Jersey, the biggest and probably well known of the Channel Islands. British but not part of the United Kingdom and not part of the European Union either. Low taxes, or
no taxes, therefore used as an offshore Bank so close to the Motherland and home to plenty a wealthy person too who can live here yet make a hip and a skip over the Channel to England if need be. (The flight from Southampton took just 35 minutes)
As a child of the 80’s, Saturday evening fayre in the winter months on the BBC was “Bergerac” the serial based around the (literally the) CID cop on the
island of Jersey. Thus I had this image in my mind of everyone would living in a large mansion with a private pool and gold course on their land. Naturally, this is not true. Yes, there are a lot of millionaires who (at least ‘call’)
Jersey home but on an island nine miles wide by five miles long this is not the reality. The population is fast approaching 100,000 people and this is too many. Most of the roads resemble those in the southwest of Cornwall, and with
equally as much traffic, whilst the capital St Helier is home to half of the population and the amount of traffic was a bit of a shock even to me, who lives and works in the southeast of England. St Helier….. Imagine a cross between Brighton and
Guildford and you wouldn’t be far wrong. It has everything, it is not a bad place but equally just a place to base yourself for a visit and that is what we did.
On arriving at
the airport one can tell straight away that you have not simply flown across the channel to a small piece of Britain off of the coast of France. Even flying in from what was a sun-soaked Spring morning in Hampshire, the natural light, the trees
are different, notable straight away that the Channel Islands enjoy a mild climate courtesy of the Gulf Stream. Then, of course once on the road – narrow as they can be – many signs are in French. The island(s) have been linked to England
and ultimately Britain since 1066, but it was only after the Napoleonic wars that English took over from French as the main spoken language, due to the number of English who moved there. This increased further after the Second World War
For a small island there is actually a lot to see and do, always something going on and it is clear that there is a good community life there. Forget the image of it being made up of
rich men in villas overlooking the sea, the vast majority of the residents a tightly crammed on suburban conurbations just as much of the UK is. But, despite it being busy there are lots of opportunities to get away from it all with peaceful coves, villages,
beaches, walks and tracks.
Two of the main attractions on Jersey are the Durrell Wildlife Park (named after its founder the late Gerald Durrell, and formally known
simply as Jersey Zoo) World famous, and made so by the man himself it concentrates on rare and endangered species. It has mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles comprising over 130 species. In 2011 Princess Ann opened up a new visitor centre that
comprises a shop and restaurant. It was certainly a good way to while away a few hours, especially if the Orangutans are in a playful mood. The other are the Jersey War Tunnels. As stated above, the Channel Islands were
occupied by Germany in WWII, when Britain really found she had no choice. Hitler had taken France, the islands were sat there undefended and, alas for the people who lived there of no real strategic importance either. When the Germans arrived
they confused the Lorries with bags of Jersey Royal Potatoes on for ammunition and took aim, which said a lot. Hohlgangsanlage 8 as it was called, was a partially completed underground hospital complex built by German occupying forces during the occupation
and almost three quarters of a mile of the tunnels were completed. The complex was converted into a museum detailing the occupation with the route telling the story from beginning to end using photos, artifacts and real recollections from those who were on
Jersey at the time. An important part of history for everyone, and worth seeing and taking in.
When it is easy to look afar for a long weekend away, Jersey is so near yet
so far and well worth a visit.