Walking in Guernsey

First things first. Guernsey is beautiful. White sands, azure seas and so many wild flowers. We were blessed by sunny weather, although there was quite a breeze, so it wasn’t always very warm.

The good thing about this holiday is that there is a choice of airports to fly from. Seven of us flew out from Manchester, and arrived at our destination in time for lunch. It didn’t take long to identify ourselves at the airport – just look for those people wearing hiking boots! And Ramblers Worldwide Holidays luggage tags as well, of course. The local transport firm, Intransit, greeted us and drove us to the Pandora Hotel.

The Pandora Hotel is on top of a hill. A treat to walk down in the mornings – and a real slog after we came back from our walks, although one of our group discovered that we could get off the bus even further up the hill to make a gentle walk down. The Hotel’s best features are the food and the garden.

The evening meal was three courses of very English food, and very well cooked and presented. Some nights there was a desserts table, other evenings we had to choose our puddings. The staff were pleasant and the wines not expensive. Breakfasts were also very English, with all kinds of eggs, mixed grill, or fish.

For three days we walked along the coast. A cliff top walk with a lot of steps, so many that on Day Three it was declared that we had managed a D+ walk. The coast is dotted with defence structures, Martello Towers built to keep Napoleon out at the end of the eighteenth century, and to keep everyone but the Germans out during World War II. Sometimes the Germans built their towers on top of the earlier ones. The Martello Towers have some charm but the German ones are brutal concrete structures. I guess they are all part of the heritage of the island.

For authenticity we found ourselves barricaded in a Tower whilst the local military cadets were storming the fort. They didn’t seem to mind when we entered into conversation with them. We were a bit disturbed by their rifles, but I don’t think they were loaded.

The last day was a walk through the centre of the island, on metalled tracks. It was hard walking, and dull. But there was redemption – a wedding party being photographed by the wooded reservoir, and then at the end, a harpist on the headland. There she was with her harp and her Doc Martens and her plaid outfit with a net skirt, playing the harp, beautifully. We clapped – was that appropriate? Apparently she was posing for photos for her website. I wonder if they will include the photos of a rambler wandering past?

Then there were the islands, Sark and Herm. Sark was a part of the programme. Herm was visited on our free day. Herm was stunning. White sand, azure seas, lots of wild flowers, an Anthony Gormley figure, and magic. We dipped our toes into the still cold sea and fought black crows off other birds-nests.

The trip to Sark was scheduled on the Thursday. From the start of the week we all knew that Thursday would be bad weather. It was. The crossing over was horrible. It blew and it blew, and the clouds covered the sun. We couldn’t cross over to Petit Sark because the wind was so strong, and our picnic was taken standing up in a horse and cart turning circle. Luckily a passing horse turned without disgracing itself. There was no real reason why we should have visited it on the Thursday. Such a shame because I am sure it is a lovely island. The hedgerows are of honeysuckle.

Our weather woes were redeemed by a visit to Sue’s tea rooms, where for £1 a cup we listened to Sue describing life on the island. Not sure we would want to pay £5,000 a year for medical insurance, or £2000 a subject to take GCSEs there.

Guernsey is a friendly, intimate, homely place. The amount of traffic surprised us though. The buses were plentiful, although they would go off timetable in the afternoon traffic jams. The toilets are plentiful and clean, and the ice cream is superb.

And the walking group? Great! Mostly from the north of England, which for me is even better.