Coast: St Mary coast

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Coast:

St Mary coast


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Ile Agois - photograph by Chris Brookes Aerial Photography


This article by Doug Ford, retired education officer for Jersey Heritage and a respected authority on Jersey's maritime history, was part of his Coast series for the Jersey Evening Post, and was first published in 2015


Col de la Rocque

Col de La Rocque, in St Mary, is an area of headland on the north coast where over 2,500 pieces of Mesolithic (9500-4000 BC) flints have been collected over many years along both sides of a small valley with a stream.

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This is a period at the end of the Ice Age, when temperatures rose quickly to levels similar to today. Sea levels also rose dramatically during this period, because of the release of water that had been locked up in the ice sheets. Jersey, which had been high ground in the Channel River Valley, became a peninsula of northern France and finally at the end of the period, an island.

Col de la Rocque offers one of the finest views in the island. From here one can look along the north coast as far as Sorel Point to the east, and Plémont in the west, as well as out over to the other islands and the coast of France. 10,000 years ago it was this view that attracted Mesolithic hunters to the site. From here they could look out over what were then low coastal plains, to spot the animals they needed to hunt. By the end of the mesolithic period, about 7,000 years ago, the melting ice caps had released enough water to flood the low lying plains and Jersey had become an island. In the past couple of years the Ice Age island project has been investigating the area in the hope of finding evidence of Mesolithic campsites and activities that took place in the area.

Ile Agois

On the west side of the headland stands a 75-metre high stack separated from the cliffs behind. This is Ile Agois - The name Agois is derived from the family name Gouais. Originally part of the headland, the forces of nature have eroded a fault line to create a gap of only a few metres. In the 1950s, and again in the 1970s, archaeologists worked on the site. The remains of 27 circular huts and two rectangular buildings were uncovered. The Iron Age pottery is possibly from the time when it was still connected to the headland, but the coins, dating from the reign of the Frankish king Charles the Bald (843-877), are probably from a time when it had separated and was possibly being used as some sort of eremetic religious site.

Ile Agois lies on the eastern side of the small cove calle Creux des Lasse or Crabbé – Crabbé means ‘a narrow creek’. Today most people associate Crabbé with the shooting range. In October 1871, when Pierre Briard and Philippe Le Rossignol undertook their survey of the island fisheries, they wrote:

"We ascertained at Crabbe there were four or five boats, and about ten or twelve fishermen.

It is hard to imagine hauling small boats above the high water mark over the small rocky beach after a days work, and then carrying the catch up the steep slope, especially given that the easily accessible beach at Greve de Lecq is less than a mile away.

On the west side of the cove lies the headland known as L’Ane - the donkey’, probably because it has the shape of a donkey’s head. The cliffs here have a number of caves cut into them, including three side by side. Beyond L’Ane is a very narrow inlet called Creux des Lasse or L’Asec. Lacet was a word for a snare, and the name is probabably a warning not to take your boat into this inlet as, if the conditions were not just right, you would be trapped and your boat would be dashed to pieces against the rocks.

Beyond this, another quarter of a mile to the west, is Rouge Nez. Nez is the old viking word for a headland - nes - while Rouge has nothing to do with red as it comes from another viking word hruga, which means ‘a heap or pile ’. Like many of the viking placenames in the island, this refers to what it looks like from the sea. It is behind Rouge Nez that the rifle range is situated.

The small cove Le Val Rouget lies between Rouge Nez and Greve de Lecq. Val comes from vau the viking word for a cove, which in Orkney and Shetland appears as ‘voe’, while the Rouget refers to the red mullet.

Further reading


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