with steep slopes, many long beaches, cultivated open countryside and countless small towns and villages. The islands were surprisingly hilly with change of inclination frequently at 10-15-20% though seldom for more than 1-2k.
The history of the Channel Islands date back to the creation of the English Channel around 6000 B.C. First came the Neolithic farmers and later the islands were influenced by The Romans, The French and the British. Scattered around the islands are remnants of history especially place names (a mix of French and English) and the many defence structures e.g. WWII German bunkers as well as countless fortresses, castles and towers to deter attackers (the earliest from 12th century).
As mentioned, I met countless very friendly people smiling and greeting me - more so at Guernsey feeling more provincial than Jersey. I took the time talking to many, all of them offering great insights to the last 40-50 years’ life and development on the islands especially the currently struggling tourist industry and the radical transformation from agriculture to finance. The latter has created a vast inequality between rich newcomers and poor “old” inhabitants being very visible especially regarding housing, vehicles, etc. I passed countless huge mansions (one allegedly cost £ 27m) while many farmers lived in ramshackle buildings no longer able farm profitably and therefore forced to sell/lease their land to the few big scale farmers.
To no surprise, the “old” inhabitants were the ones helping me out with the challenging camping - allowing me to pitch the tent in their fields. Every late afternoon, I spent hours looking for opportunities but the few small forests I passed were on steep slopes, boggy and/or exposed to the road. Only in Guernsey, I was lucky to find a great spot in a nature reserve – an open forest overlooking a beautiful bay, it was the best spot for a long time. Unfortunately, it was also the evening where my camera (again the zoom) stopped working, so for the rest of the trip, I was left with my phone. It was my last Panasonic Lumix camera - incredibly broken after only 1,500 photos. I can only repeat my previous warnings about buying this camera.